Good Rockin' Roy Brown - part one©2006JCMarion


Roy Brown first saw the light of day in September of 1925 in the city of New Orleans. Being from that city makes it a good bet that you will have a chance at becoming part of the rich musical heritage of the Crescent City. His mother was a churc organist and also a director of the local gospel choir, and so like so many Black performers before him, he received his musical upbringing from the church. His father did construction work as a bricklayer and masonry worker, and so the family was hard pressed to have permanent roots in the city. Moving around in the region of Southern Louisiana, Roy worked as a young teenager in the sugar cane fields and othger agricultural odd jobs. In 1939 Brown's mother passed away and as soon as he finished high school he moved to Southern California. In his late teens he tried his hand at boxing and had a short career numbering eighteen fights. He did well enough winning most of them, but he soon quit the gane and looked for something else to do with his life.

At the age of twenty Brown entered an amateur singing contest held at the Million Dollar Theater in Los Angeles by doing an imitation of Bing Crosby. After a few local gigs in the L.A. area, he returned to Louisiana and landed a steady singing job in Shreveport and then on to Texas where he got some work in Houston and Galveston. In Texas Brown put together a song with a snappy up tempo beat that he called "Good Rockin' Tonight". In the city of Galveston Brown was part of a local radio show in which he had the opportunity to debut his song which got good reaction in the area. It was at this time that Brown recorded for the first time with Gold Star Records, an independent label out of Houston. Although the label was known for cajun and hillbilly music, it was also the label that first recorded Lil Son Jackson and extensively recorded Lightning Hopkins. Gold Star released # 636 - "Deep Sea Diver" / "Bye Baby Bye". However, Brown's experience with Gold Star was fleeting and soon he was back in New Orleans. Legend has it that Brown offered the song "Good Rockin' Tonight" to Wynonie Harris but he didn't think much of the tune and Brown sang it with Harris backup band during an intermission. That performance led to a chance meeting with with R & B pioneer Cecil Gant (the one time "G.I. Sing-sation") which put Brown in contact with the Braun brothers who owned DeLuxe Records, then located in Linden, New Jersey. In the summer of 1947 Roy Brown recorded his tune for DeLuxe.

The record released on DeLuxe # 1093 (with "Lollipop Mama" on the reverse) with the Bob Ogden band, was an immediate sensation. It built slowly due to inadequate distribution by DeLuxe, but was on its way to becoming a national hit. Along the way however, a strange thing happened. Wynonie Harris who had originally thought very little of the song had a change of heart and recorded his version for King Records and soon his cover version outsold the original and became a country wide sensation. Thus began a number of recordings for the DeLuxe label. "Special Lesson" and "Woman's A Wonderful Thing" recorded with Walter Daniels Trio was followed by "Miss Fanny Brown" and "Mighty Mighty Man" recorded with the Earl Barnes band on # 1128 which had both sides on the R & B charts in early 1948. "Whose Hat Is That?" and "Long About Midnight" with his own combo called The Mighty Mighty Men came out on DeLuxe after that label was acquired by Syd Nathan of King Records. It was on # 3154, and also appeared on Miltone Records with the same release number.

Roy Brown had a big year in 1949. It started out with "Rainy Day Blues" and "Fore Day In The Morning" with The Mighty Men and LeRoy Rankins on piano, followed by "Roy Brown's Boogie" (a big seller), and "Miss Fanny Brown Returns" on # 3189. "Please Don't Go" and "Ridin' High" on # 3226 was followed by another huge R & B smash - "Rockin' At Midnight" and "Judgement Day Blues" on # 3212. In late 1949 Roy Brown recorded "Boogie At Midnight" and "The Blues Got Me Again" in Dallas with Johnny Fontenette on tenor sax leading the Mighty Mighty Men. It turned out to be another smash for DeLuxe (on # 3300). At year's end "I Feel That Young Man's Rhythm" and "The End Of My Journey" are released on DeLuxe. In early 1950 King Records pushes two sides by Brown on DeLuxe - the previously released "Boogie At Midnight" and the two part "Butcher Pete" on # 3301. In January of 1950 Roy Brown made news in the national press by offering to instruct budding pianist and singer Margaret Truman (daughter of the president) on gospel music and the blues. Brown felt that this was America's only authentic musical form and must be kept alive. In February Brown joins Herb Lance (with a hit version of "My Buddy" for Sittin In) for a few one nighters in Buffalo, Cleveland, and Columbus, Ohio. By March "Butcher Pete" is a good seller in San Francisco, and # 3302 is released - "I Feel That Young Man's Rhythm" and "End Of My Journey". In June "Hard Luck Blues" and "New Rebecca" is issued on # 3304 and is an immediate big seller on the West Coast. Roy plays a week in Philadelphia at the 421 Club. In August "Love Don't Love Nobody" and "Deamin' Blues" is out on DeLuxe # 3306, followed by "Cadillac Baby" and "Long About Sundown" on # 3308 which again is a strong seller on the West Coast especially in Oakland and San Francisco through the fall. In November Roy joins Charles Brown and the Joe Morris band for a big show in Atlanta. Brown suffers a broken ankle in an impromptu football game with members of his band, and is resting up at his home in New Orleans. While off his feet he disbanded his combo and will soon form another band as soon as he is able to return to personal appearances.

The first record for Roy Brown in 1951 is "Double Crossing Woman" and the strangely titled (for R & B in 1951) "Teenage Jamboree" on # 3311. In March "Sweet Peach" and "Good Man Blues" is released by DeLuxe on # 3312. In April "Peach" shows up on the best seller charts in the Southeast cities of Atlanta and Charleston, While the flip side is a top seller in Los Angeles. In May "Wrong Woman Blues" and "Beautician Blues" are paired on DeLuxe # 3313. In July Roy joins the star studded lineup for the annual Cavalcade Of Jazz in Los Angeles Wrigley Field along with Lionel Hampton and Billy Eckstine. In July "Train Time Blues" and "Big Town" by Roy and the Mighty Mighty Men is released on # 3318. Soon "Big Town" is a good seller in Georgia and Northern Florida, making the top ten in Jacksonville. By September "Big Town" starts to take off in the Oakland-San Francisco area. In late October # 3319 featuring "Bar Room Blues" and "Good Rockin' Man" is released by DeLuxe. In January of 1952, Roy Brown and his band appear with Roy Milton and his Solid Senders for a week at Washington D.C.'s Howard Theater. "Good Rockin' Man" hits the top seller charts in Chicago and Milwaukee. In March "I've Got The Last Laugh" and "Brown Angel" are released by DeLuxe on # 3323, and by April "Angel" is a top hit on the R & B charts in L.A. In June Brown is on a West Coast swing and is held over in San Diego. During the summer Roy and his band play Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas. During this time Roy Brown was embroiled in a dispute over composer royalties that he felt he was owed by King Records, the parent company of DeLuxe. In the end he got the short end of the stick as his recording opportunities were greatly diminished.

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