Charles Brown - Dark Knight of the Soul
Hey ! Go visit the Reverend Frost! He's undergoing Morphine Therapy. Get well soon, Reverend. Here's some mellow music for you.
Another case of a Great Artist no-one knows much about. Just a few sketchy details and some intriguing stories like the "imprisoned by gangster" nugget at Jazzhouse.org. There's a good article by JC Marian. A degree in chemistry, and a couple of brief teaching jobs before he won a talent contest (he was a classically trained pianist) when he moved out to the West Coast in 1944. He met up with guitarist, Johnny Moore (whose brother Oscar was the guitarist with The Nat 'King' Cole Trio) and they became Johnny Moore's Three Blazers with bass player Eddie Williams.
Brown's mesmerising voice spread peace wherever he went, and they hit straight away with 'Driftin' Blues', 'Lost In The Night' and Merry Chrismas Baby is one of the all time classic songs of that season. Inevitably, Brown went solo and hit immediately with 'Black Night', the biggest selling R'n'B record of 1951, according to CashBox.
The hits kept coming until the height of rock'n'roll, and even then there was room for hit duets with Amos Milburn on Ace Records, and the huge 'Please Come Home For Christmas' on King in 1960.
Reading up about his later years the consensus is that he never compromised his style, and continued at the top of his form til his death in 1999. Anyone got any later albums?
I'm posting this now, because listening to Charles Brown, it is obvious how influential he was for the young Sam Cooke. And Sam honoured that with his Night Beat album from 1963. and just when we're about to finish I remember a story about Sam Cooke asking Charles Brown to play piano on his 'Bring it On Home', and that turns up the best link so far. The excellent The 'B' Sides has a great write up of Charles Brown. Check it out and then listen too these.