Charles Brown (musician)

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Charles Brown
  Charles Brown (1996)
Background information
Birth name Tony Russell Brown[1]
Born (1922-09-13)September 13, 1922
Texas City, Texas, United States
Died January 21, 1999(1999-01-21) (aged 76)
Oakland, California, United States
Genres Blues, Texas blues, R&B, soul, soul blues, rock, blues rock, jazz, soul jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Piano, vocals
Years active 1948–1999
Labels Aladdin, King, Ace, Bullseye Blues, Verve, 32 Jazz

Tony Russell "Charles" Brown (September 13, 1922 – January 21, 1999) was an American blues singer and pianist whose soft-toned, slow-paced blues-club style influenced the development of blues performance during the 1940s and 1950s. He had several hit recordings, including "Driftin' Blues" and "Merry Christmas Baby".[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in Texas City, Texas, Brown demonstrated his love of music as a child and received a classical music training on the piano.[3] He graduated from Central High School of Galveston, Texas in 1939 and Prairie View A&M College in 1942 with a degree in chemistry. He then became a chemistry teacher at George Washington Carver High School of Baytown, Texas, a mustard gas worker at the Pine Bluff Arsenal at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and an apprentice electrician at a shipyard in Richmond, California before settling in Los Angeles in 1943.[1]


Early success with Johnny Moore[edit]

In Los Angeles, the great influx of blacks created an integrated nightclub scene in which black performers tended to minimize the rougher blues elements of their style. The blues club style of a light rhythm bass and right-hand tinkling of the piano and smooth vocals became popular, epitomized by the jazz piano of Nat King Cole. When Cole left Los Angeles to perform nationally, his place was taken by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, featuring Charles Brown's gentle piano and vocals.[4]

The Three Blazers signed with Exclusive Records, and their 1945 recording of "Drifting Blues", with Brown on piano and vocals, stayed on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart for six months, putting Brown at the forefront of a musical evolution that changed American musical performance.[5] Brown led the group in a series of further hits on Aladdin over the next three years, including "New Orleans Blues" and the original version of "Merry Christmas Baby" (both in 1947), and "More Than You Know" (1948).[6] Brown's style dominated the influential Southern California club scene on Central Avenue during that period and he influenced such performers as Floyd Dixon, Cecil Gant, Ivory Joe Hunter, Percy Mayfield, Johnny Ace and Ray Charles.[4]

Solo success[edit]

In the late 1940s, a rising demand for blues was driven by an increasing white teenage audience in the South which quickly spread north and west. Blues singers such as Louis Jordan, Wynonie Harris and Roy Brown were getting much of the attention, but what writer Charles Keil dubs "the postwar Texas clean-up movement in blues" was also beginning to have an influence, driven by blues artists such as T-Bone Walker, Amos Milburn and Charles Brown. Their singing was lighter, more relaxed and they worked with bands and combos that had saxophone sections and used arrangements.[7]

Brown left the Three Blazers in 1948 and formed his own trio with Eddie Williams (bass) and Charles Norris (guitar). He signed for Aladdin Records, and had immediate success with "Get Yourself Another Fool", before having one of his biggest hits in 1949 with "Trouble Blues", which stayed at number one on the Billboard R&B chart for 15 weeks in the summer of 1949. He followed up its success with "In the Evening When the Sun Goes Down", "Homesick Blues", and "My Baby's Gone", before having another R&B chart-topping hit with "Black Night", which stayed at number one for 14 weeks between March and June 1951.[6]

His final hit for several years came with "Hard Times" in 1952. Brown's approach was too mellow to survive the transition to rock and roll's harsher rhythms, despite recording in Cosimo Matassa's New Orleans studio in 1956, and he faded from the national limelight.[3] Though he was unable to compete with the more aggressive sound that was increasing in popularity, he managed to maintain a small, devoted audience. Additionally, his songs were covered by the likes of John Lee Hooker and Lowell Fulson

His "Please Come Home for Christmas", a hit in 1960 on the King Records remained seasonally popular.[2] "Please Come Home for Christmas" sold over one million copies by 1968, and was awarded a gold disc in that year.[8] During the 1960s Brown recorded two albums for Mainstream Records.

