JOE RUSH : 1940 – 2020
Sadly, in 2020, Joe Rush passed away after a long illness.
Most fans will be familiar with the name Joe Rush, if not, he was Mungo Jerry’s washboard player back in the early 70’s and even though he was on-stage at the Hollywood Festival, he had officially left the band as such, but returned occasionally to guest on certain recordings, such as the You Don’t Have To Be In The Army album in 1971 and at the Weeley Festival in the same year.
By the mid-70’s, he had returned to the band, and I first met him during the ill-fated tour of Working Men’s Clubs in the North East Of England. We were great pals ever since, speaking on the phone whenever we could.
He was the special guest at the 30 Year Mungo Jerry Anniversary weekend at Newcastle Under-Lyme in 2000, an event attended by many Mungo fans from all over the world.
Over the years, Joe filled me in with lots of stories and sent in many, many photographs. From his birthday parties, and from the bands he played with in more recent times.
Joe’s funeral took place at 10 a.m at the Cimitiere u Nord, Rennes, France on Monday, the 2nd of March. James Matthews, Joe’s Country Jug band mate was able to attend the funeral and kindly let us post the following message sent to Ray ;
“Thanks for sending that heartfelt obituary for Joe and his family. I spoke for you and explained how sorry you were not to be there due to your health issues at the moment and hospitalisation. His son and daughter were really moved by what you said and asked me to thank you.
“At the service they started with a jug band version of Have a Whiff On Me, then his son Dave spoke about his Dad in an upbeat way, celebrating of his life and its ups and downs. Letting people know he was much loved but no angel!
“They then showed a video screen with photos of Joe, past and recent times, including playing with you and various jug and jazz bands.
“They played a great video of you and Joe clowning around at a small festival in France, getting the crowd to sing along. It was a fitting tribute to you both and was well appreciated by the mourners.
“I spoke for you and touched his coffin for us both.
“The guitar they lent was un-tuneable’ so I got the crowd to join me acapella, singing Stand By Me, the Ben E. King classic. They really got into the mood humming the bass line and clicking like cabasas. It was a moving moment with a few tears.
“His music mates, The Jayriders then got up and gave another moving tribute in French and English and sang In The Summertime. A litle unsteady at first but the crowd joined in with your ‘Uh type’ sounds and a few cabasa clicks and all was well.
“Finally they asked us to write something in coloured pens on his un-varnished pine coffin; it ended up looking quite funky. I wrote thank you for music, love Ray and James.
“I think we walked off to Stealin’, probably the Memphis jug band recording.
“We carried him away to his last resting place in Rennes Cemetery, laid to rest in the same plot as Anne Marie, his lovely French wife”.
RIP Joe…James Matthews.
“Best to remember the good times ‘coz there were plenty of them when Joe was in town”.
RAY DORSET ON JOE…
“It was Joe that got me interested in playing this kind of music more seriously and he introduced me to the recordings of many American artists that I was not aware of…
This was written by Ray some time ago and appeared twice in the old Mungo Jerry Fan Club fanzines.
“In retrospect, Joe Rush was more responsible for the success of, Mungo Jerry than any other member of the band. This is even though he had left before the first single was recorded.
“I met Joe when I went to work at a company called RGS Ltd (Radio Control Specialists) in Hounslow West, early in 1965. Joe was a jazz and blues fanatic, and at work we would talk about the music that was played by pirate radio DJ, Mike Raven on his Radio 390 show. Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Sleepy John Estes, etc.
“I had been interested in early jazz since my father had a habit of messing around with our old radio until he came across some kind of music that he liked. This was mainly New Orleans jazz, swing, blues and boogie. Maybe he would pick up the then low-powered and crackly Radio Luxembourg and get some early rock’n roll, but then we didn’t know what it was called.
“Joe was playing double bass with a guy who did a lot of parties and weddings. He asked me to come along and add a bit of the rock’n roll element. We got asked to do a lot more of his jobs together, as the younger crowd at the parties always got off on my rock’n roll. On the rock numbers, Joe would stand on his bass and pull off his tricks, just like Bill Haley’s bass player.
“I was playing in the, Sweet and Sour Band then, a three piece with, Dave Hutchins on bass and Roger Earl on drums.
“We were playing a lot of my songs and some of the well known blues and R’n B stuff with an occasional bit of feedback guitar. I guess that this line-up was influenced by the success of, Cream. We had supported, Eric Clapton at the Attic Club in Hounslow. I lent Eric a plectrum in the toilet.
“Another then claim to fame, I had once before lent a jack lead to Roy Young, (keyboards and backing vocals with Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers). We had supported them at Hounslow Town Hall.
“Joe left RCS and got a job at the research lab at the Timex plant in Bedfont, Middlesex, where two former RCS technicians were in charge of the lab. Timex had signed an agreement not to poach any more RCS workers, but Joe gave me a call just at a time when I needed to move on. One, because I needed more money and two, because my boss was tired of all the calls that I was getting at work for gigs.
