***ROY JAMES BROWN - Also known as "Good Rockin', and Tommy Brown, the Roy Brown story is one of the tragic, but typical, tales of the music business,
and serves as an example of how black artists were treated.
Roy Brown, one of the hottest rhythm and blues acts in America, like many black artists, didn't receive proper
royalty payments. "They treated me like a little coloured boy", Brown remembered. "I could never convince them that I had both talent and brains".
When Roy Brown wrote
and first recorded "Good Rockin' Tonight" (as "Good Rocking Tonight"), he provided Elvis Presley with his first rock and roll song. Born in New Orleans, Orleans Paris County, Louisiana on September 10, 1920.
Roy Brown was influenced by Wynomie Harris, and Brown influenced artist like Bobbie Bland, Little Milton Campbell, Larry Davis, Little Richard, Little Junior Parker, Elvis Presley, Tommy Ridgley, Joe Turner and Jackie Wilson.
Brown is one of the greatest blues shouter extraordinary and he was the first singer of soul.
His father was Yancy Brown and his mother, Tru-Love Warren (part of a Algonquin
Indian), were musicians, singers who frequently sang in church choirs in the local area. Brown learned the piano from his mother at the age of 5 and the family moved to Eunice, Louisiana, where he was raised and attended the elementary school and he frequently
sang in local church as youth and worked outside the music in the area into the 1940s.
Brown began his career in 1945 in Shreveport, Louisiana, with a weekly engagement
as MC/pop-blues singer at Billy Riley's Palace Park. Brown sang old standards like "Stardust" and "Blue Hawaii". "I was a black guy who sounded white", Brown remarked. "For the time I was a real novelty act". It was a story that Elvis Presley would recreate
in reverse at Sun Records.
In 1938, Brown formed The Rookie Four gospel quartet and working in local churches in the area from 1938 and moved to the West Coast to work
outside the music as professional boxer in Los Angeles, California. In 1942, Brown won the first prize as singing pop songs in amateur talent show in the Million Dollar Theater in Los Angeles. In 1946, Brown worked with Joe Coleman's group in local club dates
in Galveston, Texas and formed The Mellodeers, working extended residency at the Club Grenada in Galveston and he frequently appeared on KGBC-radio in Galveston in 1946 to 1947.
his earliest days, in 1947, with the Houston's Gold Star label, Roy Brown was a recording and performing genius, although, initially, his audience was limited to the black or so-called "race" charts. Roy Brown was one of the first black acts in Houston to
escape the relegation of most blacks to performing in small clubs located on "the other side of town". He was a strong nightclub draw, and it was not long before white club owners booked him in Texas' better night spots. Unfortunately, Roy Brown had to leave
Texas in a hurry when he was discovered making love to a club owner's girlfriend. He formed his own band and working at the Starlight Club in New Orleans and Dallas, Texas, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Los Angeles, California circa the and of the 1940s. Worked
with Paul Gayten's Band at the Club Robin Hood in New Orleans in 1947 and toured extensively with his own Mighty Men Band or as single he working as one-nighters in clubs, theaters, ballrooms across the United States from 1947. He also worked at the Lincoln
Theater in New Orleans in 1947, the Rip's Playhouse in New Orleans in 1947 and the Hilltop in Pine Bluff, Arkansas circa 1948.
He worked with Clarence Samuels as the
"Blues Twins" in the residence Downtown Club in New Orleans in 1947, and recorded with Bob Ogden Orchestra and others for DeLuxe label in New Orleans, Los Angeles in 1947 to 1951.
Gant encouraged Roy Brown to take his act north, Gant introduced him to Jules Braun, the owner of Cincinatti's DeLuxe label. In 1948, Roy Brown wrote and recorded "Good Rockin' Tonight" for Deluxe Records (Deluxe 1093) and became a rhythm and blues superstar.
He wrote the song while performing in Galveston, Texas. Originally, Brown didn't sing it, because he did only ballads; the singer in his band sang it. One day his singer was ill and Brown was forced to sing "Good Rockin' Tonight" himself, and the crowd reaction
was good. With the lyrics written on a paper sack, Brown approached Wynonie Harris to record the song, but Harris wasn't interested. Later, Cecil Gant had Brown sing "Good Rockin' Tonight" over the telephone to the president of Deluxe Records at 3:00 a.m.
