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A Few Words from Bobby Brown

Photo at right taken in 1960 taken at the James J. Kreigsman studios in New York City.

I was born in Olyphant, Arkansas, a small country village 10 miles from Newport, the nearest town of 5,000 people. It was cotton country with farms all around, 1954 just before rock and roll was born. I was so excited when I started riding the school bus in to Newport where I went to school.

I started playing guitar then after hearing Elvis, Carl, Bill Haley and the others. My first electric guitar was a Silvertone flattop bought from Sears, and I began playing at parties, school shows, and had a radio show on each Saturday afternoon. This is where I met Chuck Comer who was a disc jockey at radio station KNBY and became friends. Sonny Burgess and The Pacers had a radio show that came on right after my show.

After high school I went to St Louis, Missouri. I formed a band working in the night clubs. Later we moved to Jonesboro, Arkansas and worked in the clubs there and trying to get a record deal in Memphis, Tennessee. We recorded 2 songs for Scotty Moore and they were never released. One of the clubs that we played, Arlen Vaden showed up and said he would take us to Cincinnati, Ohio and record us at the radio station WCKY where he was a disc jockey. That was our first record. "Down at Big Mary's House" with "I Get the Blues at Midnight" on the Vaden Record label (Trumann, AR) and the first Vaden rock and roll release. Arlen Vaden was our record producer and he paid for everything including food for the band. It didn't take but a couple of hours to record since we knew my songs really well playing them in the clubs regularly.


We played every location possible, this picture was taken in Cornwall, Ontario in 1958
at an ice hockey arena at the half time show. We practiced the band 5 days a week, and
worked up routines with the help of Jack Nance and Conway Twitty.


That was our first recording and we went to all the radio stations we could to get them to play our record. In those days, you could just drive up to a radio station and walk in and talk on the air with the disk jockey and he would play your record. People could call in and they would play requests any time. We continued to play clubs and then Arlen Vaden called me and said he wanted us to record again. This time it was a big recording session with everyone there at KLCN in Blytheville, Arkansas. I recorded first "Please, Please Baby" and "Bobby's Blues", Teddy Riedel played piano, Larry Donn played bass. Teddy was next up, "Knocking on the Back Side", Joyce Green was up with "Black Cadillac", Chuck Comer with "Just a little More Lovin" and Larry Donn with "Honey Bunn", then Johnny Moore and others recorded on that same long session that lasted well into the night. Arlen Vaden recorded us all and gave us a start with our first recordings.


In Hull, Quebec, 1959, I was booked at one of the hottest show clubs just across the Ottawa River from the Parliament Buildings. On opening night I was approached by the head waiter. He said, "There's someone here who wants to meet you." I was introduced to the singer of the number one hit record that I had been singing every night. The hit song, "Tell Laura I Love Her", the singer was Mr. Ray Peterson from Denton, Texas, just a few miles away from my home state of Arkansas. Ray had married a lady from Ottawa and was there on family visit. We had a great time, Ray was a great guy. He walked with a cane because he had polio when he was a child. He came on stage and we played a full set and had a wonderful show. The entire audience was singing his song, "Tell Laura I Love Her." After the show we had a party with lots of photos, drinks and eats.
       

August 1961, Bobby Brown & The Curios was a hot act for the beach clubs along the Jersey coast. Every summer we were a regular at Tony Mart's club in Ocean City. The band played opposites with all the stars, Del Shannon was among those. It was a thrill every night when his show would start with the then Number 1 record in the nation, "Run Away" and then on to "Hats Off to Larry", another big hit. What a great time working with Del Shannon, a much loved, extremely talented, fun loving guy.



Live stage show at the Brass Rail
Club in London, Ontario, Canada.
Our first stop on a Canadian tour
in 1958. Conway Twitty and Jack
Nance were managing the band and
signed us with Harold Kudlets Agency.
       
1958 show time at the Brass Rail
Club in London, Ontario, Canada.


