Nappy Brown - A Forgotten Original ©1999 JCMarion


Immediately after the New Year's holiday of 1954, Savoy Records in Newark, New Jersey announced the signing of a new blues shouter by the name of Napolean Brown. He hails from Charlotte, North Carolina and was the former lead singer of the gospel group The Selah Jubilee Singers. The first release for the label comes out in early May on Savoy 1129 - "I Wonder" / "That Man". Napolean now known as "Nappy" appears at a WNJR radio July 4th R & B extravaganza, held as a picnic in the park in nearby Kenilworth.

In October of 1954, Nappy's second release for Savoy hits the street. It is #1135 and includes "Is It True, Is It True"/"Two faced Woman". The next record by Nappy Brown was the breakthrough - #1155 : "Don't Be Angry" / "It's Really You". The "A" side ("Angry") was a runaway best seller, one of the first big R & B hits by a single artist. The bouncy up-tempo tune caught the ears of White teenage America, and was the subject of immediate bland pop music covers, which included one by The Cadets for Modern. Top line radio DJ's such as Alan Freed made sure his listeners got to hear the original version. Herman Lubinsky and Fred Mendelsohn, label president and A & R man, knew what the mood of the country was in the early days of 1955, and so they advertised the record as the original for both pop and R & B music fans. Capitalizing on the tremendous success of the record, Brown was part of a big Alan Freed R & B review that played dates in New England in the late spring and was booked for Freed's Labor Day show at the Brooklyn Paramount.

"Don't Be Angry" continued its great run through the summer. Part of the great popularity of the tune was its bouncy non-threatening nature. There was none of the controversy that surrounded well known R & B disks with double entendre lyrics such as "The Wallflower (Roll With Me Henry)", "Shake rattle & Roll", and "Work With Me Annie". A couple of cute gimmicks added to the appeal of the record - the "lill lill" intros on the choruses and the unintelligible (on purpose) fadeout are two moments that marked this record for hit status. The clamoring was heard for a followup, and a great one was released - "Pitter Patter" / There'll Come A Day". The "A" side - "Pitter Patter" soon was retitled to take advantage of Nappy's syllable bending the title of the song into "Piddily Patter Patter", and was subject to many covers by pop music performers.

The Alan Freed show at the Brooklyn Paramount over the Labor Day week, set new records for grossing the most money by an in person attraction at either of the Paramounts, breaking the old record held by Martin & Lewis. Nappy was a featured performer and was a crowd favorite. His next Savoy release at the start of September was "Well, Well, Well, Baby-La" / "Just A Little Love" - #1167. The lead side "Baby-La" was a moody mid tempo piece and a departure from his last two big hits. The disk did not do as well and by the end of the year Nappy returned to form with Savoy #1176 "Doodle I Love You" / "Sittin' In The Dark". With further lackluster sales, early in 1956 Nappy tried again with #1187 "Open Up That Door" / "Pleasin' You". Although record sales for Nappy Brown had been slipping recently, apparently there was enough interest from R & B fans over "Baby-La" and "Sittin In The Dark" to create much excitement over personal appearances. Brown reportedly did sell out appearances in Atlantic City, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. His last three recordings do well in the R & B market, but there is indications that pop music fans have not been attracted to these latest sides.

Savoy #1196 is issued in June of 1956 - "Love Baby" / "Am I?" are the titles. Near the end of the year, Nappy Brown returns to the pop charts with Savoy # 1506 - "I'm Getting Lonesome" / "Little By Little". The "A" side, "Little", is certainly a throwback to his bouncy and happy up tempo hits of the past. Popular music radio stations play the tune and the usual pale covers are contemplated. This was Nappy Brown's last entry into the pop music hit list in the top 25 nationally. In March Savoy #1511 is released featuring the tunes "Pretty Girl" and "I'm Gonna Get You". Nappy appears with Alan Freed on stage at the N.Y. Paramount during school break in late February. Two months later Brown hits the stage at the Mastbaum Theater in Philadelphia for a big all star show headlined by Gene Vincent . In June Savoy #1514 by Nappy Brown includes the songs "By By Baby" and "Goody Goody Gumdrop". In July Brown appears in Atlanta with Roy Hamilton, The Cardinals, LaVern Baker, and Little Willie John. Nappy joins the line up for the "Fantabulous Rock & Roll Show of '57" set to kick off a six week tour in Virginia the first weekend of October. In late 1957 "The Right Time" for Savoy #1525 ( "Oh You Don't Know" is the flip) does well in the South especially New Orleans and Houston. Later the next year Savoy #1530 - "If You Need Some Loving" and "I'm In The Mood" is released. In the spring of 1958 Nappy and another R & B veteran Annie laurie hit the road for a number of one nighters across the South. In September #1551 features "My Baby" and "It Don't Hurt Anymore". Late in the year that record reportedly is a good seller in parts of the Midwest including St. Louis where it is the number three seller on the local R & B charts. Nappy Brown closes out 1958 with Savoy #1555 - "You're Gonna Need Someone" and "Skiddy Woe".

During the spring of 1959 "A Long Time" and "It's Allright Now" is released on Savoy #1562. "This Is My Confession" and "For Those Who Love" is released in June on #1569. In October "So Deep" and "I Cried Like A Baby" is out on Savoy #1575. Nappy Brown appears at the Regal Theater in Chicago in November. "Too Shy" and "Give Me Your Love" is released on Savoy #1579 at year's end. Brown was able to keep performing with the track record of the earlier years on Savoy, but he soon faded from the spotlight as a new generation took center stage. Most of the time today, as we approach the millennium, oldies stations very seldom play any of his hits from the fifties. But - every once in a while, you may be able to hear the joyous nonsense syllables of "Don't Be Angry", one of the very first hit records that crossed over from R & B into the pop music field. And someone from a newer generation may ask - "who was that ?" You can answer that question with a smile and a memory of Napolean "Nappy" Brown.

back to index . . . . . . . . .

to next page . . . . . . . . . .