The Life of Brian

Lewis Brian Hopkin-Jones was born in Cheltenham on 28 February 1942 to Lewis Blont and Louise Beatrice Jones. When he was four he developed croup which left him prone to bronchitis and asthma, the latter a chronic affliction which plagued him as a boy, but when adult seemed to develop into a more nervous asthma, induced at moments of high stress.

When Brian was six, Louise started him off on his first piano lessons with his school music teacher. He was inherently musical and though his mother taught him to read music, deep down it was recognized that Brian's aptitude was exceptional. Instinctively, he bypassed the conventional routes and found his own variations and short cuts. From the piano, it was an easy transition to the recorder and beyond that the clarinet. Brian went on to master all the reed instruments.

In BBC Radio 4's 'A Story Of Our Time', Lewis said of his son:

Up to a certain point Brian was a perfectly normal, contented little boy who was well behaved and well liked. He did his studies and he was quite a model school boy. Then there came this peculiar change in his early teens. At the time, I suppose he began to come a man, where he began to get some resentment of authority. It's something we hear an awful lot about now-less about then. But it was becoming apparent in him. He seemed to have firstly a mild rebellion against authority, which unfortunately became stronger as he grew older. It was a rebellion against parental authority, and it was certainly a rebellion against school authority. He often used to ask, Why should he do something he was told, just because the person who was telling him was older?"

At the core of this strife lay one thing: Brian's determined departure from the kind of music his parents approved and had trained him to play and appreciate, to jazz, which, in his father's words, "became an absolute religion with him, always coming first." It was this obsession which led Brian, who was by now playing guitar, to sell his clarinet in favour of a saxophone, much to his parent's horror.

After getting his fourteen year old girlfriend pregnant, the tension between the two families increased and the pressure on Brian to leave town intensified. So with some money, clothes and his newly purchased 3.00 guitar, he set off to hitchhike around Scandinavia and Germany. Upon returning some time later, he got together with Pat Andrews. She says:

"He had an incredible feel for music and an even more incredible desire to play it. Music came first and foremost and everything else was very much a poor second."

At this point he was heavily into Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and his favourite Julian 'Cannonball' Adderley. Brian by now played breathtaking guitar, increasingly forming his own style, and if he wasn't playing music, he was talking it.

After many odd jobs, Brian moved into a flat with his friend Graham Ride, a kindred spirit, who introduced to Brian a new obsession. He had jumped from trad jazz to the rawer, less disciplined music called Rhythm and Blues. His new passion was all eclipsing. He would sit for hours, enraptured by black artists such as Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and Jimmy Reed, and soon discovered he had a real feel for the music, and it was through listening to these records that Brian taught himself the Blues which was forever to remain the cornerstone of his life and destined later to stamp its seal all over the Rolling Stones most memorable recordings. He was also listening to Howlin' Wolf and Elmore James, whom Brian began to emulate by learning to play slide guitar.

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