SAM BROWN AND HER FABULOUS UKULELE CLUBS
It is more than three decades ago that 48 year-old Sam Brown started performing with many of the elite of the UK music scene. Daughter of top 60s guitarist Joe Brown and his vocalist wife Vicki, Sam had a huge international success with her own composition Stop in the late 80s. A series of albums and a world tour with Pink Floyd followed plus years on the road as a lead vocalist with Jools Holland who has described Sam as “without question, one of the greatest singers I ever worked with”. There have been similar plaudits from Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Ronnie Wood, David Gilmour, Deep Purple's Jon Lord and many more. Sam has performed at the Albert Hall on over 50 occasions, she has sung for The Queen and for prime ministers as well as for President Bill Clinton. She's appeared at over a thousand charity gigs, raising massive funds for good causes. Songs she has written have been recorded by some of the biggest names in the business. But then, in October 2007, Sam had a cyst removed from her vocal cords and her career took a new direction.
She recalls, “I first felt my voice starting to falter back in 2006 when I was touring with Jools. I was just exhausted. I'd been working so hard for so long and was commuting back and forth from Scotland where I was living then. I was in the process of separating from my husband and moving back to Oxfordshire. I was also doing some performances with my dad and was scheduled to tour with David Rotheray of The Beautiful South as part of his Homespun band. Suddenly I just could not sing in tune. I couldn't find the notes in any way. And I had to just stop working.
As a single Mum, she needed to find a new professional niche. The ukulele has turned out to be the key to that . For many years Sam's dad Joe, along with his good friend George Harrison, had been a ukulele enthusiast and Sam had recorded her own successful Ukulele and Voice cd in 2005. So, a couple of years ago, Sam decided to teach a few people the ukulele.
“Little did I know how quickly it would mushroom. It has been amazing. At first there were just a couple of friends in my front room. But word spread fast and, with the current craze for learning the uke – which has been outselling guitars in the UK for the first time for generations, by late 2010 there were 25 members of the newly formed “Sam Brown's International Ukulele Club of Sonning Common” (the IUCSC). We moved into my
garden shed and then to the Nettlebed Folk Club near here for our sessions. I started teaching basic chords and everyone just learned together. There were people of all ages, from diverse backgrounds and with varying musical ability. The group suggested songs and I'd pick the ones that were easier to arrange for the ukulele. By Christmas 2010 we'd learned 15 songs and could play two sets.
“I'd always been focussed on the Club achieving early successful stage performances so they had a tangible goal. To me that is part of the process of learning. By 2011 Sam had started a second uke club in London - the North London Ukulele Collective - Meanwhile, back in Oxfordshire, demand for places in the IUCSC continued to grow until there were over 40 members. Early in 2012 Sam had to establish a new club - the People's Ukulele Brigade (or “PUB”) to accommodate newcomers. This now has nearly 50 members. Still the interest grew, and now there is a fourth club, The Jumping Flea Club, which has 35 members. And to keep everybody in touch Sam has also introduced an over-arching virtual “umbrella club” – the Fabulous Ukulele Club (or “FUC”) with Facebook pages and a website at www.thefabulousukuleleclub.com