Joe's digging out his ukelele
ROCK 'n' roll legend Joe Brown has been described as all manner of things during his career, from "the first real English guitar hero" to a "cheeky cockney".
But the one he favours the most is "cool oldie", and it is perhaps the most fitting because after more than 50 years in the music business he is still out-rocking the rest.
Every spring and summer, without fail, he goes on tour and he makes his annual return visit to Torquay's Princess Theatre on Saturday, March 23.
With his five-piece band, Joe will pack into the show a mix of timeless classics, rockabilly, gospel, country, folk and rock 'n' roll.
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"I do love touring, so there's always something to look forward to, and every year we come to Torquay," says Joe, who is still brandishing his trademark hedgehog hairdo. "We love it because it's great down there.
"The rest of the year I do festivals and charity stuff, and I like to have a few weeks off in the summer if I can.
"It's not like working in the old days when I was working every night. I'm getting a bit past it for all of that!
"Performing now is great because it's in front of a captive audience. I started out doing nightclubs and pubs. Now people come to see you rather than coming to get drunk. It's the proper way to do it and we have a great time. It's a great sounding and looking band."
Among the line-up is Joe's son Pete, a 47-year-old record producer. The musical gene has also extended to his daughter Sam, a successful singer-songwriter.
"My son is kind of taking over from me," admits Joe. "He takes a lot of weight off my shoulders and is a great asset to the band.
"I think it was inevitable he would join us. We've never had any arguments or anything like that. We're both too professional for that. It doesn't bode well for the rest of the band if you bicker..
"I wouldn't say my children have followed in my footsteps. Pete started out as an assistant engineer in one of the major record studios in England and became head engineer and went up through the right channels. He produced all of Sam's early stuff.
"I also have a foster son called Richard who is a drummer. He is the son of famous drummer Tony Newman who worked with David Bowie and the Everly Brothers.
"It's great as we all speak the same language. There was never any discussion about what they were going to do for a living. They just came straight into it.
"Their mother was a great session singer and was very well respected. Sam was doing recording sessions with her when she was 14."
The first inkling of a star in the making was when Joe bought his first guitar for £1 when he was aged 10.
"It wasn't even worth a quid," laughs Joe. "I lived above a pub in London and there was a bloke who used to play there. I had never seen a guitar before and thought it was great so I bought it and it went from there."
It was back in 1958, when Lonnie Donegan was ruling the charts with Rock Island Line, that Joe joined his first band, the Spaceman Skiffle Group, at the age of 17.
Within three years he was the resident lead guitarist on producer Jack Good's groundbreaking TV show Boy Meets Girl. He found himself backing visiting American stars like Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Johnny Cash.
Joe says it was from Cochran he learned the secrets of real rock 'n' roll guitar, and then went on to form his own group, Joe Brown & The Bruvvers, who enjoyed a string of number ones, and at one point were joined on tour by a young Liverpudlian group called the Beatles.
Proud to have been part of the music scene at such a groundbreaking time, Joe says: "It was great to be at the start of it all in the late 1950s.
"It was the formative years of English rock and roll and it was great to be part of it."
That feeling of contentment is still with Joe years on and he is thankful to be still enjoying his love of music and performing.
"I'm lucky to have done all kinds of things – West End shows, stage plays, comedies and parts in films, but I always come back in the end to standing up with my own band," says Joe. "For my latest show we will be doing a lot of songs from the ukulele album, our latest album. We performed ukulele songs before we made the album to find out what people thought.
"I wanted to do something different than the kind of stuff you would expect to hear on the ukulele like Pinball Wizard, Ace of Spades and Mr Blue Sky.
"I've always been associated with ukuleles, even before guitars really. We all had them in the East End.
"The ultimate test is when you're playing to full houses without any publicity. You know you are there on your own merits."
And if you are worried this could be your last chance to see the legendary Joe Brown on stage, fear not because he has no intention of ever letting his guitar gather dust.
"People say, 'Why don't you retire?' – but retire and do what?" he says. "I'm quite an active person. I don't like golf and I would only be sitting around on my bum all day wondering what to do."
Tickets for the show at the Princess Theatre in Torquay cost £22 to £29. Call 0844 871 7627 or visit www.princesstheatre.org.uk