By Katy Pearson

HE’S been performing for 60 years… but rock 'n' roller Joe Brown shows no sign of slowing down.

Currently in the middle of an epic 72-date tour, he’ll be at Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion in February.

And it turns out that this Essex gig, is one the chirpy cockney is rather looking forward to.

“The tour is great and I always look forward to Southend. I know that when the guy announces me in Southend they’re going to give me a good reception because they always have. I just love that bloody place, I can’t help it,” the 76-year-old grins.

So, he knows Southend well then, I ask?

“Oh not half,” he chuckles. “My first gig, my first professional job was in Southend. And I was on the railways – on the steam engines – and I ran my train into Southend from Fenchurch.

“I remember the Kursaal and all that and the bloody pier kept burning down, didn’t it?

“When I lived in a pub in Plaistow we used to go to Southend on the kids’ outing. We went to Southend. Walton-on-the-Naze we went, and we went to Clacton once, but that was no good, I prefer Southend.

“They used to give you an apple, an orange and half a crown. That’s what you had to spend as a kid on the outings. It was great.

“I love Southend, it’s our South of France for Londoners isn’t it? Not that it resembles it in anyway, mind you…”

While Joe did work on what is now our C2C line, it wasn’t for long. He turned professional when he was a mere 17 years old, getting spotted in 1958 and then signed by Decca Records in 1960.

Hits, including A Picture of You, It Only Took A Minute and That's What Love Will Do, followed. And he hasn’t stopped since, making six films, presenting radio series, doing West End stage plays, bagging an MBE and still recording, performing and touring.

But what has enjoyed the most?

“The thing is I’ve done so much,” he muses, while quietly asking someone to pop the kettle on. “But at the end of the day, I always come back to my guitar. I like working in theatres, I don’t like nightclubs, I’m not that keen on television, though I have to say television has been good to me.

“I have to mention, I did a West End show with Dame Anna Neagle and she was kind to me and I was in that show two and half years, but I’ve worked with so many nice people. Mark Knopfler, George Harrison…”

Johnny Cash?

“He was wonderful to me, I didn’t work with him that much, but when I did he was very impressionable, you know?”

But what’s been the best part of his career?

“Let me tell you this. First of all, it’s great to be in at the beginning of rock 'n' roll. We were right there at the beginning and that was a great time.

“I’ve done all sorts of different stuff. I’ve done films. I’ve done nightclubs. I’ve done theatres, I’ve done straight plays, I’ve done comedy plays I’ve done all kinds of things but right now is my favourite time.

“Because, you know, I’ve done it all and there isn’t much left that I really want to do and whatever I do, if I do the odd film and stuff like that, I always come back to playing my guitar and entertaining people. That’s what I love to do.”

So, he still gets a buzz from it?

“Oh yeh. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t,” he states, firmly. “The only problem with it now is the bloody travelling. The travelling is getting terrible. All the roads are getting closed up. The traffic is murder, but it’s part of the job really. It’s a lot harder now than it used to be. In the old days it was quite easy getting about. These days it’s difficult. But there you go, it’s part of the game, mate.”

So, what can we expect from this tour?

“It’s different in a way, because it’s like a one-man show tour,” he explains. “It’s not with a band. I’ve just got one guy helping me out, playing guitar, because I play a few instruments, so I need someone playing the chords and that.

“And he’s very good actually. He’s a great star Henry [Gross] in America, he’s had some big hits out there. One of his hits, Shannon, sold more records than I’ve sold in my whole career! It sold millions. And Henry’s really the one who talked me into doing this as a one man show. He said, well I do it all the time in America. And I said, but what about all the hits, like Picture of You and Henry the Eighth and all that? He said, they sound great with a couple of guitars. People listen to them then. And he was right.”

Does he have any regrets? Any opportunities he wishes he’d taken?

“Well, yeah, of course. But the point is you didn’t. There’s been times when I turned monster hit songs down. Said I don’t like that bloody song, so I’m not going to record it, and someone else has recorded it and had a monster world-wide hit with it, and I think about it, and I still don’t like the song, so what’s the point?

“You’ve got to be true to yourself to a certain extent. Coz in the old days I had to do what I was told. The management would say I’ve got you a film and you’ve got to be at Pinewood at 6 o’clock in the morning and you never knew anything about it. You just had to get there. And they’d go, here’s a song you’ve got to record, stuff like that. I’ve recorded some real crap. The difference is that these days I’m my own boss.

“Nobody tells me what to do or where to do it or what time to do it. Mind you, I think I deserve it after bloody 60 years, but that’s the great thing about it now. I do what I want to do, and if I don’t want to do it, then I don’t do it.”

Does he see himself ever stopping?

“I suppose health wise I’ll probably have to at one stage. But the point is I look at it like this, if people want to come and see you, and they’re wanting to pay money and come and see you, I’ll keep going as much for my sake as for their sake.

“If they want to see Joe Brown they can bloody see him. If I started playing these theatres and like 20 people were turning up, I’d pack it up. But while they’re all coming and wanting to see me and I love it, I couldn’t not do it, you know what I mean?”

The Just Joe tour will be at the Cliffs Pavilion, Station Road, Westcliff, on Sunday, February 25. For tickets, which start at £27, call the box office on 01702 351135.