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Mel Brown 3/2009

Mel BrowenMarch 20, 2009 – Mel Brown was born in Jackson, Mississippi on October 7th 1939; he started guitar in his early teens while battling meningitis, studying the music of idols like B. B. King and T-Bone Walker. In 1960, he toured with The Olympics, followed by a two years stint with Etta James.

By 1963, tired of life on the road, Mel returns to L.A. where he once again rejoins Johnny Otis. This time in the house band at the hot spot Club Sands. Here Mel gets a chance to back artists such as Pee Wee Crayton, Johnny Guitar Watson, Billy Preston and Sam Cooke. At this juncture of his career Mel begins to work steadily in the highly competitive L.A. studio scene appearing on sessions with everyone from Bobby Darin to Doris Day, Bill Cosby to Jerry Lewis. Meanwhile back in the blues world, after impressing T-Bone Walker with his playing one night at the Sands Club, Walker invited Mel to appear on an album , “Funky Town”, that he was preparing to record for the ABC/Impulse label.

Also impressed with Mel’s guitar work on the T-Bone sessions, producer Bob Thiele summoned Mel back to the studio a week later to record his debut “Chicken Fat”.

The LP is a flavorsome mix of blues, jazz and funk instrumentals with special guest Herb Ellis along for the ride.

 Now signed to a major label in ABC/Impulse/Bluesway, Mel churns out a series of albums which are today highly prized collectibles. “The Wizard”, “I’d Rather Suck My Thumb”,” Blues For We”, “Mel Brown’s Fifth”, and “Big Foot Country Gal”, as well as the best of collection “Eighteen Pounds of Unclean Chitlins”, all showcased Mel’s superb guitar work with an occasional vocal outing. The “Fifth” LP also featured an appearance by Mel’s father on 747 Blues. Later in 1971, Mick Jagger asked Mel to introduce him to Bobby Blue Bland. Bland responded by asking Mel to join his band. Mel takes him up on the offer and works on and off with Bland through 1981. In addition to his own albums Mel , during this time, also appears on recordings by John Lee Hooker, Lightning Hopkins, Roy Brown, Earl Hooker, Charles Brown and B.B.King.

In 1976 , seeking a break from the road, Mel moves to Nashville, where he is soon much in demand as a session player. He becomes part of the newly burgeoning “Outlaw” movement transforming Country music at the time, when he joins Tompall Glaser and his Outlaw Band and appears on their MGM LP.In the years to follow, he backed artists from Buddy Guy to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Clifton Chenier and Stevie Ray Vaughn. In 1986, Brown accepted Albert Collins’ offer to join his band the Icebreakers, recording Cold Snap before returning to Antone’s. In 1989, he resumed his solo career with “If It’s All Night, It’s All Right”.

While booked into The Pop-The-Gator Club in Kitchener, Ontario four days before Christmas 1989, Mel decides to stay and explore life in Canada. “I like being where I’m not suppose to be” chuckles Mel. The Canadian blues community welcomes him with open arms.

1991 – 1997 – Mel perfects his golf game and builds up a circuit of club gigs in southern Ontario with his ace band “The Homewreckers” featuring John Lee on Keyboards, Miss Angel on vocals, Al Richardson bass and Jim Boudreau drums. He was nominated for a Canadian Juno Award in both 2001 and 2002 and on April 3 2008, Mel performed on stage with Buddy Guy in Kitchener Ontario mesmerizing the crowd. Buddy Guy left the stage for Mel to finish the show to a Standing Ovation.

On March 20, 2009 Mel Brown died while fighting emphysema as a result of smoking all his life. He was 69.

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