Mar 26, 2015
On this week’s Celtic Contry, Stewart Fenwick talks with country legend Jim Ed Brown about his induction into the Country Hall of Fame.
Over the past four decades, Jim Ed Brown has firmly established himself in the minds of Country Music Fans as a masterful presence in every aspect of the Country Music Industry Field. Born in 1934, the Native of Sparkman, Arkansas was one of five children (two boys and three girls) of a struggling lumberman and his wife. Some of his earliest memories are of close family times, when all of the members of the houshold would gather on Saturday nights to listen to the Grand Ole Opry on a battery powered radio. Jim Ed and his older sister, Maxine, were fascinated by what they heard and soon began harmonizing together. A few years later, Jim Ed and Maxine began to perform occasionally on the local radio shows.By Jim Ed’s second year in college, he and Maxine were regular members of the ‘Barnyard Frolic’ on KRLA in Little Rock, and together, they penned what was to become their first hit record, ‘Looking Back To See’.
Released on a small label in 1954, ‘Looking Back To See’ provided the necessary momentum to bring the pair to national attention. They became members of the Louisiana Hayride, and went on to join Red Foley as featured regulars on the Ozark Jubilee in 1955.
Later that year, younger sister Bonnie joined them as ‘The Browns’, and they scored immediate top-10 hit, ‘Here Today and Gone Tomorrow.’ The group signed with RCA Victor in 1956, and two number-one releases followed in quick succession, ‘I Take the Chance’ and ‘I Heard the Bluebird Sing.’
Jim Ed’s career took a vastly different turn when he was called to a two year stint in the service. After his discharge, he rejoined his sisters to record the song which would leave the indelible mark on musical history, ‘The Three Bells.’Released in 1959, ‘The Three Bells’ sold over a million copies and created a sensation as the first number one country song ever to cross over to number one on the pop and rhythm & blues charts as well. After a two year break, the Browns were not only back, but they were more in demand than ever. Other classic hits including, ‘The Old Lamplighter’ and ‘Scarlet RIbbons’ soon followed, and in 1962, the trio joined the Grand Ole Opry.
By the mid 1960’s, however, the rigors of combining busy careers with caring for their growing families brought both Bonnie and Maxine to the decision to permanently retire from the group. Jim Ed was left to carry on alone, and in 1966, he scored his first solo success with, ‘Pop-A-Top Again.’ Through the 60’s and 70’s, he continued to grow as a star in his own right with more hit singles including, ‘Southern Loving,’ ‘Sometime Sunshine,’ and memorable ‘Morning.’
A six-season run as co-host of the syndicated weekly television series, ‘Nashville On The Road’ began in 1975, further enhancing Jim Ed’s career and leading to his being selected as a national spokesperson for Dollar General Stores.
Then in 1976, he teamed up with Helen Cornelius to form one of the most successful recording duos of all time. With smash releases like, ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’ and ‘Saying Hello, Saying I Love You, Saying Goodbye.’ Jim Ed and Helen also set an industry record when ‘Lying in Love With You’ made the largest single Country chart leap in history, vaulting from 0 to 19.
In 1983, Jim Ed started working with TNN, the Nashville Network. ‘You Can Be A Star’ for six years, and he co-hosted a show with his wife, Becky, ‘Going Our Way.’ Jim Ed still remains with the Grand Ole Opry where he is an audience favorite. Jim Ed still performs around 30 shows per year on the Opry, as well as performing a number of shows on the road. In addition to his radio and television committments, Jim Ed continues to tour throughout the nation where he presents his down-to-earth brand of family entertainment to an ever growing legion of fans.
If there is one word best suited to describe Jim Ed Brown, it is veratile. As a dynamic component in duets and a trio, as a solo recording artist, and as a popular television host, in the course of his professional lifetime, he has filled role after role with shining success. The last career of this balladeer from Arkansas can easily be likened to a well-cut gem, with its facets reflecting light on many different planes, yet collectively achieving the warm, enduring brilliance of an unforgettable star, a TRUE LEGEND…