Master of the Blues at Robinwood Mill
Words and pics from Alan Dearling
At Eagles Crag Brewery, we were treated to an intimate, old-style, rugged, rough-and-ready setting for some raw blues. Victor is in his 80s now, but powerful of voice and dexterous with his fingers on guitar strings, keys and on trumpet. And it really is a Big Voice. A skilful interpreter of classic, traditional and well-preloved-tunes like ‘Midnight Special’. A multi-instrumentalist. He is said to have been Jimi Hendrix’s and Tina Turner’s favourite blues vocalist. But he plays a lot of keyboards and even cornet! He is somewhat reminiscent of Dr John, with whom he has played. Likewise, with Eric Clapton, and jammed with Jimi Hendrix.
During his show, Victor told the audience, “Over 25 years ago, I was a night-watchman at this Mill at the time it got burned down in an arson attack…but that happened in the daytime!” Adding that the Mill back then had a water-powered lift, but he never got the chance to experience a trip in it.
We compared notes about some of the early festivals. He was at the first and third Isle of Wight Festivals in 1968 and 1970 – I was at the second and third events. Those festies were an absolute treat to see the likes of Hendrix, Miles Davis, Taste, Dylan, Cohen and the Doors. But, Victor was a stalwart of the early British blues scene.
Probably his most famous band was the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation. He was the singer and keyboard-player. But he also performed with Screaming Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends and even Charles Mingus and Ian Gillan. Victor appeared in the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar musical as Caiaphas. He also wrote the song, ‘Warning’, which featured on Black Sabbath’s first album. One of his fans even brought along some of his old vinyl recordings for Victor to sign.
Here he is at Robinwood Mill gig, extemporising ‘House of the Rising Sun’. Great fun, spirited and an absolute crowd-pleaser: https://vimeo.com/724376696
He also recorded at least a couple of songs with blues legend, Alexis Korner. Here are the really rather fabulous recordings for the BBC in 1986: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zB1N33H07Dw
2018: Video of Victor live at Little Big Weekend. Still in fine voice:
He has recorded and played live with his wife, Annette, from whom he was divorced, and daughter, Kyla Brox, who is also a renowned blues singer. His latest live album (2021), ‘Grief’ was recorded with his band, The Blues Train, at Ribble Valley Festival at Clitheroe. It includes his song, ‘My Whiskey Head Woman’ and a lively medley of ‘Summertime’ intertwined with ‘Going up country’.
From Youtube, I spotted comments:
Victor told me he was writing his autobiography. Unfortunately he left it in his bag at an airport….it got taken away and blown up!
He was My school teacher!!! – Thursday Morning Assembly; HE Played the PIANO!!!
One of Victor’s own compositions: ‘Sick and Tired’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdvNpfZcRvU
At the end of the gig, I chatted with Victor about his daughter, Kyla Brox. She’s a very talented and respected blues singer. I last saw her headlining one of the gigs at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. Sadly she’s ‘grounded’ with Covid at the moment. Victor doesn’t use social media, a computer, or, even a TV! So, I sent a collection of images to Kyla for her dad. From Wikipedia we learn: “Kyla first sang with Victor onstage at the Band on the Wall in Manchester in 1992, at the age of 12. She joined his regular touring group the following year. The core of the Kyla Brox Band go back to this unit, nominally the Victor Brox Blues Train, but known informally as ‘the child slavery band’ because of the extreme youth of the players. As well as Kyla (13), the group contained bassist Danny Blomeley (13), and drummer Phil Considine (19).”
And here’s one of my pics of her performing.
Kyla Brox: https://www.kylabrox.com/
Eagles Crag Brewery are keen to expand their live music shows and the whole Robinwood Mill is being gradually transformed into a creative Arts Hub, full of artists, musicians, performers, skilled crafts-people and more.
Here are a few pics from other parts of the Mill in the last week. Eagles Crag Brewery: https://eaglescragbrewery.co.uk/
Lee in his Robinwood up-cycling studio, an example of Louise Adkins’ narrative artwork, and the ‘Chronicles’ work by the Phantom Limn artists.