Singing From The Floor

sheffield gang wars
The Sheffield Gang Wars
authourised biography of joe cocker
Joe Cocker: the Authorised Biography
bold as a lion
Bold As A Lion

over the wall

Over The Wall


J P Bean Picture


With Extreme sorrow and sadness, I must inform you that J. P. Bean has suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in the early hours of Thursday November 5th 2015.

It was totally unexpected and came as a devastating shock to all his family and friends.



Julian’s funeral service will be held on Monday 23 November 2015 at 10.45 am at the Sheffield Cathedral, Church Street
(We hope you will all be able to join us)
This will be followed by a short private committal service at 12 noon at the Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium

Following on from this we have arranged a gathering at 'The Greystones’ pub, Greystones Road, to celebrate Julian’s life and we look forward to sharing stories and memories of Julian with you all from 12 noon onwards.

With our very best wishes.

Sheila, Amy and Alex



Article published in The Sheffield Star on Monday 23rd November 2015:

"Hundreds of people paid tribute to an ‘astonishingly talented’ Sheffield author who died aged 66.

J P Bean, real name Julian Broadhead, was the official biographer of Sheffield rock legend Joe Cocker and chronicler of Sheffield’s Gang Wars.

His funeral service was held at Sheffield Cathedral, with friends and family crammed into the pews.
Bean’s son Alex Broadhead said how much he would have loved to have seen everyone gathered together at the service as he was never happier than when surrounded by friends.

He said: “I am blown away by all the love for him. My dad valued friendship profoundly. He had a zest for life and a unique imagination which was fuelled by sympathetic souls.”

“We’ve never doubted that he was true-hearted and astonishingly talented. I was privileged to be his son.”

“He was a teller of stories whether it was oral histories and whether he was championing prisoners or letting his four-year old son dictate stories to him while he bashed them out on a typewriter.”

“My first memory is of falling out of my cot and he came to pick me up and he never stopped picking me up.”

“He was a force of personality who made people from all walks of life treasure his friendship.”
Bean’s daughter Amy Willsher paid tribute to her ‘wonderful father’ adding: “Very few people can fill a room but he was one of those people.”

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 – to date it has sold more than 30,000 copies.
Bean had previously worked in a bank and as a gas fitter, before writing about another well-known gas fitter – Joe Cocker. He joined Cocker on the road in Germany for two years before the book appeared in 1990.
He also worked as a probation officer for 30 years.
Cocker’s You Are So Beautiful accompanied his coffin from the service.

Bean, who lived in Greystones, leaves a widow, Sheila, as well as his children Alex and Amy.

Obituary published in The Guardian Newspaper on Tuesday 17th November. Written by James Morton:

"The writer Julian Broadhead, who has died of a heart attack aged 66, was fascinated by people from all walks of life, their stories and their voices. That fascination is the common thread that runs through his books, from his first, about ganglife in 1920s Sheffield, to his last, an account of the history of British folk clubs. He was inexhaustibly interested – in policemen, criminals, comedians, boxers and musicians.

At the end of the 1970s, under the name JP Bean (a schoolboy nickname), he wrote The Sheffield Gang Wars, an account of the gambling warfare that had once bedevilled the city. It was rejected by more than 23 publishers and so, in 1981, he published it himself; it has never since been out of print and it formed the basis of a BBC documentary in the 1980s.

In 1986 after seeing the Sheffield-born singer Joe Cocker in concert, he suggested he write his biography. Later, at the city’s Crosspool Tavern, Cocker agreed, saying: “It’s all right with me, love, but I don’t get home very often.” As a result Broadhead joined Cocker on the road in Germany, and the book, Joe Cocker: With a Little Help From My Friends, appeared in 1990. It was an unusual partnership – Cocker was famous for his drinking bouts, Broadhead was teetotal – but it was a successful one. He later updated the biography and wrote the cover notes for five of Cocker’s CDs. They remained friends until Cocker’s death in 2014.

In 1992 Broadhead founded Prison Writing, a magazine designed to give prisoners, particularly those serving lengthy sentences, the opportunity of expressing themselves. Each issue of the magazine, which ran for 10 years under his editorship, contained an interview with a former prisoner, such as John McVicar and Frankie Fraser, or a writer, among them Martin Amis.

In 2002 he was awarded a Cropwood fellowship at the Institute of Criminology, Cambridge, which led to the publication of Unlocking the Prison Muse (2006), a study of the inspirations and effects of prisoners’ writing in Britain.

Broadhead was also responsible for Crime in Sheffield (1993) and Bold as a Lion (2002), a biography of Bendigo, the Nottingham bare-knuckle fighter. Over the Wall (1994) was a history of prison escapes; Verbals (1995) a collection of criminal quotations; and Singing from the Floor (2014) a well-received oral history of folk clubs. A lifelong lover of language, Broadhead also contributed entries on criminal slang to Harrap’s Slang Dictionary.

