Tribute to legendary Specials drummer John
Pete Chambers, Director Curator at The Coventry Music Museum and Telegraph music columnist on the late, great John Bradbury, who died earlier this week...
IT’S heart breaking that the man who gave The Specials their unique sound has passed away suddenly.
Brad was without question the greatest Ska drummer around, his technique was copied by others but never equalled, Brad (or Prince Rimshot) put it down to “muscle memory”, the fans knew it was more than that.
He was born in Coventry in February 1952, he lived in Grantham Street Opposite Gosford Green, and attended Binley Park School.
He studied at Hull University, but to many Coventry folk, it was his stint working at Virgin records in City Arcade, many will recall him pre-Specials.
His time at Virgin Records gave him the edge on what was hot, and he never lost his love for Northern Soul music.
However, it was Ska music that would overtake his life.
Brad came into The Specials just before they recorded Gangsters (he had previously played on what would become the singles ‘other side’ too “The Selecter”).
From that moment onwards, he became an irreplaceable part of The Specials machine, including the superb fills that kicked off the number one hit “Too Much Too Young” and punctuated the rhythms of “Ratrace”.
His love of Northern Soul rose again when he developed his own record label, Race Records, promoting local talent like Team 23. He formed his own band JB’s Allstars, and continued to drum with The Special AKA, once the classic lineup of The Specials had ended. He was inducted onto The Coventry Music Wall of Fame in 2011.
In 2009 when The Specials made a glorious return, it was Brad’s drum sound that took us all back to circa 1979. His band mate Lynval Golding, just spoke to me and was in a state of shock, saying: “We had some great plans for the band”, I’m just numb, Brad was so much The Specials. “I’m Heartbroken.” To say that he will be greatly missed is really not anywhere near enough. He was a great human being, a real gentleman, as a drummer he was a transcendent. Prince Rimshot has left the drum riser and broken all our hearts.
John Bradbury (left) with the reformed line-up of The Specials
John (third from left) with his bandmates in 1979 and (below) in action at the Coachella Valley Music & Art Festival 2010 in California