John Bradbury is a name that for many means a great deal in terms of the history and development of modern British music. For me (at least until my teenage years) who John Bradbury was meant little beyond being the full name of my Dad’s best mate, and my beloved neighbour who’d give me £20 and a cuddle every time I passed him in the street with my Mum.
To the “many” I mentioned earlier John Bradbury is the drummer behind a cultural movement. As the 2nd drummer in The Specials history he became one of the iconic faces of Ska, and a member of a band that helped teach the aforementioned generation about positive social progression as much as it treated them to great music. Being one of Britain’s first popular multiracial bands The Specials represented far more than just an eclectic blend of Northern Soul, Reggae and Punk. Hitting fame in 1979, during the height of the National Front movement in the UK, the band were a much-needed healthy step in the right cultural direction to help the nations youth resist further leaning towards the extreme-Right. In Brad’s case this healthy cultural understanding was provided by his artistic studies, and upbringing in Coventry courtesy of his father, Bert, and mother, Joan, a firm anti-racist who helped with immigrants rights along side her day job.
In the post-Specials era while Brad was known for continuing with music, with the Special AKA and forming his own band, JB’s Allstars, he added further strings to his bow, becoming a family man with his wife, Emily, and son, Elliot. He got involved in the fashion industry, including the families most recent project True Rocks jewellery, as well as computer programming, maintenance and developing a greater appreciation for boxing and healthy living.
In 2012 I got to know Brad more personally when meeting in our local area, we spoke extensively about music and his excitement about The Specials reforming. His vivid descriptions of the comeback show at 2008’s Bestival as well as the bands performance at New Yorks Pier 26 Hudson River Park made me realise who’s presence I was really in. This wasn’t just my “Dad’s Best Mate” as I’d previously thought, this was the “great drummer” (as The Specials singer Terry Hall called him), the “Captain Rimshot” who my brother idolised, and a man who meant so much on a big and small scale to so many people.
Seeing The Specials live represented him in the best way possible, and was the last time I saw him: in early November 2014 at the Glasgow Barrowlands. He managed to find time to raise his right stick and smile at me during “Monkey Man”, after I managed to catch his eye while frantically waving, before hitting his splash and getting right back to business. A symbolic act that showed him for who he was: the perfect high class professional and truly caring human being.
John “Brad” Bradbury, drummer, songwriter and producer, born 16 February 1953; died 28 December 2015