Brown was soon signed to a recording contract. Ironically, Wynonie Harris covered Brown's version in 1948 and had a more successful hit (King 4210). Roy Brown, appeared at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee in 1948; the Armory in Flint, Michigan
and worked at the Royal Peacock Club in Atlanta, Georgia; the Meadowbrook Club, Savannah, Georgia; the Gavalcade of Jazz in Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California; the Richmond Auditorium, Los Angeles; the 5-4 Ballroom (with frequent remotes) in Los Angeles;
the Savoy Ballroom in Los Angeles; the Ox Club, Los Angeles; the Fox Theater in Brooklyn, New York City, and the Apollo Theater in New York City, all dates from early 1950s.
1950, the prestigious King label bought out Brown's contract. His records were eagerly bought by a new generation of rhythm and blues aficionados. Soon Brown's singing style influenced such diverse talents as Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Bobby
Blue Bland, and Elvis Presley. As one of the first rhythm and blues singers to sell to white record buyers, Roy Brown was in an enviable position. He was not only an established black act, but he had his music covered by white artists.
Roy Brown performed at the Howard Theater in Washington, District Columbia; Royal Theater in Baltimore, Maryland. In the mid-1950s, Brown recorded with Bill Doggett Bans as "Tommy Brown",
for the King label in New Orleans; recorded for the Imperial label in New Orleans and toured as MC on Universal Attractions Rock and Roll package shows across the United States in 1957, and frequently worked at cob dates in Las Vegas, Nevada in the late 1950s.
In 1959, Roy Brown worked at the Apollo Theater in New York City, and recorded in 1960 to 1961 for the Home Of The Blues label in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1960, Brown settled on the West Coast to work mostly outside the music in the Los Angeles area. In 1962,
he recorded for the DRA/Connis/Mobile labels in Los Angeles, and make recordings for the Chess label in Chicago in 1963 (All unissued). He performed occasional gigs with the Johnny Otis Show on the West Coast in the late 1960s into the 1970s. and recorded
that time for the Blues Way label in Hollywood, California; recorded for the Gert/Summit/Tru-Love labels in Los Angeles during the end of the 1960s.
Brown wasn't able to continue his career because he challenged the way black artists were treated within the industry. He had the audacity to file a protest with BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) over the payment of songwriting royalties. It had always been
understood among black artists that if they complained about such payments, they simply wouldn't work or record anymore, so it took great courage to spell out against this racist system. In 1950, "Hard Luck Blues" further established Brown's rhythm and blues
credentials. In 1951, therefore, when Brown complained that his manager, Jack Pearl, had cheated him, the musicians union investigated, Pearls management license was suspended, but thereafter no booking agent would touch Brown. By challenging the manner in
which the booking agencies and record companies treated black artists, Roy Brown had destroyed his promising future.
In 1970, Roy Brown worked with Johnny Otis Show on
the Monterey Jazz Festival in Monterey in Los Angeles, California (portion released on the Epic label); he formed and recorded his own Friendship label in Los Angeles in 1971; make recordings for Mercury in Los Angeles and worked long residency at the Parisian
Room in Los Angeles in 1975. In 1978, Roy Brown toured in England and Sweden and in 1979 on the San Francisco Blues Festival in San Francisco, California (portion released on Solid Smoke label); he toured with Roomful of Blues into the 1980s and in 1981 on
the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In order to continue as a performer, Roy Brown was forced to change his career strategy. To survive
financially, he had to act as his own booking agent, leaving the north to play in small southern towns. Tupelo was typical of these concert sites. The Tupelo sheriff and an assortment of local businessmen made good money promoting community dances, affairs
where racial lines were dropped for a night and everybody enjoyed the music. In a lengthy interview in San Francisco before his death, Roy Brown recalled that: "Tupelo had a code; the black people on one side of town and whites on the other; however, at the
dances everyone came together". It was common for a black and white audience to mix quietly over the music, some bootleg alcohol, and a little gambling. The presence of segregation in the schools, on the job, and in residential neighbourhoods just didn't prevail
at such nighttime affairs.