Later career[edit]

In the 1980s he made a series of appearances at New York City nightclub Tramps. As a result of these appearances he signed a new recording contract with Blue Side Records and recorded One More for the Road in three days. Blue Side Records closed soon after but distribution was picked up by Alligator Records. Soon after the success of One More for the Road, Bonnie Raitt helped usher in a Charles Brown comeback tour.[9]

He began a recording and performing career again, under the musical direction of guitarist Danny Caron, to greater success than he had achieved since the 1950s. Other members of Charles' touring ensemble included Clifford Solomon on tenor saxophone, Ruth Davies on bass and Gaylord Birch on drums.[2] Several records received Grammy Award nominations, and in the 1980s he toured widely as the opening act for Bonnie Raitt. .


He became a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,[10] and received both the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship[11] and the W. C. Handy Award.[12]


Brown died of congestive heart failure in 1999 in Oakland, California,[13] and was interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California.[9]


Original 10" shellac (78rpm) and 7" vinyl (45rpm) releases[edit]

  • ALADDIN releases (billed as Charles Brown Trio / Charles Brown & His Band / Charles Brown & Band):
  • 3020 "Get Yourself Another Fool" [RR609] b/w "Ooh! Ooh! Sugar" [RR608] 1948; released 1949 (Billboard R&B Chart #4)[6]
  • 3021 "A Long Time" [RR617] b/w "It's Nothing" [RR612] 1949 (Billboard R&B Chart #9 "Long Time" / #13 "It's Nothing")[6]
  • 3024 "Trouble Blues" [RR613] b/w "Honey Keep Your Mind On Me" [RR600] 1949 (Billboard R&B Chart #1, 15 weeks)[6]
  • 3030 "In The Evening When The Sun Goes Down" [RR611] b/w "Please Be Kind" [RR616] 1949 (Billboard R&B Chart #4)[6]
  • 3039 "Homesick Blues" [RR603] b/w "Let's Have A Ball" [RR677] 1949 (note: billed as Charles Brown & His Smarties) (Billboard R&B Chart #5)[6]
  • 3044 "Tormented" [RR673] b/w "Did You Ever Love A Woman" [RR679] 1949; released 1950
  • 3051 "My Baby's Gone" [RR1521] b/w "I Wonder When My Baby's Coming Home" [RR604] 1950 (Billboard R&B Chart #6)[6]
  • 3060 "Repentance Blues" [RR1522] b/w "I've Got That Old Feeling" [RR1529] 1950
  • 3066 "I've Made Up My Mind" [RR1528] b/w "Again" [RR1520] 1950
  • 3071 "Texas Blues" [RR1525] b/w "How High The Moon" [RR607] 1950
  • 3076 "Black Night" [RR1619] b/w "Once There Lived A Fool" [RR1623] 1950; released 1951 (Billboard R&B Chart #1, 14 weeks)[6]
  • 3091 "I'll Always Be In Love With You" [RR1621] b/w "The Message" [RR1648] 1950; released 1951 (Billboard R&B Chart #7)[6]
  • 3092 "Seven Long Days" [RR1620] b/w "Don't Fool With My Heart" [RR1527] 1950; released 1951 (Billboard R&B Chart #2)[6]
  • 3116 "Hard Times" [RR1752] b/w "Tender Heart" [RR1750] 1951; released 1952 (Billboard R&B Chart #7)[6]
  • 3120 "Still Water" [RR1751] b/w "My Last Affair" [RR602] 1951; released 1952
  • 3138 "Gee" [RR1523] b/w "Without Your Love [RR1531] 1950; released 1952
  • 3157 "Rollin' Like A Pebble In The Sand" [RR2018] b/w "Alley Batting" [RR674] 1952
  • 3163 "Evening Shadows" [RR2017] b/w "Moonrise" [RR1650] 1952
  • 3176 "Rising Sun" [RR2019] b/w "Take Me" [RR676] 1952; released 1953
  • 3191 "I Lost Everything" [UN2125] b/w "Lonesome Feeling" [UN2127] 1953
  • 3200 "Don't Leave Poor Me" [UN2126] b/w "All My Life" [RR1649] Not Released
  • 3209 "Cryin' And Driftin' Blues" [RR2212] b/w "P.S. I Love You" [RR2215] 1953 (note: billed as Charles Brown with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers)
  • 3220 "Everybody's Got Troubles [RR2254] b/w I Want To Fool Around With You [RR2257] 1953; released 1954 (note: billed as Charles Brown with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers)
  • 3235 "Let's Walk" [RR2253] b/w "Cryin' Mercy" [RR2214] 1953; released 1954 (note: billed as Charles Brown with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers)
  • 3235 "Let's Walk" [RR2253] b/w "Blazer's Boogie" [111B] [re-release] 1953; released 1954 (note: billed as Charles Brown with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers)
