J P Bean, the official biographer of rock legend Joe Cocker and chronicler of Sheffield’s Gang Wars, has died in his sleep. He was 66.
The former probation officer first saw Cocker as a teenager in 1965 at St Oswald’s Church Hall, Abbeydale Road.
He remembered a night of ‘raw excitement’. Years later he saw him play again, realised there was no biography – others had tried – and put the offer to the singer at the Crosspool Tavern in 1986.
Cocker, who arrived wearing a flat cap, nodded. “It’s all right with me love but I don’t get home very often,” he said.
So Bean joined him on the road in Germany over two years before the book appeared in 1990.
They made an odd pair. Joe boozed and boozed, Bean, a teetotaller, stuck to lemonade.
Cocker wasn’t the only pop star he included among a wide circle of friends.
Richard Hawley, who wrote the foreword to Bean’s critically acclaimed oral history of British Folk Music, Singing From the Floor, said online: “I salute a great, great man and a brother.”
His real name was Julian Broadhead. He used the pen name to keep old lags from his door and separate off his writings on prison and probation matters. He championed prisoners’ writings.
He is still best known for his history, Sheffield Gang Wars, telling the story of a city terrorised by the Mooney and other gangs in the Twenties.
It was turned down by 21 publishers before he self-published. His garage was stacked to the roof with books he had to sell himself.
He said: “Without Gang Wars I would never have started writing. It’s been a steady seller.” It has, more than 30,000 copies so far.
Professionally and socially, the laconic-speaking Bean – he liked lugubrious as a self description – was no stranger to the criminal fraternity. He could count Great Train Robber Bruce Reynolds and Sheffield safe breaker Albert Hattersley as friends.
He wrote several other books including the Sheffield Chronicles, listing stories for every week of the year, wrote for Radio 4, was involved in documentaries and gave talks.
Bean, who leaves a widow, Sheila, and children Alex and Amy, lived at Greystones. He was currently working on a history of heckling.