BIOGRAPHY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 

The very first rock artist and one of its most influential artists overall, not just for setting the entire genre into motion with his debut in September 1947 but also for his multiple stylistic precedents that quickly took root and defined rock ‘n’ roll going forward.

Born in New Orleans in 1925, Brown was steeped in gospel as a child but upon singing professionally in his late teens he gravitated towards pop crooning and was considered a gimmick in clubs for being a black singer who sounded white – much like avowed Roy Brown fan Elvis Presley was later singled out for being a white singer who sounded black.

Yet in order to connect with audiences beyond the novelty aspect of his material in relation to his race, Brown began letting band member Wilbert Brown (no relation) sing bluesier songs, including one Roy had written, “Good Rocking Tonight”. When Wilbert fell ill at the start of one performance of the song Roy stepped in and reverted back to his gospel style, significantly altering the feel of the song and creating something entirely new.

Signed in the summer of 1947 to DeLuxe Records his debut on record that September launched rock ‘n’ roll and scoring more than a dozen hits over the next few years he proved to be the ideal rock star – young, brash, a great singer and equally strong songwriter who boasted a tremendous stage show backed by a top-flight band (The Mighty Mighty Men) led by tenor sax ace Leroy “Batman” Rankins.

From his unrestrained gospel-esque vocals in a decidedly secular – and somewhat profane – realm on uptempo romps to his cathartic emotional wailing in songs of romantic agony in ballads he laid the vocal blueprint for much of what followed. His lyrical cockiness was given free reign in his boastful songs which embodied the distinct perspective of the post-war black community in broader terms, setting rock apart from all other styles in terms of outlook.

Brown’s early success also helped to make New Orleans the epicenter of rock’s first two decades, providing the impetus for record companies to sign other artists from the area which in turn ensured that the sound of the city would increasingly be spread nationwide.

Though he lasted longer than most of the 40’s rock stars, hitting the charts for the last time in 1957 while the next generation of artists, among them Elvis Presley, James Brown and Jackie Wilson all openly borrowed Roy’s style, his own career was nearing the end of the line commercially. Forced for a time in the 1960’s to become a door to door salesman to make ends meet, Brown recorded sporadically over the next two decades, his career revived to a degree by acclaimed live performances with Johnny Otis early in the 1970’s which led to a new recording contract and his best selling records in twenty years along with a successful European tour.

Before he could fully capitalize on the growing interest in rock history as it began to be more thoroughly documented in the 80’s the founder of rock ‘n’ roll died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 55 shortly after a delivering rousing performance at The New Orleans Jazz Festival in 1981.

Roy Brown’s vocal prowess, stylistic versatility, deep song catalog and massive influence along with his immeasurable impact for coming up with the components of rock in the first place and spreading the sound to masses with hit after hit in its formative years make him among the Top 50 artists in rock history, yet over time Brown never received the widespread historical acclaim for such a vital career.
 
 
ROY BROWN DISCOGRAPHY (Reviews To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):
 
 
GOOD ROCKING TONIGHT
(DeLuxe 1093; September, 1947)
The record that launched rock ‘n’ roll, a call to arms featuring Brown’s brazen wailing while the vibrant scene he paints with lyrics celebrate rock’s central concepts in no uncertain terms. Compared to everything else in music at the time this was shocking, but for the audience that embraced it and would come to define rock going forward it was a transformative moment. (7)

LOLLY POP MAMA
(DeLuxe 1093; September, 1947)
A stronger composition than performance thanks to the ill-suited band who are completely out of sync with Brown who is forced to deliver a rushed vocal to compensate. Nevertheless his impressive voice and his ability in structuring the song gives plenty of indication that he was shaping up to be something out of the ordinary. (4)

SPECIAL LESSON NO. 1
(DeLuxe 1098; October, 1947)
Racy, somewhat unsettling sex-themed song is also a bit of a let-down musically, notable largely because it was cut before the full impact of his debut could be absorbed, thus giving us a look into the type of material he might’ve done without a clearer career path laid out before him. (3)

WOMAN’S A WONDERFUL THING
(DeLuxe 1098; October, 1947)
A ramshackle effort epitomizing the uncertain mindset of the period immediately after rock’s birth but before its confirmation as a viable style unto itself, well crafted to a degree but without much bite or direction. (3)

ROY BROWN BOOGIE
(DeLuxe 3107; November, 1947)
Derivative but reasonably effective crowd pleaser highlighted by the first appearance of “Batman” Rankins on sax, who delivers a blistering solo and would go on to define the tremendous band Brown would showcase over the years. (6)

MIGHTY MIGHTY MAN
(DeLuxe 1128; December, 1947)
Solid idea played a little too frantic by the still mismatched studio band, yet Brown’s lyrics perfectly capture the braggadocio spirit of rock as he revels in his newfound glory. (6)

MISS FANNY BROWN
(DeLuxe 1128; December, 1947)
Flexing his writing skills Brown offers up a riveting melodrama worthy of the stage, effectively shifting his persona to one of confusion and shame while matching the tawdry tale of the lyrics with a distressed vocal that’s more than up to the task. (7)

‘LONG ABOUT MIDNIGHT
(DeLuxe 1154; March, 1948)
A brilliant after hours lament that’s a vocal tour de force for Brown who wrings untold emotion out of every line, in the process showing off his versatility and confirming his place at the head of the rock movement. (8)

WHOSE HAT IS THAT?
(DeLuxe 1154; March, 1948)
Brown’s energetic performance can’t salvage a song whose story is in poor taste, but as he was still in search of his first legitimate hit and was trying on different personas the attempt is at least understandable, if not pardonable in a court of law. (3)

MISS FANNY BROWN RETURNS
(DeLuxe 3189; September, 1948)
Unimaginative sequel which by trying to artificially shoehorn the existing characters into an ill-conceived happy ending invalidates the original, and far-better, record entirely… an affront to creativity. (1)

RAINY WEATHER BLUES
(DeLuxe 3198; November, 1948)
Rock’s most dynamic singer of his era lays into a song about sex and delivers all of the emotional exuberance required to connect, aided immensely by a strong arrangement and a surprisingly lethal guitar. (7)

‘FORE DAY IN THE MORNING
(DeLuxe 3198; November, 1948)
Emotionally cathartic performance is masterfully delivered but the despondent nature of the song makes it less accessible for casual listening and more suited to hearing in a state of solitary emotional confinement. (6)

ROCKIN’ AT MIDNIGHT
(DeLuxe 3212; March, 1949)
It may be just a re-write of Good Rocking Tonight but the arrangement’s been overhauled and it rolls out of the garage a fine-tuned machine, its engine roaring at full throttle with a confident Brown at the wheel. (9)

JUDGMENT DAY BLUES
(DeLuxe 3212; March, 1949)
Returning to his gospel upbringing in a fire & brimstone delivery Brown offers yet another facet of his persona, unexpected, interesting and ultimately worth the effort. (6)

RIDING HIGH
(DeLuxe 3226; June, 1949)
Though well sung and enthusiastically played the song comes across as a shallow highlight reel of past glories, a warmed over pastiche of his best traits rather than something original… still good, but not up to our heightened expectations for Brown. (6)

PLEASE DON’T GO (COME BACK BABY)
(DeLuxe 3226; June, 1949)
A rather surprising hit for such a below-par performance as Brown wallows in misery, incoherently blathering about being dumped for reasons which should be obvious after listening to him whine like this. (3)