Joe Brown Profile

Redmer Yska
25 Nov 2016

He was the tuxedoed godfather of 20th century New Zealand show business, tireless, squeaky-clean promoter of talent quests like Search for Stars, decades before New Zealand’s Got Talent and New Zealand Idol. Joe Brown Enterprises – his business arm – then signed, recorded and released the victors.

From the late 1930s, Brown quickly became well known as the promoter of weekly dances at the Dunedin Town Hall, events which were broadcast nationwide. Later, his fame grew when he ran the Miss New Zealand beauty contests between 1960 and the 1980s. He made the pageant a glamorous and wholesome entertainment perennial, partly because of the canny decision to showcase fresh musical talent like John Hore (Grenell), Peter Posa and the Quin Tikis in the touring packages. The Howard Morrison Quartet meanwhile anchored the pageant, year after successful year.  

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Miss New Zealand line-up and Joe Brown
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Rim D. Paul Collection at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
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“There’s no more,” Joe Brown tells the younger section of his audience at the Nelson carnival, February 1961
Photo credit: Nelson Photo News
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Joe Brown's Search for Stars, 1970
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Take Ten was a 1967 duet album with John Hore and Howard Morrison, rush recorded by Joe Brown to coincide with a tour.
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Joe Brown coaxes 12 correct answers out of Mrs Aline Timms of Stoke to win “Take Your Pick” at the Nelson carnival, February 1961
Photo credit: Nelson Photo News
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Programme for Miss New Zealand contest, 1965, produced by Joe Brown
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By November 1936, the Joe Brown dances were so popular they had moved to the main hall of the Dunedin Town Hall. "Be early or be disappointed," Brown advised.
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Howard Morrison Quartet performing at Miss New Zealand show, 1963 - promoter Joe Brown
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Advertisement for Joe Brown's second professional dance promotion, Otago Daily Times, 29 August 1936. Note the enticement to the public that members of the Canterbury rugby team may be attending after their Ranfurly shield match against Otago.However Otago won 16-0. 
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Joe Brown (far left) and the Christchurch promoter Trevor King (at the typewriter) on a judging panel on Brown’s Search for Stars talent quest. Between Brown and King is George Tollerton.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Chris Bourke
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John Hore and Eddie Low's album We Should Be Together, released on the Joe Brown label in 1972
Photo credit: Joe Brown
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A portrait of promoter Joe Brown taken by the Evening Post, 1959. Alexander Turnbull Library, EP/1959/0216-F
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Joe Brown and John Hore in the USA, 1966. The interviewer at right is Bob Ferris, of Hollywood's KNX.CBS.
Photo credit: Gisborne Photo News
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Miss New Zealand show 1973, a Joe Brown promotion. Eddie Low appears 10 minutes in.
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A wartime entertainment: Joe Brown presents the revue Lights Up at His Majesty's Theatre, Dunedin, 1944. Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: Eph-A-VARIETY-1944-01-front
Photo credit: Alexander Turnbull Library
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