  • 3254 "My Silent Love [RR2255] b/w "Foolish" [RR601] 1953; released 1954 (note: billed as Charles Brown with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers)
  • 3272 "Honey Sipper" [RR2328] b/w "By The Bend Of The River" [RR2329] 1954
  • 3284 "Nite After Nite" [RR2331] b/w "Walk With Me" [RR2332] 1954; released 1955
  • 3290 "Fool's Paradise" [CAP2486] b/w "Hot Lips And Seven Kisses (Mambo)" [CAP2484] 1955 (note: billed as Charles Brown with Ernie Freeman's Combo)
  • 3296 "My Heart Is Mended" [CAP2483] b/w "Trees, Trees" [CAP2487] 1955 (note: billed as Charles Brown with Ernie Freeman's Combo)
  • 3316 "Please Don't Drive Me Away" [CAP2489] b/w "One Minute To One" [CAP2488] 1955; released 1956 (note: billed as Charles Brown with Ernie Freeman's Combo)
  • 3339 "I'll Always Be In Love With You" [NO2725] (re-recording) b/w "Soothe Me" [NO2726] 1956
  • 3342 "Confidential" [NO2754] b/w "Trouble Blues" (reissue) 1956
  • 3348 "Merry Christmas Baby" [NO2730] (re-recording) b/w "Black Night" (reissue) 1956
  • 3348 "Black Night" (reissue) b/w "Ooh! Ooh! Sugar" (reissue) 1957 [post-Christmas re-release]
  • 3366 "It's A Sin To Tell A Lie" [NO2727] b/w "Please Believe Me" [NO2728] 1956; released 1957
  • 3422 "Hard Times" (reissue) b/w "Ooh! Ooh! Sugar" (reissue) 1958
  • IMPERIAL releases [all Aladdin masters] (billed as Charles Brown):
  • 5830 "Fool's Paradise" (reissue) b/w "Lonesome Feeling" (reissue) 1962
  • 5902 "Merry Christmas Baby" (reissue) b/w "I Lost Everything" (reissue) 1962
  • 5905 "Drifting Blues" (reissue) b/w "Black Night" (reissue) 1963
  • 5961 "Please Don't Drive Me Away" (reissue) b/w "I'm Savin' My Love For You" [RR2330] 1963
  • East West (Atlantic subsidiary) release:
  • 106 "When Did You Leave Heaven" [EW-2753] / "We've Got A Lot In Common" [EW-2755] 1957; released 1958
  • Ace releases:
  • 561 "I Want To Go Home" (w/Amos Milburn) [S-253] / "Educated Fool" (w/Amos Milburn) [S-254] 1959
  • 599 "Sing My Blues Tonight" [S-843] / "Love's Like A River" [S-844] 1960
  • Teem (Ace subsidiary) release:
  • 1008 "Merry Christmas Baby" [A-1113-63] / "Christmas Finds Me Oh So Sad (Please Come Home For Christmas)" [A-1114-63] 1961; released 1963
  • King releases:
  • 5405 Charles Brown: "Please Come Home For Christmas" [K4912] / Amos Milburn: "Christmas Comes But Once A Year" [K4913] 1960
  • 5439 "Baby Oh Baby" [K4992] / "Angel Baby" [K4993] 1961
  • 5464 "I Wanna Go Back Home" (w/Amos Milburn) [K10607] / "My Little Baby" (w/Amos Milburn) [K10608] 1961
  • 5523 "This Fool Has Learned" [K10892] / "Butterfly" [K10893] 1961
  • 5530 "It's Christmas All Year Round" [K10897] / "Christmas In Heaven" [K10947] 1961
  • 5570 "Without A Friend" [K10983] / "If You Play With Cats" [K10984] 1961
  • 5722 "I'm Just A Drifter" [K11405] / "I Don't Want Your Rambling Letters" [K11406] 1963
  • 5726 "It's Christmas Time" [K10898] / "Christmas Finds Me Lonely Wanting You" [K10950] 1961; released 1963
  • 5731 "Christmas Questions" [K10954] / "Wrap Yourself In A Christmas Package" [K10956] 1961; released 1963
  • 5802 "If You Don't Believe I'm Crying (Take A Look At My Eyes)" [K11687] / "I Wanna Be Close" [K11689] 1964
  • 5825 "Lucky Dreamer" [K11688] / "Too Fine For Crying" [K11690] 1964
  • 5852 "Come Home" [K11691] / "Blow Out All The Candles (Happy Birthday To You)" [K11692] 1964
  • 5946 "Christmas Blues" [K10948] / "My Most Miserable Christmas" [K10955] 1961; released 1964
  • 5947 "Christmas Comes But Once A Year" [K10951] / "Bringing In A Brand New Year" [K10949] 1961; released 1964
  • Mainstream release:
  • 607 "Pledging My Love" [R5KM-7389] / "Tomorrow Night" [R5KM-7390] 1965
  • Ace release:
  • 775 "Please Come Home For Christmas" [92772-A] (reissue) / "Merry Christmas Baby" [92772-1B] (reissue) 1966
  • King releases:
  • 6094 "Regardless" [K12330] / "The Plan" [K12331] 1967
  • 6192 "Hang On A Little Longer" [K12723] / "Black Night" [K12724] (re-recording) 1968
  • 6194 "Merry Christmas Baby" [K12725] (re-recording) / "Let's Make Every Day A Christmas Day" [K10946] 1968
  • 6420 "For The Good Times" [K14276] / "Lonesome And Driftin'" [K14277] 1973