Elvis Presley was among those who attend these dances, as well as other small town affairs at which Brown played. In an interview with John
Broven, Brown remembered that "Elvis was on the bandstand singing" on a number of such occasions. "I used to play for the high sheriff; it's a dry town and Elvis Presley would came around, he wanted to sing". When Elvis Presley found out that Brown's guitar
player, Edgar Blanchard, loved to drink, he brought Elvis Presley some of Tupelo's finest moonshine straight from Shakerag. The moonshine allowed Elvis Presley to get on stage with Brown's band. "That boy said he was on vacation", Brown remembered. "He sure
didn't live in Tupelo, but he was down there seeing family". The hard-rocking vocal style of Roy Brown had later a direct impact upon Presley's own stage show.
couldn't date the times that Elvis Presley played with him, but it is known that Elvis Presley played and loved Brown's 1950 tune "Hard Luck Blues". Brown originally recorded the tune in Cincinnati at King Records, and it was his last hit before he was blacklisted.
Elvis Presley apparently came to the Tupelo concerts regularly, however. Apart from dances in Tupelo, Elvis Presley got to see Brown at Memphis club dates. The Flamingo Club, Beale Street, was typical of these hangouts, and it is known that Elvis Presley saw
Roy Brown perform there a number of times between 1952 to 1954. Roy Brown remembers Elvis Presley hanging around both his Tupelo and Memphis appearances. "Elvis loved the music and he was everywhere. We thought he was just another nice white kid", Brown chuckled.
Brown was surprised when his bass player, Tommy Shelvin, brought a copy of Elvis' Sun recording of "Good Rockin' Tonight" to a Hollywood club date. Roy Brown sat in the dressing room listening to Elvis' version. "It was a fine blues song. I couldn't believe
it". Elvis Presley's rendition, of course, eliminated the sexual innuendos that prevented Roy Brown and Wynomie Harris from having crossover hits of the song.
to one story, Elvis Presley invited Roy Brown to Graceland, where he gave him a check for a few thousand dollars when Brown fell behind in paying his federal income tax. Roy Brown's mother True Love Brown had the same middle name as Elvis Presley's mother,
Gladys Love Smith. Roy Brown died on May 25, 1981 in San Fernando, California, suffered fatal heart attack. Roy Brown is buried at the Eternak Valley Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
****WYNOMIE "MR BLUES" HARRIS - Born on August 24, 1915 in Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska. His father was Luther Harris and his mother was Mallie Hood, Wynomie was only child. He attended the Technical
High School and Central High School in Omaha, Nebraska in the late 1920s into 1930s, and attended the Creighton University in Omaha in the early 1930s. Harris was married 1934 through 1946 and have a son named Wesley Devereax, a singer, and guitarist from
his second marriage to Gertrude.
He later dropped out to work as comedian, as dancer at the Jim Bell's Harlem Club, the McGill's Blue Room, the Apex Bar and others. He
taught self drums and formed his own small combo to work in local clubs, bars in the Omaha area into the 1940s.
In the early 1940s, Wynomie Harris moved to the West Coast
and go to work as MC-singer and dancer at the Alabam Club in Los Angeles, California. He also appeared as dancer in the film "Hit Parade Of 1943" and he frequently produced stage shows in the Lincoln Theater in Los Angeles, California in 1944. He worked at
the Chez Paree Club in Kansas City, Missouri and in the Club Rhumboogie in Chicago, Illinois in 1944. In 1944, Harris appeared with the Lucky Millinder Orchestra at the Savoy Ballroom in Los Angeles, California, and recorded with the Lucky Millinder Orchestra
for Decca Records in New York City, New York.
He also performed at the Loew's State Theater and the Apollo Theater in New York City in 1944 and recorded with Johnny Otis
All Stars for the Aladin label in Los Angeles in 1945; recorded with Illinois Jacquet Orchestra, with Jack McVea All Stars, the Oscar Pettiford All Stars and others for the Apollo label in Los Angeles in 1945.
Wynomie Harris was a jump blues performer who recorded "Good Rockin' Tonight" on December 28, 1947. He beat Roy Brown out with this song and Elvis Presley listened intently to Harris' blues sounds.
