King of the ukulele visits Sussex

Joe Brown can justifiably lay claim to being the current king of the ukulele – not least on the back of I’ll See You In My Dreams, the song with which Joe closed the George Harrison tribute concert.

In fact, Joe may have even introduced the uke to his good friend George. He certainly used to buy them for him whenever he was in Nashville.

Whatever, the fact is that the ukulele has had a terrific upsurge in popularity in the last few years – most likely as a result of Joe’s Harrison tribute.

“At that particular concert, there was so much heavy rock stuff going on and all the Indian stuff,” Joe recalls. “The ukulele at the end was quite a culture shock. I think at the end of the concert, it really emphasised the instrument.

“I never chose the song. I had been doing that particular song for a few years before the concert, and it was always one of George’s favourites. George always used to come to see our shows. (His widow) Olivia asked me if I would finish the show with it. It was a great idea. I said that I would have to think about it, but I didn’t think for very long!”

The ukulele has been an instrument Joe has always loved and played. In 1963 it even got him into big trouble. Joe 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 performed on the ukulele was deemed way too risqué.

Now comes an album long overdue – The Ukulele Album.

As the name suggests it features the ukulele on every track, but not as a novelty. It is given its full weight as an instrument alongside raunchy electric and acoustic guitars, mandolins, banjo and lap steel and slide guitars with surprises galore.

Among the tracks are Ace Of Spades, Pinball Wizard and the ELO hit Mr Blue Sky, all given the inimitable Joe treatment.

Joe is joined on the album not only by his band, including his producer son Pete, but also by his daughter Sam. Unable to sing through operations going wrong, Sam has since developed her own ukulele clubs in Henley and London and 35 of her ukulele pupils, under her expert tutelage, make group contributions to several tracks on the album.

Joes dates include Dec 9,Burgess Hill, Martlets Hall, 01444 242888; and Nov 14, Horsham, The Capitol Theatre, 01403 750220.