The Browns

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The Browns
The Browns.jpg
Bonnie and Jim Ed (top) with Maxine in the late 1950s
Background information
Origin Sparkman, Arkansas, United States
Genres country, folk, gospel, traditional pop
Years active 1955–1967
Labels RCA Victor
Past members Jim Ed Brown
Maxine Brown
Bonnie Brown

The Browns were an American country and folk music vocal trio best known for their 1959 Grammy-nominated hit, "The Three Bells". The group, composed of Jim Ed Brown and his sisters Maxine and Bonnie Brown, had a close, smooth harmony characteristic of the Nashville sound, though their music also combined elements of folk and pop. They disbanded in 1967.

History[edit]

James Edward, older sister Maxine, and younger sister Bonnie Brown sang individually in Pine Bluff, Arkansas until 1954, when Maxine and Jim Ed signed a record contract as a singing duo. They earned national recognition and a guest spot on Ernest Tubb's radio show for their self-penned song "Looking Back to See", which hit the top ten and stayed on the charts through the summer of 1954.[1] The song would be a hit again nearly 20 years later for Buck Owens and Susan Raye in 1972.

They were joined in 1955 by then-recent high school graduate, 18-year-old Bonnie, and began performing on Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana. By the end of 1955, the trio was appearing on KWTO in Springfield, Missouri, and had another top ten hit with "Here Today and Gone Tomorrow", which got a boost by their appearances on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee, which Maxine Brown called "our real breakthrough."[2] Jim Ed and Maxine had first appeared on the show as a duo in 1955. Producer Si Siman signed them with RCA Victor in 1956, and soon they had two major hits, "I Take the Chance" (a cover of a Louvin Brothers composition that showed the Browns' close harmony) and "I Heard the Bluebirds Sing". When Jim Ed was drafted in 1957, the group continued to record while he was on leave, and sister Norma filled in for him on tours,[3] as did Billy Walker.[4]

In 1959, The Browns scored their biggest hit when their folk-pop single "The Three Bells"[5] reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop and country charts. The song also peaked at No. 10 on Billboard's Rhythm and Blues listing. Based on a song called "Les trois cloches", it was originally a hit in France for Édith Piaf. The recording sold over one million copies, and was nominated for both Record of the Year and the Best Group or Vocal Performance in the Grammy award categories in 1959. Their version of "Blue Christmas" reached No. 97 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in December 1960.[6]

The Browns appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and Dick Clark's American Bandstand, and followed up with "Scarlet Ribbons" and "The Old Lamplighter", recordings that also did well on both the pop and country charts. With an international following, they toured Europe extensively and saw further moderate success on the country music charts. In 1963, they joined the Grand Ole Opry.[7]

Jim Ed Brown began recording as a solo artist for RCA in 1965 and these efforts quickly began overshadowing the trio's recordings. Sister Maxine sang lead vocal on the final singles in 1968, "Big Daddy" and "I Will Bring You Water" with Jim Ed only supplying background vocals suggesting the stage was being set for the breakup of the trio and a possible solo career for Maxine as well. The trio did indeed disband that year and Maxine signed with Chart Records in 1969, resulting in a small hit with "Sugar Cane County".

In the 1980s, The Browns began performing occasionally in concert for the first time in nearly 20 years. In 2006, the trio performed "The Old Lamplighter" and "The Three Bells" for the PBS special, Country Pop Legends.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Album US Country Label
1957 Jim Edward, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown RCA Victor
1959 Sweet Sounds by the Browns
1960 Town & Country
The Browns Sing Their Hits
1961 Our Favorite Folk Songs
The Little Brown Church Hymnal
1963 Grand Ole Opry Favorites
1964 This Young Land
Three Shades of Brown
1965 I Heard the Bluebirds Sing
When Love Is Gone 18
1966 Alone with You
Our Kind of Country 25
The Best of The Browns
1967 The Old Country Church
Browns Sing the Big Ones from Country
1968 A Harvest of Country Songs Camden
1984 Rockin' Rollin' Browns Bear Family
1985 20 of the Best RCA
1986 Looking Back to See Bear Family
1993 The Three Bells
1996 Family Bible Rock Bottom
2008 The Complete Hits Collector's Choice

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country US
1954 "Looking Back To See" 8 Jim Edward, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown
"Why Am I Falling" single only
1955 "Draggin' Main Street" Jim Edward, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown
"Do Memories Haunt You" singles only
"Here Today And Gone Tomorrow" 7
1956 "I'll Take The Chance" 2
"Just As Long As You Love Me" 11
"Man With A Plan"
1957 "Money" 15
"Getting Used To Being Lonely"
"I Heard The Bluebirds Sing" 4 Jim Edward, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown
"True Love Goes For Beyond" singles only
1958 "Crazy Dreams"
"Would You Care" 13
1959 "Beyond The Shadow" 11
"The Three Bells" 1 1 Sweet Sounds by the Browns
"Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)" 7 13 Town & Country
1960 "The Old Lamplighter" 20 5
"Teen-Ex" 47
"Lonely Little Robin" 105 The Browns Sing Their Hits
"Whiffenpoof Song" 112
"Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On" 23 56 I Heard the Bluebirds Sing
"Blue Christmas" 97 singles only
1961 "Ground Hog" 97
"My Baby's Gone" I Heard the Bluebirds Sing
"Alpha And Omega"
1962 "Buttons And Bows" 104
"The Old Master Painter" 118 singles only
1963 "Twelfth Rose Watching"
1964 "Oh No!" 42 I Heard the Bluebirds Sing
"Then I'll Stop Loving You" 12 The Best of The Browns
"Everybody's Darlin', Plus Mine" 40 135 singles only
1965 "I Feel Like Cryin'"
"You Can't Grow Peaches From A Cherry Tree"A 120 The Best of The Browns
1966 "Meadowgreen" 46 single only
"I'd Just Be Fool Enough" 16 Our Kind of Country
"Coming Back To You" 19 singles only
1967 "I Hear It Now" 54
1968 "Big Daddy" 52
"I Will Bring You Water" 64

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Brennan, Sandra and Manheim, James. "The Browns Biography". Country Music Television, Inc. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  2. ^ Brown, Maxine (2005). Looking Back to See: A Country Music Memoir. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. ISBN 1-55728-790-2. , p. 111
  3. ^ Brennan, Sandra and Manheim, James. "The Browns Biography". Country Music Television, Inc. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  4. ^ Brown, Maxine (2005). Looking Back to See: A Country Music Memoir. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. ISBN 1-55728-790-2. , p. 116
  5. ^ Show 11 - Tennessee Firebird. [Part 3], Big Rock Candy Mountain. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 25. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  7. ^ "Opry Timeline - 1960s". Retrieved July 6, 2012. 

References[edit]

  • Brennan, Sandra and Manheim, James. "The Browns Biography". Country Music Television, Inc. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  • Brown, Maxine (2005). Looking Back to See: A Country Music Memoir. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. ISBN 1-55728-790-2. 
  • Rick Bass (2010). Nashville Chrome: A Novel. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0-547-31726-3. 

External links[edit]