In the mid-1940s, Harris toured with the Illinois Jacquet Orchestra for working on gigs, he recorded with Hamp-Tone All Stars for the Hamp-Tone label in Los Angeles, California and recorded for Bullett in Nashville,
Tennessee in 1946; recorded for Aladdin label in New York City in 1946-47; and worked at the Club 845 in the Bronx, and with Ernie Fields Band at the Apollo Theater in New York City in 1946; recorded extensively for the King label in New York City, and worked
at the Foster's Rainbow Room in New Orleans in 1947. In the late 1940s, Harris toured with Lionel Hampton Orchestra and worked on club dates; appeared on local radio show in Generva, New Yersey in 1948; toured with Big Joe Turner and working on club dates
through the South.
From 1949 through 1951, Harris appeared and toured with Dud Bascomb's Combo and working one-nighter, recorded with Lucky Millinder Orchestra for the
King label in New York City, toured with Larry Darnell and working on theaters dates; worked at the Regal Theater in Chicago, and toured on package shows working on theaters, clubs and many one-nighters across the United States.
In 1953, Wynomie Harris settled in St. Albans, New Yersey and go to work outside the music. From the late 1950s to 1963, Harris owned and operated his own cafe in Brooklyn, New Yersey. Moved to the West Coast
in 1963, Harris owned and operated his own cafe in Los Angeles, California, and recorded for Cadet label in Chicago, Illinois in 1963; worked at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California in 1963, but worked mostly outside the music in the Los Angeles
In 1967, Harris worked at the Apollo Theater in New York City, but entered the USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he died of cancer on June 14, 1969. Wynomie
Harris is buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
Wynomie Harris influenced by Louis Jordan and Jimmy Rushing and he influenced to artists like Roy
Brown, Screaming Jay Hawkins, and Elvis Presley. Wynomie Harris was billing as "The Mississippi Mockingbird", the "Peppermint Cane" and could sing either (blues or ballads) though the blues was really where he shone, everything about Wynomie was strong, a
set of vocal chords seemingly made of steel.
MACK DAVID - Lyricist born in New York City on July 5, 1912. He is the older brother
of lyricist Hal David. Mack David composed the song "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine" for Walt Disney's 1950 animated film Cinderella. David, who is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, also composed the theme song for the TV series "77 Sunset Strip",
"Hawaiian Eye", "Lawman", and "Surfside 6". He also wrote, with Sherman Edwards, "I'm Not The Marrying Kind", which Elvis Presley sang in his 1962 movie Follow That Dream. Mack David died on December 30, 1993 in Rancho Mirage, California on heart attack at
the age of 81.
JIMMY WAKELY - Popular singer of the 1940s, born in Mineola, Arkansas, who appeared in movies with Roy Rogers and
Gene Autry. Merle Travis and Spade Cooley have both played in Wakely's band. Jimmy Wakely has recorded duets with Margaret Whiting (the daughter of composer Richard Whiting (1891-1938), and is the composer of "I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')". Wakely
was a good friend of Charlie Hodge's, having toured with him in the 1950s and 1960s.
Jimmy Wakely was once asked his opinion of Elvis Presley. His reply was: "Man, he's
great! Fifteen years ago I wrote a song called "I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')", and nothing happened. Presley put it into one of his albums and so far I've gotten $4,300 in royalties".
BOB AND JOE SHELTON - Composers of the song "Just Because". Bob and Joe sang duet honky tonk as the Shelton Brothers, after starting out in 1933 with Leon Chapplear as the Lone Star Cowboys. They recorded
their version of "Just Because" (Decca 5872) as the Shelton Brothers in 1942. Joe Shelton recorded in 1935 "Matchbox Blues", which Carl Perkins would record on December 4, 1956, as "Matchbox" (SUN 261), just before the famous Million-Dollar Quartet session.
SYDNEY "SIT" ROBIN - Composer, born in New York City on July 12, 1912.
MARTHA CARSON - Singer born Martha Amburgay in Neon, Kentucky, 1921, and nicknamed The "Queen of Country Music. Martha is the sister of Sun artist Jean Chapel, and their brother, Don Chapel, was the second husband of singer Tammy
Wynette (who also married singer George Jones). In the 1940s Martha was married to singer James Carson, the son of Fiddling John Carson.