Jimi Hendrix called Victor Brox his “favorite white voice.” He was a huge influence on a young Jimmy Page.
And in a long and remarkable life and career, Victor, who died Monday at 81, worked and played with the likes of Eric Clapton, Charles Mingus, Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, BB King, Keith Moon and Screaming. Mr Sutch.
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Born in Tameside Hospital on 5 May 1941 and raised in Droylsden, music was a part of his life from an early age. His mother played the piano and mandolin and sang, while his grandfather, a butcher from Ardwick, used to sing and play the bones.
Victor fell in love with the blues as a child, having first heard it on a late-night radio show. His father forbade him to play the piano, his first instrument was the violin and he formed his first band around the age of 12 in Droylsden, where they played dances at St Mary’s Church Hall.
He was soon immersed in the Northwest jazz scene, traveling by train to Northern Jazz Federation meetings where he listened to rare records imported from the United States.
After school he went to university in Wales to study philosophy and from there moved to Ibiza, then home to a bohemian jazz scene inspired by Charles Mingus.
A strikingly handsome man with, in the words of his daughter Kyla, the ‘brightest blue eyes’, it was there that he met and fell in love with Nico of the famous Velvet Underground, after she asked him for singing lessons. The relationship was renewed much later when Victor received a phone call from the singer, who she spent much of the 1980s living in Manchester, asking if she could get him heroin.
Returning from an extended stay in the Balearics, the singer, keyboardist and trumpeter formed Blues Train and backed visiting American artists like Little Walter and Screaming Jay Hawkins, drawing his own following with his carefree, anarchic performances. He met and fell in love with his wife, Annette Reis, the couple with whom he recorded I’ve Got the World in a Jug in 1965. Legend and rumor surround the recording to this day.
Was it the first ’45 British blues and was there Jimmy Page on guitar? The use of Annette’s maiden name was mysterious because she and Victor were already married.
He had previously acted as a guide for the 1963 Blues and Gospel Caravan when the troupe arrived in Manchester. The Granada TV Chorltonville broadcast was his only scheduled appearance, so Victor found Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Big Joe Williams, Willie Dixon and Lonnie Johnson at a casual gig at Chick’s Bossa Nova, a dive opposite Victoria Station ( since it was demolished). ).
A move to London in 1966 at the invitation of Alexis Korner resulted in a residency as a duo at Les Cousins. Victor made more determined efforts to achieve success with Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, whose four-album legacy represents the best of Brox on record.
He sang the role of the high priest Caiaphas in the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar; Annette was ‘the maiden by the fire’.
Victor went on to play on albums by Graham Bond (Holy Magick), Dr John (Sun, Moon, Roots and Herbs) and Peter Bardens (eponymous) and released Rollin’ Back, credited to Annette and Victor Brox, in 1974. The latter contained selections from Victor’s fucking rock opera, Hieronymus Bosch.
In the 1980s, he co-led the band Mainsqueeze with Dick Heckstall-Smith and composed the children’s musicals The Book of Dreams and Dr Seuss: The Musical, the latter with a production at The Old Vic Theatre.
His time in the Dordogne boosted the blues scene in the south of France, and he became a proud member of Art 314, the oldest blues band in France. Victor opened up the Australian outback to live blues with a succession of grueling annual tours in the ’90s, a baptism of fire for the singer’s daughter, Kyla.
The father of five children returned to Droylsden in 2005 to care for his ailing mother. He died a few months later, at the age of 95.
Victor continued acting throughout his later life. Equally happy to play to a crowd of thousands or a dozen blues fans in a pub in Oldham, he was a regular at Manchester Band on the Wall and Matt and Phreds venues.
He marked his important birthdays with a concert: his 50th was celebrated with an all-day festival at the Band on the Wall and his 80th birthday party was a public concert at the Carlton Club.
During lockdown, he could even be found busking at Ashton Market on his acoustic guitar, where he would play a few tunes before picking up some apple pie at his favorite bakery and catching the bus home.
He played his last gig at the Great British Rock and Blues Festival in Skegness on January 14, alongside Kyla and his band.
A self-mythologiser and colorful storyteller, Victor’s talent for the surreal was matched by a self-deprecating wit, giving the impression of a noble and heroic failure. He may never have made it big, but he was one of the great unsung heroes of the British blues scene and a constant champion of young talent.
Paying tribute to her father, Kyla said: “He lived an incredible life and told an incredible story, but they were all true!
“I am so grateful that it has left such a big mark on so many people. We have received so many messages from people telling me how it has changed their lives.”
“He was liked by the people who knew him. He was doing an Alexis Korner tribute concert in Buxton once and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were there. Robert Plant came up to me and my brother Sam and told us that Daddy was his hero when he was younger.
“Our jaws were on the floor, but dad just shrugged it off. He never sought fame.
“I think he needed an audience and he loved being on stage, but he was just as happy playing in a pub as he was at a festival. He lived for the music.”
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