Note: to see the {Original 10" shellac (78rpm) and 7" vinyl (45rpm) releases} listing of Charles Brown's work with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, check-out that Wikipedia page.

Original LP/CD releases[edit]

  • 1952 Mood Music (Aladdin Records #702) note: 10" vinyl LP
  • 1956 Mood Music (Aladdin Records #809) note: 12" vinyl LP; listed as for release on the back of early Aladdin albums, but never issued
  • 1957 Drifting Blues (Score Records #4011) note: Aladdin subsidiary label
  • 1961 Sings Christmas Songs (King Records #775; reissued as 'Please Come Home For Christmas' on King-Starday #5019)
  • 1962 Million Sellers (all Aladdin Records material) (Imperial Records #9178)
  • 1964 Boss Of The Blues (Mainstream Records #6007; reissued as 'Since I Fell For You' on Garland-DCC #26)
  • 1965 Ballads My Way (Mainstream Records #6035)
  • 1970 Charles Brown: Legend! (ABC-Bluesway Records #6039; reissued on MCA Special Products #22112)
  • 1972 Driftin' Blues (Mainstream Records #368)
  • 1972 Blues 'N' Brown (Jewel Records #5006)
  • 1973 Great Rhythm & Blues Oldies, Volume 2: Charles Brown (Blues Spectrum [Johnny Otis' label] #102; reissued as 'The Very Best Of Charles Brown Featuring Shuggie Otis' on Stardust-Cleopatra #881)
  • 1977 Merry Christmas Baby (Big Town Records #1003)
  • 1978 Music, Maestro, Please (Big Town Records #1005)
  • 1978 Charles Brown & Johnny Moore's Three Blazers - Sunny Road [rec.1945-60] (Route 66 Records #KIX-5)
  • 1980 Charles Brown & Johnny Moore's Three Blazers - Race Track Blues [rec. 1945-56] (Route 66 Records #KIX-17)
  • 1980 I'm Gonna Push On! (Live At Mosebacke) (Stockholm Records #RJ-200) note: live recording from Charles' 1979 tour of Sweden.
  • 1986 One More For The Road (Blue Side Records #60007; reissued on Alligator Records #4771)
  • 1986 Charles Brown (w/Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) - Let's Have A Ball [rec. 1945-61] (Route 66 Records #KIX-34)
  • 1989 Johnny Moore's Three Blazers (w/Charles Brown) - This Is One Time, Baby [rec. 1945-49] (Jukebox Lil #JB-1105)
  • 1989 Charles Brown & Johnny Moore's Three Blazers - Sail On Blues [rec. 1945-47] (Jukebox Lil #JB-1106)
  • 1990 All My Life (Bullseye Blues #9501)[14]
  • 1992 Blues And Other Love Songs (Muse #5466; reissued on Savoy Jazz #17295)
  • 1992 Someone To Love (Bullseye Blues #9514)
  • 1994 Just A Lucky So And So (Bullseye Blues #9521)
  • 1994 These Blues (Gitanes-Verve #523022)
  • 1994 Charles Brown's Cool Christmas Blues (Bullseye Blues #9561)
  • 1995 Marian McPartland's PIANO JAZZ ...With Guest: Charles Brown (Jazz Alliance #12032)
  • 1996 Honey Dripper (Gitanes-Verve #529848)
  • 1998 So Goes Love (Verve #539967)
  • 1999 In A Grand Style (Bullseye Blues #9551)[15]

