Joe Brown was born on 13 May 1941 in Swarby, Lincolnshire, but his family relocated to Plaistow in London when he was just two-years-old to run the Sultan pub in Grange Road.
As a kid he sold cockles and winkles and collected scrap metal for extra cash. At 12-years-old he’d saved enough to buy a guitar, and the music bug bit him when he played guitar for the Sultan ladies charabanc on outings to Southend.
By 1956 Skiffle was big, and Joe formed The Spacemen with Pete and Tony Oakman who took their tea-chest bass and washboard around the East End pubs.
When skiffle began to fade, The Spacemen turned their hand to rock ‘n’ roll. Joe’s talent was spotted by Clay Nicholls and The Blue Flames and he landed a spot as their guitar player for a season at Butlin’s in Yorkshire.
Joe got his big break as resident accompanist to singers auditioning on the TV show Boy Meets Girls
After switching from Decca to Pye, Joe topped the charts in 1962 with A Picture Of You which he followed with It Only Took A Minute (#6 in 1962) and That’s What Love Will Do (#3 in 1963).
Such was the popularity of Joe Brown and The Bruvvers that at one time they had headlined over The Beatles at the New Brighton Tower.
During the two-day build up to the show, Joe and his band had been mobbed signing autographs at the NEMS record store and packed The Cavern over two lunchtime sessions.
For their part, the less famous Beatles had plugged the Tower show by incorporating a version of A Picture Of You into their set for all their gigs for a week prior to the show.
Joe and The Bruvvers included old numbers from musicals in their live set, including songs from Bye Bye Birdie and Oklahoma, as well as a riveting version of Hava Nagila (which climaxed with Joe plucking his guitar behind his head). And yet despite all this kitsch, he remained a well-respected musician in the industry.
In 1982 Joe’s guitar could be heard on George Harrison‘s Gone Troppo album.