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'King of the Ukelele' returns for Wirral Guitar Festival
JOE Brown returns to Wirral later this year to open the 25th International Guitar Festival.
The Lincolnshire-born entertainer has been called many things – star, rock and roll legend, MBE, rock icon, guitar hero, cheeky chappy and can add an extra title to the list: King of the Ukulele.
He has played the instrument since he was a teenager and was one of the very first artists to have a record banned by the BBC.
His recording of the old George Formby song ‘With My Little Ukulele In My Hand’ was deemed far too risqué...
He is back on the road in October to promote The Ukulele Album Deluxe Edition, and comes to the Floral Pavilion in New Brighton on November 6.
As its name suggests the ukulele features on every track of the album, but not as a novelty.
It is given its full weight alongside raunchy electric and acoustic guitars, mandolins, banjo, lap steel and slide guitars and surprises galore.
Joe, 72, was brought up London’s East End. He told the Globe: “I started playing it when I was a kid and have always loved it. It’s got a very rich sound.
“I played it during the George Harrison tribute concert at the Albert Hall in London.
“Because of that, I’m now recognised in Nashville. I played there recently and people said ‘hey, you’re the guy who played ukelele at George’s show.’”
The album features not only Joe’s band, including producer son Pete, but also daughter Sam and 35 of her ukulele club pupils.
“There have been so many, far too many too list. But I suppose the biggest was playing the Royal Albert Hall as part of my 50th anniversary celebrations. It was wonderful.”
Looking back on his career, Joe said: “I’ve been playing since I was about 15 and turned professional at 18.
“There have been so many highlights, far too many too list. But I suppose the biggest was playing the Royal Albert Hall as part of my 50th anniversary celebrations. It was wonderful.
“I enjoy the fact that I can pick where I want to play on tour these days, instead of being told where I’m playing by a management company. It’s not like the old days and gives you a sense of freedom.”
Joe’s daughter Sam had a hit in 1986 with ‘Stop’, but it’s unlikely that they will ever record a duet.
Joe said: “Sam lost her voice about eight years ago having a throat operation, which is really sad.
“My son Pete’s a producer and is musical director on my tours. He does a fantastic job and takes a weight off me when I’m on the road.”
On being chosen to open this year’s guitar festival, he said: “When the Floral Pavilion concert was organised I didn’t even realise it was part of a festival, so I’d better get practising.
"It’s a nice surprise and I’m looking forward to be being part of something special.”
Tickets and full programme details are from www.bestguitarfest.com or 0151 666 0000.
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