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Joe Brown Gets Personal
“This is the bare bones of Joe Brown,” says no less than Joe Brown himself. With over two hours of music, chat and magical stories in the show Just Joe, the singer and virtuoso guitarist, who was Britain’s first true pop star, chronicles his career, from his friendship with Johnny Cash to George Harrison being best man at his wedding.
March sees him on the final leg of his first national solo tour, taking in 70 dates, and brings him to Newbury’s Corn Exchange on Wednesday, 7th and to Wycombe Swan on Wednesday, 28th.
Joe’s career has seen him go from being a young, solo star (his first major hit was A Picture Of You in 1962) to starring in West End musicals such as Charlie Girl (for two and a half years, alongside Dame Anna Neagle) and Pump Boys and Dinettes, to reinventing himself 20 years ago as a generation-crossing solo act with an impressive band. (Rather than the cabaret act so many performers from the past have become).
And yet this isn’t quite a solo show as the cool Cockney – now 76 and armed with guitars, mandolin, banjo and ukulele – is joined by another sterling name from the music world.
Henry Gross, himself no mean singer, songwriter and guitarist, was founder of the rock ‘n’ roll revival band Sha Na Na who played at the famed Woodstock Festival – with Henry the youngest performer there.
“When, instead of a band, you just have two instruments it’s amazing how they sparkle,” says Brown. “I don’t play electric guitar – we do a few rock ‘n’ roll songs and they sound great. An Everly Brothers song, part of a medley with Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis, sounds like it probably sounded when they first sang it. “Henry’s a great performer and he talked me into doing this. I said ‘You’re kidding, I can’t do that, I play instrumentals and stuff, you can’t just go dinging away on a single guitar, you’ve got to have someone to play with, do harmonies with’, and he said, ‘Well, I’ll come with you’, and that was that.”
Every bit as important as the music is the trail of anecdotes with Joe, as outrageous as the best stand-up comedian. Everyone, from Chas and Dave to Billy Fury, Shadows guitarist Hank Marvin to Dame Anna, comes into the frame.
Joe was a major star at the time of both Fury and Cliff Richard, and even had the Beatles as his support band. “They had their first big hit at the end of ’62, and they opened for me at the beginning of ’62 in Liverpool,” he says. “No one realised back then how big they would be but icould see they were different.” He and George ended up living near each other and were always popping round each other’s houses. “We loved playing the ukulele together,” he says.
Yet Joe’s life hasn’t been without its heartache. As a young guitarist he backed Johnny Cash along with rock ‘n’ roll heroes Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran on pop TV show Boy Meets Girls. In 1962 he’d been due to be touring with Cochran and Vincent, but plans changed when A Picture of You stormed the charts. Their car crashed, killing Cochran and crippling Vincent. “I would have been in that car,” muses Joe. “I miss Eddie, he taught me so much about rock ’n’ roll.” Joe’s wife Vicki, who sang with Fifties and sixties girl groups The Vernon Girls and The Breakaways, died from cancer in 1991. Joe found new happiness when he remarried in 2000, to Manon, former partner of small Faces singer Steve Marriott. And music is a family affair with daughter Sam, a star in the 80s and 90s with her own hits, and producer/musician son Pete. Stepdaughter Mollie Marriott is even now set for stardom, her debut album, Truth is A Wolf, making waves.
When Joe remarried, best man was George Harrison and after the Beatle’s death the following year, Joe played at the Concert For George memorial show. He performed a moving and memorable version of I’ll see You in My Dreams on ukulele.
Tickets for the Corn Exchange show are on sale now, 0845 5218 218
Book Now For Rookwood Day Out
Advance warning of one of the great dates for your diary – the Rookwood House Garden and Gift Fair, now in its sixth year, returns on Thursday, 19 April to the grounds of Rupert and Charlotte Digby’s home at stockcross, Newbury. The setting itself provides the perfect choice for any garden lover’s day out, but this event offers so much more.
There will be over 14 specialist nurseries including Chelsea Gold Medalists Hardy’s Cottage Garden Nursery, Edulis and Palm-Exotics. You can also visit over 60 stalls exhibiting garden furniture, garden sculptures, homeware, clothing, shoes and gifts, including children’s toys and a food tent.
Refreshments will be available throughout the day with coffee/tea and homemade cakes as well as light lunches. Parking is free for the event - so stay as long as you like!
The chosen charity for 2018 is The Rosemary Appeal, which is raising funds to equip a Dialysis and Cancer Care Unit at The West Berkshire hospital. This will benefit so many people who would otherwise have to travel to as far as Oxford or Swindon for their daily courses of treatment.
Tickets are £7 on the day (gates open 10am), with VIP Preview tickets, available in advance for £10, include access from 9am, Bucks Fizz plus tea or coffee and Danish pastry.
Acclaimed folk band Faustus come to Newbury’s ACE Space in St Nicholas Road on Friday, 9 March during a tour which debuts a new track, Cotton Lords. It’s part of a project to archive, preserve, and rehabilitate the poetry of the 19th Century Lancashire Cotton Famine period.
The Watermill’s resident playwright, Danielle Pearson’s new play, Digging For Victory will be performed by the theatre’s Senior Youth Theatre from 7 to 10 March. It is directed by The Watermill’s Outreach Director, Heidi Bird.
The Hexagon, Queens Walk, tel: 01189 606060
10 March, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; 12-14 March, Billy Bailey; 15 March, Russian State Ballet of Siberia Snow Maiden; 16-17 March, Russian State Ballet of Siberia Swan Lake; 18 March, Henley Symphony Orchestra; 21 March, Jason Manford; 27 March, The Stranglers
Progress Theatre, The Mount, Christchurch, tel: 01183 842169
19-24 March, Mother Courage and Her Children; 29 March, Chris Laurence Quartet
7-10 March, Digging For Victory; 15 March – 21 April, The Rivals
The Corn Exchange & New Greenham Arts, tel: 08455 218218
7 March, Joe Brown; 9 March, Hyena; 10 March, Jess Robinson: Here Come The Girls; 22 March, The Fureys; 28 March, Chris Dean’s Syd Lawrence Orchestra: Big Band Spectacular
Theatre Royal Windsor, tel: 01753 853888
Until 3 March; Dracula – The Bloody Truth; 5-10 March, Cinderella; 11 March, The Dame Vera Lynn Story; 13-17 March, Turn of The Screw; 18 March, Mane Chance Charity Fundraiser; 19 March, Fast Love – A Tribute to George Michael; 20 March, Islands In The Stream – The Music of Dolly and Kenny; 21 March, Stevie One – The Music of Stevie Wonder; 22-24 March, A Spoonful of Sherman; 25 March, An Evening with David Gower; 26-31 March, Birdsong
Eton College School Hall
17 March, Windsor & Eton Choral Society perform Bach: Mass in B Minor
Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, tel: 01183 788660
1 March, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; 2 March, Stephen Bailey; 21-24 March, Four Knights in Knaresborough; 23 March, Lucy Porter – Choose your Battles; 25 March, Ricard Lee and the Norden Farm Guitar Club; 25 March, Three Choirs Concert
South Hill Park, Ringmead, tel: 01344 484123
1-3 March, Private Lives; 1 March, Richard Digance; 10 March, The Supertronics Big Band, Spring Concert; 13-17 March, Sister Act; 16-17 March, Losing It!; 20-24 March, Spring Awakening – A New Musical; 21-22 March, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe