Born Thomas A. Brown, 27 May 1931, Lumpkin, Georgia
R&B singer, songwriter, dancer, comedian. Tommy Brown has been active in the music business for some 60 years, yet it is quite possible that you've never heard of him. He has not been served well in the CD reissue market and as a consequence, his records are hard to find.
Starting out in the mid-1940s, Brown was influenced by Nat King Cole, Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker, Cab Calloway and Ivory Joe Hunter, among others. He was first recorded in 1950 as the featured singer of Roy Mayes and his orchestra, on "Fat Hardy's Boogie" (Herald 104). The next year he had three releases on the Dot label, credited to "The Griffin Brothers featuring Tommy Brown", all of which made the Billboard R&B Top 10. The most successful of these was "Weepin' And Crying" (Dot 1071, reissued on Dot 16130 in 1960), which has Brown crying all through the song. It was a # 1 R&B hit in early 1952 and gave him his nickname (Tommy "Weepin' and Cryin'" Brown).
In January 1951, Brown had his first recording session as a solo artist, resulting in two singles, one on Savoy and one on Regent (a subsidiary of the Savoy label). The Savoy single (813) featured "V-8 Baby" on one side, a song that has been recorded by several other artists, including Mike Sanchez (2003), but then under the title "Women And Cadillacs". Responsible for the title change was James "Doc" Starkes, who recorded the song in 1954 (Apollo 460). Apparently Starkes thought that changing the title was sufficient justification for claiming authorship of the song, though it had been written by Brown. Tommy rerecorded the song for his 2004 CD "Remember Me" and this excellent new version can be heard at http://www.myspace.com/tommybrownblues . (Allow some 15 seconds for automatic downloading.)
Altogether, Brown had a dozen singles released under his own name, sometimes as Little Tommy Brown. These were mostly in the R&B and blues field, but at least one single can be qualified as rock 'n' roll, namely his first Imperial single, "Rock Away My Blues"/"Someday Somewhere" (Imperial 5476), which was recorded in August 1957, in New Orleans, with accompaniment by Lee Allen, Red Tyler, Paul Gayten, Justin Adams, Frank Fields and Charles 'Hungry' Williams. Unfortunately, UK Decca failed to issue the record on London, but there was a Belgian London release (London 9.5.024, April 1958). Prior to that, in September 1956, Brown had recorded a vocal version of "Honky Tonk" (King 4976, with the Bill Doggett Combo), which is available on the CD "King Rock 'n' Roll, Vol. 2" (Ace 1051, released in 2005).
In the 1960s, Brown switched to comedy, and had success with a live album in that genre, "I Ain't Lyin'" (1967), soon followed by a second volume, "I Ain't Lyin', Vol. 2" (1968). In recent decades, Brown had put performing on the backburner and provided personal care services and advocacy for people with mental retardation, elderly people and people with AIDS. Tommy Brown has returned to singing in the new century. While continuing his civic work, Brown has been playing around Atlanta and has been featured at the Blues Estafette in Utrecht (Holland), the Rhythm Riot in England (2002), the Chicago Blues Festival, and similar events. In December 2003, Brown was the victim of a tragic accidental house fire and lost everything. A fundraising benefit was held at Atlanta's blues club Blind Willies on January 25, 2004. Support came not only from the local blues comunity, but also from the international blues world and Brown settled into a new home in Jonesboro, GA in March 2004.
Most of his 1950s recordings have been assembled on the 2002 CD "Classic Tommy Brown" (on the Chitlin Circuit label), but this does not include the two Imperial singles, alas. As mentioned above, he released a new CD in 2004, "Remember Me", on the Bonedog label. Both his CD's may be hard to find. On his website (http://www.tommybrownblues.com/) , Brown announces a new CD, to be released in 2007. No trace of it up until now.
Acknowledgements : Pete Hoppula's discography at http://www.wangdangdula.com/ (no direct link).
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