[JPL] R.I.P. Ruth Brown

Eric Jackson eric-jackson at comcast.net
Fri Nov 17 14:28:07 EST 2006


On Friday 17 November 2006 13:44, Ron Gill wrote:

> Just got word that Ruth Brown passed away today.
> Ron Gill
> Jazz Gallery
> WGBH 89.7 FM
> Boston, MA
>
> Ron Gill

What a shame! She was such a great lady and I always learned something when I 
interviewed her. She had such great stories to tell. 

She told me how she got her contract with Atlantic. She said she was singing 
at a club and all of a sudden there was some commotion in the audience. She 
was curious as to what was causing the disturbance while she was performing. 
She looked up and noticed that Duke Ellington, Sonny Til (of the musical 
group the Orioles, a very popular r&b group at that time) and Willis Conover 
of Voice of America had come into the club together. She said they seemed to 
be enjoying the music but Willis got up and left the table, leaving Ruth 
feeling like he hadn't liked her performance. After the show she was in her 
dressing room when at least Willis came back to speak to her. He told her how 
much he had enjoyed her performance. Ruth mentioned that she thought he 
didn't like the music since he left. He told her he had gone out to call some 
friends who were starting a new record company about her. The record company 
was Atlantic, a label that has been called "The house that Ruth built."

Because many stage shows in those days featured a variety of music on the same 
bill, she often worked and travelled with jazz musicians. She talked about 
traveling with Bud Powell. She told me another story about traveling in the 
segregated south by bus on one of her tours. She said she got off the bus and 
she was immediately harassed by some racist. Actually she said he put a gun 
to her head. As you can imagine, she was terrified. Then someone else stepped 
off the bus who was touring with her as a comedian. It was Joe Lewis, the 
former boxing champ. He was recognized immediately. They apologized and Ruth 
and the group were served. 

By the way, she has a daughter who does a radio show. I think she's on the air 
in Dallas playing r & b. I can't remember her last name but I think her first 
name is Debbie.

Eric Jackson
8 pm - mid Mon - Thurs
WGBH Boston
89.7 FM
www.wgbh.org/jazz

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