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The Browns

During the '50s and '60s, the vocal harmonies of the Browns gave the lie to those who would stereotype country music as a raw product distinguished more by pure feeling than by art; perhaps the single word that best describes their music is "polished." The original brother-sister duo of Jim Ed Brown and Maxine Brown were joined by younger sister Bonnie in 1955, creating a trademark smooth trio sound that proved wonderfully adaptable to down-home harmony singing, to folk-pop arrangements that rode the crest of the hootenanny craze, and to lush Nashville sound extravaganzas. Bonnie and Jim were born in Sparkman, Arkansas, where their father owned a sawmill and a large farm; older sister Maxine was born in Campti, Louisiana. With the encouragement of their parents, the Brown children began singing and developing their characteristic close harmonies early on. In their teens they performed in school and began appearing at local events.

In 1952, Jim Ed placed second in a talent contest and won a slot on Little Rock's Barnyard Frolics radio program. Joined by Maxine, he was soon appearing on other local radio shows, which led to local TV appearances as well. The duo earned national recognition and a guest spot on Ernest Tubb's television show for their humorous song "Looking Back to See," which hit the Top Ten and stayed on the charts throughout the summer of 1954.

The Browns were joined by recent high-school graduate Bonnie and began appearing on Shreveport's Louisiana Hayride. By the end of 1955, the trio had another Top Ten hit with "Here Today and Gone Tomorrow," which was given a boost by their national appearances on The Ozark Jubilee. The show's producer arranged for them to sign with RCA Victor in 1956, and soon afterward they had two major hits, "I Take the Chance" (a cover of a Louvin Brothers composition that showed how close the Browns remained to traditional harmony textures) and "I Heard the Bluebirds Sing." When Jim Ed was called to serve in the military, the group continued to record while he was on leave, and sister Norma filled in for him on tours.

By the late '50s, the Browns, now teamed with RCA's visionary producer Chet Atkins, had become one of the country acts that were most successful in exploiting the new national enthusiasm for folk music. On album covers they were pictured with a clean-cut, almost collegiate look that diverged sharply from country norms. The Nashville songwriters responsible for creating the sentimental, romantic world of Eddy Arnold's music contributed idealized visions of small-town life such as "The Old Village Choir" to the Browns' repertoire, but a song whose origin was not even American gave the trio its biggest hit. "The Three Bells," a translation of a hit song by hard-bitten French chanteuse Edith Piaf, not only spent ten weeks on top of the country charts in 1959, but also crossed over and spent four weeks at number one on the pop charts. As a result, the Browns appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jimmy Dean Show, and American Bandstand.

The Browns remained in the folk mode for their two follow-up hits, "Scarlet Ribbons" and "The Old Lamplighter," both of which did extremely well on both country and pop charts. Their string of hits continued until 1961, when the first phase of the folk boom died down. Two years later, after touring widely in the U.S. and Europe, the Browns joined the Grand Ole Opry. In late 1967, the Browns disbanded. Maxine and Bonnie went back to Arkansas to concentrate on their families, while Jim Ed focused on the successful solo career he had launched in 1965. The trio reunited for the gospel set Family Bible in 1996, and an eight-disc retrospective of the Browns' music was released under the title The Three Bells on Germany's Bear Family label the following year. Bonnie Brown died in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2016 at the age of 77. ~ Sandra Brennan & James Manheim
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Complete Hits

