[JPL] Fwd: The Great Ruth Brown Passes

Eric Jackson eric-jackson at comcast.net
Fri Nov 17 14:02:39 EST 2006

----------  Forwarded Message  ----------

Subject: The Great Ruth Brown Passes
Date: Friday 17 November 2006 13:30
From: Sue Auclair <jazzwoman at earthlink.net>
To: Sue Auclair <jazzwoman at earthlink.net>

Friday, November 27, 2006

For Immediate Release:

I have just received word from my colleagues at Festival Productions that
the great Ruth Brown passed away this morning.  Evidently she had been on
life support.

I have no other information at this time.

One of my fondest memories of Ruth was when she sang so beautifully at the
funeral of our friend, LaVern Baker.

Another memory was hanging out with her backstage at the Rockport Rhythm &
Blues Festival in Newport, Rhode Island when she showed up backstage in a
hot pink pant suit with a big bowler hat in order to say hello to Aretha in
her trailer.  Aretha opened her trailer door and shouted, ³Hey baby!  Come
on in!!²

Sue Auclair

From AllMusicGuide.com:

They called Atlantic Records "the house that Ruth built" during the 1950s,
and they weren't referring to the Sultan of Swat. Ruth Brown's regal
hitmaking reign from 1949 to the close of the '50s helped tremendously to
establish the New York label's predominance in the R&B field. Later, the
business all but forgot her -- she was forced to toil as domestic help for a
time -- but she returned to the top, her status as a postwar R&B pioneer
(and tireless advocate for the rights and royalties of her peers) recognized

Young Ruth Weston was inspired initially by jazz chanteuses Sarah Vaughan,
Billie Holiday, and Dinah Washington. She ran away from her Portsmouth home
in 1945 to hit the road with trumpeter Jimmy Brown, whom she soon married. A
month with bandleader Lucky Millinder's orchestra in 1947 ended abruptly in
Washington, D.C., when she was canned for delivering a round of drinks to
members of the band. Cab Calloway's sister Blanche gave Ruth a gig at her
Crystal Caverns nightclub and assumed a managerial role in the young
singer's life. DJ Willis Conover dug Brown's act and recommended her to
Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson, bosses of a fledgling imprint named

Unfortunately, Brown's debut session for the firm was delayed by a
nine-month hospital stay caused by a serious auto accident en route to New
York that badly injured her leg. When she finally made it to her first date
in May of 1949, she made up for lost time by waxing the torch ballad "So
Long" (backed by guitarist Eddie Condon's band), which proved to be her
first hit.

Brown's seductive vocal delivery shone incandescently on her Atlantic
smashes "Teardrops in My Eyes" (an R&B chart-topper for 11 weeks in 1950),
"I'll Wait for You" and "I Know" in 1951, 1952's "5-10-15 Hours" (another
number-one rocker), the seminal "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" in
1953, and a tender Chuck Willis-penned "Oh What a Dream" and the timely
"Mambo Baby" the next year. Along the way, Frankie Laine tagged her "Miss
Rhythm" during an engagement in Philly. Brown belted a series of her hits on
the groundbreaking TV program Showtime at the Apollo in 1955, exhibiting
delicious comic timing while trading sly one-liners with MC Willie Bryant
(ironically, ex-husband Jimmy Brown was a member of the show's house band).

After an even two-dozen R&B chart appearances for Atlantic that ended in
1960 with "Don't Deceive Me" (many of them featuring hell-raising tenor sax
solos by Willis "Gator" Jackson, who many mistakenly believed to be Brown's
husband), Brown faded from view. After raising her two sons and working a
nine-to-five job, Brown began to rebuild her musical career in the mid-'70s.
Her comedic sense served her well during a TV sitcom stint co-starring with
McLean Stevenson in Hello, Larry, in a meaty role in director John Waters'
1985 sock-hop satire film Hairspray, and during her 1989 Broadway starring
turn in Black and Blue (which won her a Tony Award).

There were more records for Fantasy in the '80s and '90s (notably 1991's
jumping Fine and Mellow), and a lengthy tenure as host of National Public
Radio's "Harlem Hit Parade" and "BluesStage." Brown's nine-year ordeal to
recoup her share of royalties from all those Atlantic platters led to the
formation of the nonprofit Rhythm & Blues Foundation, an organization
dedicated to helping others in the same frustrating situation.

Factor in all those time-consuming activities, and it's a wonder Ruth Brown
has time to sing anymore. But she does (quite royally, too), her pipes
mellowed but not frayed by the ensuing decades that have seen her rise to
stardom not once, but twice. ~ Bill Dahl, All Music Guide

Sue Auclair
111 Perkins Street
Boston, MA 02130
617-522-1394; fax: 617-522-4652
jazzwoman at earthlink.net

Bernardo Monk & MassTango at the Somerville Theatre, Sat, Jan 27,¹07

Also Representing New York City Artist Robert Leach


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