Joe Brown was one of the UK’s original rock and roll stars, alongside such early icons as Cliff Richard, Billy Fury and Marty Wilde. Under the wing of pop impressario Larry Parnes, Brown had a string of hits in the early-Sixties, including A Picture of You and It Only Took a Minute. Speaking on Vintage TV's Needle Time on Vintage TV, Brown explained his enduring enthusiasm for the ukulele, and his bond with late Beatle George Harrison.
The pair first met when The Beatles supported Brown on tour in 1962. The Fab Four even recorded Brown’s hit A Picture Of You during BBC sessions. Later, Brown and Harrison became neighbours in Henley-on-Thames, where Brown reports there would be regular jamming sessions with such fellow musicians as Alvin Lee and Dave Edmunds.
“He loved music, not just rock and roll,” recalls Brown of Harrison. “He’d go crackers, he’d phone me up and say ‘I’ve got this great record!’ and it would be Hoagy Charmichael and all this Hawaiian stuff he used to like. George was not a musical snob. Music was music, and if it came from the heart, it was good.” In 2002, Brown closed the George Harrison tribute concert at the Albert Hall with a beautiful ukulele rendition of I’ll See You In My Dreams.
At 72, Brown still performs around 100 concerts a year. He is presentlyon a 40-date UK tour that runs until December. On October 21, Universal release an expanded edition of Brown’s The Ukulele Album, featuring his versions of old pre-war standards alongside rock songs like Ace Of Spades and Pinball Wizard arranged for four strings. “It’s a wonderful instrument and very forgiving,” says Brown. “You can pick up a ukulele and anybody can learn to play a couple of tunes in a day or even a few hours. And if you want to get good at it, there’s no end to what you can do.”
Brown occasionally sits in on performances by Ukulele Orchestras formed by his daughter, Sam Brown, a pop star in her own right in the Eighties and Nineties, and a top session singer – she's performed with Nick Cave, Pink Floyd and Jools Holland – until her career was cut short by illness. “A very sad thing with Sam,” reports Brown. “About six years ago she had an operation on her throat and lost her voice. She was touring with Pink Floyd and did all George Harrison’s vocal stuff. Sam was a great performer, it’s a real tragedy, but she’s still involving herself in music cause she’s got these ukulele clubs.”
comments powered by Disqus