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Roy Brown: 1951-1953

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Album Review

Soon after Roy Brown scored measurable success with "Bar Room Blues" (1950) and "Big Town" (1951), his record sales dipped rather suddenly, whereupon the singer appears to have suffered an attack of professionally induced paranoia. What happened next was quite possibly a byproduct of Brown's unhappy dealings with Wynonie Harris, the man who initially rejected Brown's most famous tune "Good Rockin' Tonight" (1947) and then hijacked it, scoring a number one hit after the composer's rendition began showing up on the charts. Given the sheer ubiquity of Harris' ultra-popular version of this archetypal jump tune (many people probably still believe that he wrote it) Brown's subsequent behavior seems like a tragic exercise in frustration. Apparently suspicious of everyone in the immediate vicinity who represented the music business, Brown rashly decided to have the musician's union investigate them all, including his manager Jack Pearl and Syd Nathan, the owner of DeLuxe records. Pearl's license got yanked and Brown's royalty account was scrutinized. While this must have stirred things up nicely the result was anything but beneficial for Roy Brown; he soon found himself shut out with no gigs whatsoever and was squeezed out of Cincinnati at a time when the public was grooving on his act. This volume in the Classics Roy Brown chronology opens with "Brown Angel," his very last DeLuxe release, and three other titles recorded in Cincinnati on September 27, 1951. Farmed out to the King label, he wasn't able to record again until December 18 and 19, 1952, back home in New Orleans. Legend has it these exciting tracks were essentially "buried" in the extensive King catalog. Even if these recordings didn't sell very well, they sound great today, particularly the apoplectic "Hurry Hurry Baby" which opens with a hair-raising scream, and the manic-depressive "Laughing but Crying," an unsettling study in fragmented emotions garnished with a Larry Darnell-styled recitative. The discography tells a tale of protracted travels: "Mr. Hound Dog's in Town," Brown's answer song to Big Mama Thornton's biggest hit, was recorded in Cincinnati; his next session took place in Los Angeles, and the compilation closes with three titles waxed in Miami at the end of 1953. Regardless of what the music business bosses or the Billboard chart said about Roy Brown during this troublesome time period, the music he left behind is packed to overflowing with heartfelt human emotions that everybody can relate to.


Born: 10 September 1925 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

When you draw up a short list of the R&B pioneers who exerted a primary influence on the development of rock & roll, respectfully place singer Roy Brown's name near its very top. His seminal 1947 DeLuxe Records waxing of "Good Rockin' Tonight" was immediately ridden to the peak of the R&B charts by shouter Wynonie Harris and subsequently covered by Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many more early rock icons (even Pat Boone). In addition, Brown's melismatical pleading, gospel-steeped...
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