25th Oct, 2021

MUSIC MATTERS - RIP Coventry's Brian Fowdrey of Mad Classix fame

Coventry Editorial 11th Feb, 2021

Coventry Music Museum curator Pete Chambers BEM writes for the Observer.

IT IS with great sadness I announce the passing of one of Coventry’s more flamboyant Rock N Rollers Brian Fowdrey a famed member of the band The Mad Classix.

Famed for their on-stage antics and a fabled tour of Germany The Mad Classix were a sextet who always lived up to their name, and Brian certainly put the ‘Mad’ in the Mad Classix.

A superb tenor sax player, Brian was the sort of guy who lit up a room when he entered. Brian originally worked at Friars Promotions and was drafted into the band in 1962.

The group were not your average band.

On stage this band were not of ‘the standing still type’ on the contrary, lead singer Johnny Wells would often leap off the stage above the heads of the first row with mic in hand straight into the audience, not to mention Brian dressing as a monkey!

Like the Beatles before them Brian and the band served their musical apprenticeship in Germany. The tour took on a life of its own and became a pivotal point in the history of the Mad Classix. The line up included another local legend the late Bev Jones.

Out of the blue the band were offered the chance to make a record that would be used in a German TV play. They recorded two tracks – My Honey-Bunny and It’s Never Too Late – both are great little gems and have ‘a moment in time quality about them’.

The track it’s Never Too Late was actually written by the band’s superb guitarist Ron Smith.

More recording was promised but enough was enough and England was calling. The record cover shows a lone Brian dressed in zany attire and dark glasses playing a child’s recorder.

The band returned to Britain and Brian could lay claim to playing in a band with a superstar-to-be Jeff Lynne, if only for three weeks.

The Classix felt Jeff was a great guitarist, and enjoyed watching him play, though it wasn’t obvious he was destined for greatness – to be honest they even forgot his name until someone pointed out that Jeff had done well to get into the charts with The Move.

Jeff of course had success with The Move then hit mega-stardom as a member of The Electric Light Orchestra and as a Travelling Willbury.

Jeff was with the band for just three weeks – by St Patrick’s Night of 1966 the band had their gear stolen from their van in Whitley and from that point the Mad Classix had ceased to be.

But in 2008 they united for a special ‘Call Up the Groups’ concert, where I recall Brian telling me: “I still play my sax occasionally. I look on the band as my brothers, when some of us met up a few years ago, it was like no time had passed between us.

“I think when you work with somebody for so long you just get to know each other.

“I once wrote an instrumental with Ron Smith entitled Mount Olympus.

“EMI were interested in it, but finally decided it was too advanced for the time.

“Many years later I was listening to the radio and I called my wife in to hear what was playing.

“She was convinced it was our song Mount Olympus. Of course it wasn’t, it turned out to be Jig-A-Jig by East of Eden.

“So we were 10 years ahead of time.”

RIP Brian his name will continue to live in the folk-law of local Coventry music forever and that record is proudly on display at the music museum.

 

 

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