Briggs' glittering international career left in ruins

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: John Briggs John Briggs

A glittering career lies in ruins.

The man once known as ‘El Estupendo’ for his extraordinary talent is behind bars.

From venues such as Carnegie Hall and even the Grand Canyon, his star has fallen to a UK jail.

Well behind him now are occasions like receiving an MBE or attending civic receptions at Bradford's City Hall.

During his illustrious life in the public eye, Briggs forged a reputation as a top professional pianist and composer.

But he also made his mark with fund-raising and community work, including Christmas performances at Keighley’s Airedale Centre and charity concerts in Bradford.

In 2003, he was named in the Queen’s New Year Honours List and awarded an MBE. In this, he followed in his mother’s wake for his work with sea cadets.

For 16 years he was president of Keighley Sea Cadets, helping steer the organisation through some tough times.

His award came seven years after his mother, Gladys, in her 80s, was honoured with an MBE for her work in keeping the unit afloat. Together, they pioneered a £100,000 revamp of the unit’s HQ.

At the time, Briggs said: “I am so proud as it is for something not related to my work.”

Briggs was born in Crossflatts in 1948 to James and Gladys. He went to Bingley Grammar School and then to the Royal Manchester College of Music, going on to win a Polish State Scholarship to study in Warsaw.

In 1977, he married opera singer Christine Paterson. But the marriage was short-lived and Briggs later said the wedding was ‘a stupid thing to do’.

“From day one we knew it wasn’t going to work,” he said.

For more than 40 years, he toured extensively and played in top venues around the world. New York’s Carnegie Hall. The QE2. Amazingly, the edge of the Grand Canyon when he delighted a crowd which included Hualapai Indians. For this, a grand piano had to be flown in by helicopter.

Twenty years later, he made a repeat performance with many of those at the first concert returning to hear Briggs play again. The reunion was emotional on both sides.

One attendee said: “When he started to play, it blended in with the canyon and the sky and it was a very spiritual feeling.”

He has also played the ancient city of Petra (left) at the behest of the Queen of Jordan and on a South American tour was nicknamed El Estupendo.

Briggs was also a presenter on Pennine Radio and has released several CDs and videos.

Once asked if he would like to be thought of as the new Liberace, he replied: “No, but I couldn’t wear the furs or have the candelabra, the jewels and all that. But there’s nothing wrong with being popular.”

And when asked what he feared the most the answer was: “Being lonely. I value every minute I spend with friends. The other fear is letting people down...”

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