RIP Brian Travers: Westside’s tribute to UB40 saxophonist who picked up Walk of Star in 2018

Westside BID has paid tribute to Brian Travers, one of the founding members of the chart-topping reggae group UB40, who has died at the age of 62.

Saxophonist Travers was one of the original band members who picked up UB40’s Star on the Broad Street Walk of Stars in December 2018.

The band said Travers had endured a “long and heroic battle with cancer”. He had surgery to remove two brain tumours in 2019 and reportedly had another operation earlier this year.

Mike Olley, general manager of Westside BID, said: “We were all saddened here at Westside to learn of Brian’s death. He was one of the mainstays of UB40 for well over 40 years, a marvellous performer, a true Brummie and just an all-round great guy.

“We felt privileged to be able to present the band with their Walk of Star on stage at the end of one of their concerts in the city in 2018, and Brian’s part of that legacy will live on.

“He was so thrilled to receive the Star, and I clearly remember him asking the Lord Mayor Yvonne Mosquito, who presented the Star, whether he could wear her mayoral chain, which she was happy to let him do.

“He loved this, and one of the most endearing pictures is of him in the chain, his face beaming on stage, in front of his audience, clearly chuffed to bits with the evening and the band’s Star. It’s certainly a night I will never forget.”

Mr Olley added: “Thanks for all the music, Brian – and rest in peace.”

UB40 was formed in 1978 by band members who knew each other from various schools across Birmingham. The name ‘UB40’ was selected in reference to an attendance card issued to people claiming unemployment benefits, and the acronym stood for Unemployment Benefit, Form 40.

The band began when guitarist Ali Campbell, together with drummer Jimmy Brown and bassist Earl Falconer, began rehearsing reggae songs and some of their own original compositions.

Travers, who has initially worked as an electrical apprentice, soon joined them, along with percussionists Yomi Babayemi and Norman Hassan, and keyboardist Jimmy Lynn. Ali’s brother Robin Campbell eventually joined in and the new band called themselves UB40.

Travers was a key part of the UB40 line-up as a saxophone player, arranger and lyricist.

The group went on to find success in 1980 with Food For Thought, their first UK top 10 single, before having hits with I Think It’s Going to Rain Today, One in Ten and covers of Red Red Wine and I Got You Babe. In total, they recorded scores of singles and have sold 100 million albums worldwide.

By Steve Dyson.

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