One of the true original British skiffle and rock and roll stars Joe Brown first performed professionally in 1958 – and hasn’t really stopped since.
He toured with Eddie Cochran, Billy Fury and Gene Vincent and had The Beatles as his support act. Perhaps once concession he has made to age – he is now 76 – is that he has been touring the UK with a smaller, conversational show, Just Joe. It isn’t, of course, just Joe – it’s Joe, his guitar, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, and some very pretty 50- year old cowboy boots given to him by a country and western legend… and his old friend Henry Gross.
At a recent performance at the Cadogan Hall – he will be back in London next month and is touring all over the country – he charmed audiences not just with his patented cheeky chappie routine but his very considerable musical dexterity and his all-round kindness.
The anecdotes are not boring, narcissistic or mock humility but genuinely lovely and often very funny. He, and his accompanist performed his hits – it would be bad manners, not to – and some golden oldies but also other musical gems. If his old friend and immediate contemporary could have the cheek to still perform his hit Teenager In Love, he told the audience, then he could get away with performing some of his own chart toppers from the 1960s.
Some of the audience members on the night in the Cadogan Hall – well-heeled, of a certain age, and in many cases perhaps not frequent concert goers – spent much of the concert like characters in Gogglebox giving a running commentary and were clearly delighted to be able to name the tunes.
At one point one individual loudly proclaimed that Duelling Banjos was from ‘Deliveroo’, confusing the takeaway delivery firm with John Boorman’s gruelling Appalachian thriller.
Joe was joined at various times by his friend of 32 years – they met in Nashville – Henry Gross. Joe informed the audience only that singer songwriter and guitarist Henry is quite a big deal in the US – he was a founding member of Sha Na Na and the youngest musician to play Woodstock– before adding that it’s his own good luck that none of that means anything to audiences in this country.
At the end of the evening many members of his London audience members left smiling and humming the tunes. Can’t really ask for much more from an evening, really.
• For tour dates see www.joebrown.co.uk