“And so I started work at the Timex lab and did some gigs with Joe. Joe was selling his maisonette in Bedfont for £4,350 and I offered to buy it, which I did. He moved into a house just round the corner.
“He got a washboard sent down from Scotland by the Timex personnel manager. It was this that led to the skiffle sessions in the lunch breaks, and at the Duke Of Northumberland pub. When I asked Colin if he would like to join us, the Mungo music began.
“Joe’s record collection was also beneficial to me and the band’s sound, as he introduced me to many, Leadbelly and jug band tracks that I did not have. At Timex, Joe also made my harmonica harness. The one that I used on the festivals in 1970 and on the first recordings.
“Colin and Joe got on well together, they had similar interests. Both were good artists, they liked classic sports cars, they were keen fishermen. The duo shared a love of the blues and no bullshit music. They had similar opinions on politics which leaned towards the social side, although Colin always seemed more materialistic than Joe.
“Through working with many musicians and going through the traumatic times of the mid-70’s and into the 80’s, my musical direction and performing were in disarray. When I got the call from Joe to join him for some casual playing in Brittany (Easter 1986), I re-discovered the knack that I have for performing in an infectious style.
“The gigs that I did with Joe in France gave me the inspiration to write new songs, e.g; Red Leather and Chrome, Got a Job, One Man One Mission, and dig up old ones.
“The version of, Jesse James on the, Snakebite LP, less the sing-a-long la-la-la, is pretty similar to the one that I played as an 11 year old in my first skiffle group.
“Mick Frampton came on the first trips to Brittany and joined in the playing at the Balleye Bar in Quiberon. He was then my roadie but trying to play a few instruments, mainly bass guitar.
“We tried some jug band music/skiffle out in some pubs in Southampton with him playing percussion and it worked.
“When bass player, Ray Davies could not make it on a short Scottish tour, Mick was coaxed into playing bass and it worked. I realised that the more I put my own stamp on the performance and the more simple the backing musicians kept it, the better the music went down.
“Joe will always be one of my biggest friends and inspiration. He married in France (where he still lives) in 1990 so as he and his wife could adopt boat children. Typical of the man, great guy, great musician”!
MICK FRAMPTON ON JOE…
“Ray invited me to France to holiday with him and his family. While there we were also to play as a jug band in the local pubs and clubs.
“This was the first time that I had met Joe Rush, the funniest man that I have ever met. Nobody else I know orders a beer over the microphone whilst Ray is singing.
“A typical day was spent on the beach, eating oysters and drinking sparkling cider. Driving to the gig at our leisure. Arriving maybe three hours early, the owner would lay on food and drink and the atmosphere was casual and informal.
“If you have heard the tape of ‘Mungo In Brittany’? You will hear that Ray made up many new songs on that tour. Red Leather and Chrome springs to mind. It was brilliant”!
“That was a good experience, I think Ray’s got happy memories of that, and I’ve got a feeling that is what influenced him to go back to this jug band, skiffle style of playing”…Joe Rush.
CHRIS WARNES ON JOE…
“One of the funniest experiences was when we were in the South Of France.
“We all had a great tan and good sunburn. We played the gig and went down a storm.
“Joe managed to get a bottle of champagne and we sat in the mini-bus ready to leave. Joe decided to pour the champagne over my head, which in turn soaked into my sunburn. This was so painful that I jumped up and put a hole in the mini-bus roof.
“It might not sound funny now but we laughed for hours – even with a thumping headache!”
JOE’S 64th BIRTHDAY BASH…
2004 saw another birthday for our Joe, and another ear-bashing for his tolerant neighbours. In his words – “still alive…had another birthday (would you believe?)
“It’s a pretty good musical life I’ve had, a lot of experience meeting people”…Joe Rush.
Joe went on to play with a band called The Jayriders in Rennes. “It’s a bit of an experience for me, only on washboard: they play Beach Boys numbers, Creedence, etc. And a good version of In The Summertime with added verses” .
“One night, I got a motorbike stuck between the carpet and the ceiling. We was having a drink after, so I brought this motorbike in, done a wheelie and the bloomin’ front tyre got stuck up on the beam! I got off and left it, and finished ‘me beer”…Joe Rush.
JAMES MATTHEWS ON JOE..
“I was in the Country Jug band with Joe Rush, playing Zonk stick, jug and electric bass. Although Country Jug was good it was rather short lived. We did play some great gigs including Weeley 1971 and the Reading Festival in 1972. We headlined down at the good old Marquee Club in Wardour Street until sadly, it came to an end.
“I’ve lost touch with everyone now except good old Joe Rush, who rang me from France. I also played with him at his daughter’s wedding, where of course we bashed out a few Mungo numbers”.
“The last band I played in England professionally was Bob Kerr’s Whoopee Band. That was a very good time for me.In fact, I think that was the best, happiest time playing as such. It was a laugh a minute”…Joe Rush.