Six Brown Brothers

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Six Brown Brothers
Buescher Saxophone Ad 1922 - Six Brown Brothers.jpg
Top portion of an ad with Tom Brown in blackface and his clown band, the Six Brown Brothers, for the 1920 Broadway musical Tip Top.
Background information
OriginLindsay, Ontario, Canada
Years active1913 (1913)–1933 (1933)
Past members
  • William Brown
  • Tom Brown
  • Alec Brown
  • Percy Brown
  • Fred Brown
  • Vern Brown

The Six Brown Brothers, later known as the Five Brown Brothers, were a Canadian vaudeville era saxophone sextet consisting of six brothers.[1] They were known for their comedic musical acts as well as their many recordings.[2] They performed as clowns with white makeup and one in blackface. Their performances include ragtime and minstrel group acts.


The brothers comprising the Six Brown Brothers were, William, Tom (1881–1950), Alec, Percy, Fred, and Vern Brown. The Brown Brothers lived in Lindsay, Ontario until 1893. The band was led by Tom Brown,[3] and the first instrumentation consisted of a saxophone quintet (bass, baritone, tenor, and 2 alto saxes.[4] A soprano sax was never used with the group, except as a feature for Tom Brown). The group began working at circuses, and later worked in minstrel and vaudeville shows,[5] and then on Broadway.[6] In 1913, they added a second baritone sax. The group toured in 1912-14 with Primrose and Dockstader's Minstrels,[6] and later to Scotland and elsewhere in Europe. Additional non-family members also played with the group.

Between 1911 and 1920 the brothers recorded a number of well-known songs,[5] including "Walking the Dog"[7] and "The Darktown Strutter's Ball".[8][9]

The brothers often performed dressed in clown outfits.[10] In 1925 the brothers toured Australia.[8]

After they broke up in 1933 only the leader, Tom Brown, continued as a musician but with limited success.

In 2004, a collection of the Six Brown Brothers' recordings, That Moaning Saxophone, was released in CD format.[5] That year a book about the group's career, That Moaning Saxophone: The Six Brown Brothers and the Dawning of a Musical Craze, written by Bruce Vermazien, was published by Oxford University Press.[11]


  • Bruce Vermazen: That Moaning Saxophone: The Six Brown Brothers and the Dawning of a Musical Craze. Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-19-516592-0


  1. ^ Harry Burdette Hindson (1992). Aspects of the saxophone in American musical culture 1850-1980. University of Wisconsin--Madison. pp. 23, 36.
  2. ^ Martin Krivin (1961). A century of wind instrument manufacturing in the United States, 1860-1960. State University of Iowa. pp. 122, 149.
  3. ^ Edwin M. Bradley (27 April 2009). The First Hollywood Sound Shorts, 1926–1931. McFarland. pp. 364 and 497. ISBN 978-1-4766-0684-2.
  4. ^ Otto C. Lightner; Pearl Ann Reeder (1973). Hobbies. Lightner Publishing Company. p. 122.
  5. ^ a b c " Six Brown Brothers: Those Moaning Saxophones". AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow
  6. ^ a b "Six Brown Brothers". The Canadian Encyclopedia, Bruce Vermazen, 02/07/2006
  7. ^ Elaine Keillor (18 March 2008). Music in Canada: Capturing Landscape and Diversity. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. pp. 215–. ISBN 978-0-7735-3391-2.
  8. ^ a b Mark Miller (1997). Such Melodious Racket: The Lost History of Jazz in Canada, 1914-1949. Mercury Press. pp. 38–40. ISBN 978-1-55128-046-2.
  9. ^ Philip Lambert (1 March 2013). Alec Wilder. University of Illinois Press. pp. 2–. ISBN 978-0-252-09484-2.
  10. ^ "THE SCREEN; A Bootlegging Melodrama.". The New York Times, June 30, 1924
  11. ^ "That Moaning Saxophone: The Six Brown Brothers and the Dawning of a Musical Craze". Publisher's Weekly

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