Broadhead was born in Sheffield, the son of Harry, a car mechanic, and his wife, Irene (nee Whiteley), and grandson of a racecourse bookmaker. He was educated at Clifford primary school and Abbeydale grammar school. He worked first in Williams Deacon’s Bank, where he met Sheila Hainsworth; they married in 1974. He later worked as a meter reader for the local gas board, and, out of office hours, he founded a blue-grass duo called the Louisville Burglars.

At the age of 25 he became the city’s youngest magistrate and it was his experience on the bench that made him realise his metier was not punishing people but helping them. This led him to take a certificate of qualification in social work and become a probation officer. In his later years in the service he worked almost exclusively with lifers.

His first published piece, in Yorkshire Life, was about the grave, hidden in a suburban wood, of a wood-collier (charcoal burner) who had burned to death in 1786. His radio and television work began in 1976 with Samson Enterprises, a Thirty-Minute Theatre play for Radio 4 about a small-time agent trying to break into the pop scene.

Droll in the laconic, north country tradition, with a lugubrious delivery, Broadhead was a regular at Sheffield’s literary festival On the Shelf and gave highly entertaining talks on such subjects as folk music, the Victorian murderer Charlie Peace and Blondin, the Niagara Falls tightrope walker.

At the time of his death he was writing a history of heckling, spanning politics, stand-up comedy and vaudeville. He had just revisited Speakers’ Corner and lamented the decline in the quality of the repartee since the days of the great soapbox orators such as the Methodist minister Lord Soper.

He is survived by Sheila, his children Amy and Alex, and four grandchildren.

Julian Philip Broadhead (JP Bean), writer and social worker, born 28 July 1949; died 4 November 2015

Richard Hawley forum post:

"I was told this morning that my dear dear friend and soul brother J P Bean passed away totally out of the blue,I want to thank the audience at Barrowlands for getting me through the gig,he was on my mind all the way through the gig I feel utterly heartbroken he was a really massive influence on me,a lifelong friend of mine and my family,I loved him and I know he loved me,I am bereft at this current time I've lost the BEST of friends I can't believe he's gone....my love goes out to Sheila and the family,my love is always there

I salute a great great man and a brother xx

There will be more to follow but I'm in too much of a mess to type any more dark words,I thought we'd got more time to grow old together I learned so much from his beautiful heart and mind X"

Letter published in The Sheffield Star Newspaper on Friday 13th November 2015. Written by Ron Clayton:

"Saddened to hear of the death of JP Bean, author of several books on Sheffield local history and Sheffielders deeds and misdeeds, the two most celebrated being The Sheffield Gang Wars and Joe Cocker’s biography.

Julian, I never even considered that was a pseudonym, it seemed to fit his laid-back, affable and humorous nature, shared with me a common interest, a fascination with the infamous Charles Frederick Peace and a bemusement that Sheffield City Council planning department, in an all too typical unimaginative act decided that the site of Peace’s murder of Arthur Dyson required the erection of a sandwich shop, (later a beauty parlour, something Charlie could have profitably utilised).

I was present when JP did a fundraiser for our little gem of a Fire and Police Museum and the granddaughter of a gang lad produced her grandad’s Sunday best cosh, (of a size to fit into his suit jacket top pocket).
Julian was also a folk music afficionado and I suspect that was his real love, that and the quirkiness of Sheffielders and Sheffield.

He’ll be missed.

Ron Clayton"

Tribute written by Dave Watkins (The editor of singing from the floor) and published on the Faber website:

"Sadly, JP Bean, author of Singing from the Floor: A History of British Folk Clubs, died unexpectedly last Thursday.

Julian was a gregarious, generous man with a fantastic sense of humour. He was brought to Faber by Jarvis Cocker, who had been passed the manuscript of Singing from the Floor by their mutual friend Richard Hawley. As Jarvis put it, ‘When my friend Richard Hawley said he’d met “a man in a pub who had a book for me” I have to admit I was slightly dubious. But he was right. Singing from the Floor portrays an important movement in vernacular culture in the voices of the people who made it happen . . . JP has captured this moment before it is lost forever, and made it live again on the page. He’s a very clever chap.’

The book received rapturous reviews on publication – ‘definitive’, as Mojo described it – and Julian relished every second. He was a natural raconteur, and his events and readings were always something special.

Julian was an immensely popular author among the Faber Social team, and I have very fond memories of working with him. As just one example, I remember an exchange over a point of grammar – whether ‘a’ or ‘an’ should precede Ewan MacColl. ‘It’s the phonetic relationship that determines the article,’ I drily suggested, giving a couple of examples: ‘a yew tree’ and ‘a U-turn’.

‘What about the sheep?’ Julian immediately fired back. ‘Shepherds of my acquaintance (there are many in Sheffield)’ – I had no reason to doubt him – ‘don’t say, “I’m taking a ewe to market.” They’d lose their jobs.’

‘I would say, “I am taking a ewe to market,” if ever such an unlikely eventuality arose,’ I pompously replied.

Eventually, we agreed. But I shall forever cherish Julian’s mischievousness and good nature for his final say on the matter: ‘Just because you’re the top lad, grammatically, doesn’t mean you won’t ever need to sell a female sheep.’ Wise words. He will be much missed.

– Dave Watkins (Editor of Singing from the Floor)"