Arlen loved whiskey and women and was known to have a hot temper. A story told to me by Larry Donn was that one day Arlen got so mad at me about something he opened up his car trunk, took out a box of my recordings, and sailed them out into a farmers field. Larry said to Arlen, "Give them to me, I will sell them!"

The year, 1955, was a very exciting time in my life. I was going to high school in my 10th year. Music was the rage then it always had been for me. I grew up in a very musical family, 2 brothers and 4 sisters and everyone sang. My Dad played guitar, Mom pulled out her old washboard, yes the one she used through the week to wash clothes on. We all sang folk and religious songs while Mom beat on the washboard and Dad on the Guitar, a real family band.


At the Edison Hotel in Toronto, Ontario in
1958. Conway Twitty and Johnny (Baby Huey)
Adams, (our bass player) He was giving Conway
a singing lesson!. Note: Conway had the
Number 1 record in the US and UK
"It's Only Make Believe."
       
This is a picture (1959) of Bill Haley with one
of the Comets and our drummer Johnny Welker who
played drums on many of the Vaden recordings.
Bill Haley and the Comets were playing in the
ball room downstairs in the Standish Hall Hotel
where we were staying in Hull, Quebec. We spent
several enjoyable hours with them as we were
playing in the same hotel


We always listened to the radio, sang every song with every singer. Then from a Memphis radio station, we heard something different. It wasn't blues like the black people sang, nor was it hillbilly, we knew all those songs and sang every word. They said it was Elvis Presley and he was singing something called Rock and Roll. We had heard Bill Monroe sing "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" and we knew every word. Now this guy Elvis was singing that same song differently, fast with a rhythm beat. I knew right then that I loved rock and roll and just had to sing and play it. My brother had brought a guitar home on leave from military and left it for me to learn after he showed me a few chords. The next time he came home on leave, not only was I playing and singing, but had teamed up with another boy and we had a thirty minute show on KNBY radio station every Saturday afternoon. The disc jockey and announcer working at the station was none other than Chuck Comer who aside from his job was a singer as well. We made friends and later he and I both recorded for Arlen Vaden who owned Vaden Records.


We had just bought this new 1961 Cadillac to carry the band members on the road tour.
This picture was taken just outside New York City, in New Jersey.




Right after my 30 minute radio show came Sonny Burgess and the Pacers. They were playing rock and roll and had just recorded for Sun Records, the label that Elvis was on. Their hit song was "Red Headed Woman." Wow, what a great feeling, only I didn't have a band, it was just my friend and I with our two flatop guitars. I got to be pretty well known around town and played in school every chance I got. By this time, I had bought a bronze colored Silvertone electric guitar from Sears catalog. I continued to play locally until I graduated high school in 1956, that is when I went to St Louis, Missouri to form a band and work clubs. My sister Shirley lived there and she had a boyfriend who was a musician who played on weekends in the city. I immediately joined in with their band, on off nights we would go around and sit in with other bands. One day I had a call from Shorty Stewart, lead guitar player. He asked me to join their band with Johnny Welker on drums. Later we added Tommy Jones on bass. We worked in St Louis until the club was raided. Then we headed for Jonesboro, Arkansas, not too far from Memphis to try to get a recording with Sun Records.


A live Bandstand TV show taken in Chicago, Illinois in 1961.
It was a simulation of the Dick Clark American Bandstand show shown every Saturday. City.


We met Scotty Moore and recorded for Fernwood Label, it was never released. Continuing to play clubs, we finally met Arlen Vaden who recorded us for Vaden Records. We promoted the record where ever we could, but never got a hit at the time. The band eventually split, two members leaving for St Louis, Johnny Welker and I stayed behind, we were playing a duo, drums and me on guitar and singing. Sonny Burgess approached me and asked if we would join him. His bandmembers didn't want to travel anymore and he only had J. C. Caughron on lead guitar and he playing guitar. We made a deal, I traded my Martin D28 guitar in on a new Fender Jazz Bass and a tweed Fender Bassman amplifier. We played clubs until we had put a show together. Sonny was well experienced in stage presence, he taught us the Bug Dance, movements, as well as jumping off things alot of show stuff.

