They say never meet your heroes, but I disagree

Lee Brilleaux Ipswich Corn Exchange

Lee Brilleaux on stage at the Ipswich Corn Exchange in the late 1980s. - Credit: Gill Powell

They - whoever ‘they’ might be - say never meet your heroes. I see where ‘they’ are coming from but given the opportunity I’ve always been happy to give it a go.

My life in broadcasting has certainly presented me with many opportunities to meet and interview hundreds of famous people. The important thing to remember is celebrities are no different or better than anyone else on the planet. We all enter this world the same way, breathe the same air and at some point exit through the same door. In my book that makes us all equal.

I’ve been lucky because rarely have I met a well known person without first having an appointment to see them which means I’ve usually had plenty of time to prepare. You often hear of people bumping into a hero and not knowing what to say to them. It can all get a bit embarrassing for a tongue-tied, red-faced fan who then longs for the ground to open and swallow them up.

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to hear that my music hero is the late, great Lee Brilleaux who until his death in 1994 fronted my favourite band Dr Feelgood. I had been a fan since seeing them on the Tyne Tees TV Saturday lunchtime show The Geordie Scene in the mid-1970s.

Lee Brilleaux Ipswich Corn Exchange

Lee Brilleaux on stage at the Ipswich Corn Exchange in the late 1980s. - Credit: Gill Powell

Lee was a man who did not normally suffer fools but we hit it off straight away when I drove down to his house in Leigh-on-Sea in 1983 to do a radio interview with him. I’d seen him on stage several times and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I needn’t have worried. Lee was a gentleman and seem pleased that I had taken the trouble to travel so far to see him.

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Before the interview we had a couple of drinks at his local - an impressive looking place round the corner called The Grand. The only ice that really needed breaking was the stuff going into his large gin and tonics and it was a great way of warming up for the interview.

I was a young reporter/presenter at Radio Orwell in those days and for the next few years got to know Lee pretty well. Before the now legendary Dr Feelgood Christmas concerts at the Ipswich Corn Exchange we’d have a few beers together. I recall taking him to the Bramford Cock to see landlord Bill who Lee knew of old. On other occasions we drank in The Greyhound, The Plough and The Great White Horse Hotel. Lee loved a pub and was more than happy to chat and share a drink with Dr Feelgood fans who were both surprised and delighted to meet him. 

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Lee was the ultimate professional ensuring that he would always be back at the Corn Exchange in time for a sharp 9pm start. He was a stickler for that and he didn’t hang around at the end either. I dare say he had a G & T waiting for him on the bar in The Grand!

There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think of Lee. It’s been a privilege compiling many CD releases in Lee’s memory. Most of them have been projects for Grand Records, the label Lee founded with his close friend and Feelgoods’ manager Chris Fenwick.

So, from my experience, if you get the chance do meet your hero do it. My only regret is that I never got a photograph taken with mine. In those days there were no cameras on phones. In fact, mobile phones hadn’t even been invented! However, I did spend lots of time with Lee in pubs, restaurants, radio studios and dressing rooms. I even got to introduce my hero on stage on several occasions. You can’t ask for much more than that.

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