1. Looking Back To See

2. Here Today And Gone Tomorrow

3. I Take The Chance

4. Just As Long As You Love Me

5. Money

6. I Heard The Bluebirds Sing

7. Would You Care?

8. Beyond The Shadow

9. The Three Bells

10. Scarlet Ribbons

11. The Old Lamplighter

12. Send Me The Pillow You Dream On

13. Oh, No!

14. Then I'll Stop Loving You

15. Everybody's Darlin', Plus Mine

16. Meadowgreen

17. I'd Just Be Fool Enough

18. Coming Back To You

19. I Hear It Now

20. Big Daddy

21. I Will Bring You Water

x

Track List: I Heard The Bluebirds Sing / A Harvest Of Country Songs

2. Buttons And Bows

3. This Time I Would Know

4. Foolish Pride

5. Send Me The Pillow You Dream On

7. Alpha And Omega

8. Remember Me

9. Oh, No!

10. My Baby's Gone

11. Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes

12. The Rhumba Boogie

13. Mansion On The Hill

14. Four Walls

16. Ground Hog

17. Columbus Stockade Blues

18. Down In The Valley

19. Poor Wildwood Flower

20. The Great Speckled Bird

x

Track List: Family History

1. Forgotten Son

2. For The Saints

3. Modern Man

4. Salesmen

5. Dreamers

6. Two Of You

x

Track List: Love Loud

1. Love Loud

2. Rock And Redeemer

3. The One Who Still Works Miracles

4. The Captain's Got It Under Control

5. Street Of Gold

6. Everything Changes

7. A Place In The Choir

8. The Water Is Calling

9. Fishers Of Men

10. River In The Rain

11. This I Know

12. All Hail The Power Of Jesus' Name / Crown Him With Many Crowns

x

Track List: The Browns, Vol. 4

1. Where Does A Little Tear Come From

2. Coming Back To You

3. (I Prithee) Do Not Ask For Love

4. Gigawackem

5. Rhythm Of The Rain

6. Greener Pastures

7. After Losing You

8. The Tip Of My Fingers

9. Four Strong Winds

10. Sorry I Never Knew You

11. The Old Country Church

12. They Tore The Old Country Church

13. Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet

14. He Will Set Your Fields On Fire

15. The Night Watch

16. When I Lift Up My Head

17. Taller Than Trees

18. The Mocking Bird

19. Jezebel

20. A Rusty Old Halo

21. The Weapon Of Prayer

22. I Hear It Now

23. Ride, Ride, Ride

24. Country Boy's Dream

25. All Of Me Belongs To You

26. Where Does The Good Times Go

27. I'm A Lonesome Fugitive

28. Once

29. Walk Through This World With Me

30. Happy Tracks

31. Misty Blue

32. If The Whole World Stopped Lovin'

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Haven't heard the Old Lamplighter for a long,long time. Hmmm... nostalgia!
Report as inappropriate
awarix9
Like the Brown Sound, Old Lamp lighter and Marty Robbins.
Report as inappropriate
rgspops
songs from my past and at 81 still great.
Report as inappropriate
Browns - Family History - is not The Browns...but a 1990's indie, jangle-pop band.
Report as inappropriate
Pop a Top will always be my favorite Jim Ed song!
Report as inappropriate
The three bells are the best,When I could dance with my wife, Now gone it was a teriffic song to put you in the mood. Don T.
Report as inappropriate
Delighted to hear The Browns. Gotta keep this wonderful music alive in the public conciousness . It's good for the soul.
Report as inappropriate
Pandora is clearly mixing two different groups that share the same name together.
Report as inappropriate
Besides 'The 3 Bells',and 'The Old Lamplighter' - I really like 'Scarlet Ribbons' and 'Send me the pillow you dream on'-Excellen t group!
Report as inappropriate
dantwood
it once was said music relates to a time ,and a place,in your life. GREAT Music. Woody
Report as inappropriate
I really do like jim ed browns music its great to hear.
Report as inappropriate
How short our life is! !!
Report as inappropriate
noprsur.cj
this was not that long ago in my memory, I think you are a wonderful composer and singer. nopsur.cj@gm a i l . c o m Robin pahl.
Report as inappropriate
jjjjkm
Jimmy Brown
Report as inappropriate
btrombly6
eddie arnold
Report as inappropriate
btrombly6
Little Jimmy Bown
Report as inappropriate
btrombly6
the old lamp lighter
Report as inappropriate
douglastomki n s
an underated group
Report as inappropriate
The old lamp lighter. and little Jimmy brown.

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