We started traveling with the Johnny Cash Show, one nighters all over the USA. We were the front band and back up for all the artists on the shows. Every night we were in a new town playing auditoriums and coliseums. Sonny sang 50% of the time, then played the bass while I sang. I played bass for many famous stars on those tours which lasted approximately 6 months. We never slept in hotels, only in cars and dressing rooms. We traveled in Sonny's Mercury car, stuffed everything including drums into one car, 2 Fender Bassman amps, guitars and all 4 of us. It was very uncomfortable. We had 4 drivers switching often to stay awake. We didn't know what day it was, or the time of day, but we never used any drugs other than nodoze for the driver.

Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, and Marshall Grant were great people to work with I spent lots of time with Johnny. We did a lot of song writing in the dressing rooms and before shows. We would sit flat on the floor, legs crossed and Johnny would flip his Martin guitar over with a writing pad for a desk and we would throw words on paper. Some of the phrases I would later recognize in recordings that he made. It was very exciting and enjoyable for me to be so close to him.


This is our 4 piece band in 1962. Johnny (Baby Huey) Adams (Bass Guitar) Raymond
(Smiley) Thompson (Drums/Harmonica,) Tommy Holder (Lead guitar/Guitar Technician,)
Bobby Brown (Vocals/guitar).

On those tours, we backed up several famous people. I played bass for The Collins Kids, Joe Maphis, Merle Travis, Sonny James, Mitchell Torok, Marty Robbins, and a tribute show with Jerry Lee Lewis, when Carl Perkins brother died.

After about 9 months working with Sonny on these tours, we were playing at a club when I met Conway Twitty and Jack Nance who were the special guest band. They had just came back from Canada and said they would book me on that circuit. Sonny didn't want to go and that is when I formed my road band bringing in Johnny "Baby Huey" Adams on Bass and Tommy Holder on Lead Guitar. The two plus Johnny Welker on drums and myself, our band was complete. We played shows with everyone, Narvel Felts, Bo Diddley, Ronnie Hawkins, Conway Twitty, Jay and The Americans, Duane Eddy, Del Shannon, Wanda Jackson, Diana Ross, Solomon Burke, Chubby Checker, Big Al Downing, King Curtis, Joann Campbell, Larry Donn, The Platters, Dion, Herb Alpert and so many, many more.

For booking information contact Bobby Brown at rockabillyman59@gmail.com





More Photo History


Publicity pictures of our 4 piece show band in 1962. Michael, Johnny, Tommy and Bobby Brown.
This photo was used for print and posters.


We were working the high end club circuit, Copacabana in New York City, Peppermint
Lounge in New York City, Atlantic City Boardwalk, Brown Derby in Toronto, and many more.
This was the picture used for promo from 1962.


Johnny Adams, Duane Eddy, and Bobby Brown This picture was taken in 1962 at Tony
Marts Club in Ocean City, New Jersey at a show that we worked with Duane Eddy.


This was taken back stage when we worked with Wanda Jackson at the Salem Club in
Dover, New Jersey in 1962. We worked several shows with her on the East coast.
We worked great together everything was moving and rockin'.


This is a picture (1962) taken of the band Bobby Brown, Johnny Adams, Tommy Holder,
and Wanda Jackson back stage at a show we were playing at the Salem Night Club in New Jersey.


This picture from 1963 shows some band member changes, Michael (Angelo) Elia had
replaced Smiley (Thompson) on drums, and Joey Deangelo came in on Tenor Saxaphone.
The other band members, Johnny, Tommy, and I remained.


Recent Appearances


Hemsby 36 Performance - England - May 2006


Hemsby 36 Performance - England - May 2006


Rockabilly Hall of Fame