CD compilations and other releases of note[edit]

  • 1990 Hard Times & Cool Blues: Original Aladdin Masters (Sequel #NEX-133)
  • 1991 The New York Rock and Soul Revue: Live at the Beacon (Giant-Warner Bros. #24423)
  • 1992 Driftin' Blues: The Best Of Charles Brown (Capitol-EMI #97989; reissued on Collectables #5631)
  • 1993 Boss Of The Blues (Mainstream/Columbia-Sony #53624)
  • 1994 The Complete Aladdin Recordings Of Charles Brown (Mosaic #153) 5-CD box set
  • 1995 Snuff Dippin' Mama (w/Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) (Night Train International #7017)
  • 1995 Walkin' In Circles (w/Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) (Night Train International #7024)
  • 1996 The Chronological Charles Brown 1944-1945 (w/Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) (Classics #894)
  • 1996 Drifting & Dreaming [all Modern Records material] (w/Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) (Ace #CHD-589)
  • 1996 Sings The Blues [all Mainstream Records material] (Sony Music Special Products #26431)
  • 1997 Johns - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Varese Sarabande #5778)
  • 1997 The Cocktail Combos: Nat King Cole/Charles Brown/Floyd Dixon (Capitol-EMI #52042) 3-CD set
  • 1998 The Chronological Charles Brown 1946 (w/Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) (Classics #971)
  • 1999 Blue Over You: The Ace Recordings (Westside #WESM-610)
  • 2000 Charles Brown & Friends: Merry Christmas Baby (Fuel 2000/Varese Sarabande #61068)
  • 2000 The Chronological Charles Brown 1946-1947 (w/Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) (Classics #1088)
  • 2001 The Chronological Charles Brown 1947-1948 (w/Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) (Classics #1147)
  • 2002 The Chronological Charles Brown 1948-1949 (Classics #1210)
  • 2003 The Chronological Charles Brown 1949-1951 (Classics #1272)
  • 2003 Charles Brown: The Classic Earliest Recordings (w/Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) (JSP Records #7707) 5-CD box set
  • 2003 A Life In The Blues (Rounder Select #612074) CD with DVD
  • 2004 Alone At The Piano (Savoy Jazz #17326) note: previously unissued live radio broadcasts (recorded 1989-95).
  • 2004 The Very Best Of Charles Brown: Original King Recordings (Collectables #2891)
  • 2005 The Best Of Charles Brown: West Coast Blues (w/Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) (Blues Forever #6828)
  • 2007 Fuel Presents: An Introduction To Charles Brown (Fuel 2000/Varese Sarabande #61664)
  • 2007 Groovy (w/Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) (Rev-Ola Records #CRBAND-13)
  • 2012 The Cool Cool Blues Of Charles Brown 1945-1961 (w/Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) (Jasmine #3030) 2-CD set


  • 1997 Lost & Found Houston Person (32 Jazz) -note: previously unreleased Muse album Sweet Slumber recorded in 1991.
  • 1997 Straight Up With A Twist, Kitty Margolis (Mad-Kat)
  • 1999 Meet Me Where They Play the Blues, Maria Muldaur (Telarc)
  • 2010 Everyday Living, Hawkeye Herman (Blue Skunk Music)


  1. ^ a b "Brown, Tony Russell (Charles)". Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved February 23, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. pp. 70–71. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  3. ^ a b Biography by Bill Dahl, Retrieved 10 November 2015
  4. ^ a b Gillett, Charlie (1996). The Rise of Rock and Roll (2nd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Da Capo Press. pp. 143–147, 316–317. ISBN 0-306-80683-5. 
  5. ^ "Charles Brown". Retrieved 2006-11-06. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 48-49. 
  7. ^ Keil, Charles (1991) [1966]. Urban Blues. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. pp. 255 + ix + 8pp of plates. ISBN 0-226-42960-1. 
  8. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 83. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  9. ^ a b "West coast artists - Charles Brown". Retrieved 2006-11-06. 
  10. ^ [1] Archived January 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ [2] Archived September 21, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ [3] Archived November 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ "The Dead Rock Stars Club 1998 - 1999". Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
  14. ^ "All My Life - Charles Brown | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  15. ^ "Charles Brown | Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 

External links[edit]