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Tommy Brown - Rockin’ Away My Blues

Tommy Brown, born in Atlanta in 1931, has had several careers in his lifetime. At the age of six, he debuted on stage as a dancer. Still at a young age, he took piano lessons and played drums in school. In high school, he found the first of many bands and performed at local teen dances. He was a regular at radio stations in the Atlanta area in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Soon his band was backing local and national touring acts. In the ‘50s Brown moved from behind the drums to step up to the mic. In 1951, he made his first recording for Savoy. He has since recorded for Savoy, Dot, Imperial, King, his own label T&L, and now for Bonedog Records.

One night Brown was onstage performing an Ivory Joe Hunter tune when his fiancé walked in the club with another man. Brown burst into tears during the performance and fell to his knees. It was not an act but it led to his biggest hit, “Weepin’ and Cryin’.” “Weepin’ and Cryin’” was number 1 on Billboard’s R&B chart for three weeks. That spontaneous reaction of weeping, crying and falling to his knees became part of his shtick. This may also be the genesis of a fellow Georgian’s creation, also named Brown, “Please, Please, Please” by James Brown.

Tommy Brown has had successes and near successes throughout his long career. He toured with the famous and not so famous. He has been a dancer, bandleader, musician, singer, comedian, songwriter, record label owner, artist manager, and most recently, owner/operator of personal care and treatment facilities. His heart never left the music industry and in 2001 he returned to the stage. His newest CD, Rockin’ Away My Blues was released in 2009 and contains a remake of “Weepin’ and Cryin’ Blues.”

The CD has a strong start with “Southern Women.” Now this is my type of blues. I have to admit, I hit the repeat button several times on this one. It has catchy lyrics but the best aspect is the music. French blues guitarist, Fred Chapellier, guests on lead guitar. I didn’t care for “House Near The Railroad Track,” however. It’s a good song for the jitterbug set, as in those old enough to have danced the jitterbug when it was the current dance craze. “Leave It Alone” is a witty warning on staying away from jailbait. He says, “leave it alone, she ain’t full grown…the paint ain’t dry on that girl yet!” “Love Of Mine” reminds me of late ‘50s R&B. It would be a good song for a live performance. “Atlanta Boogie” is just that, a boogie about Atlanta. “Night Work” is also a bit of a boogie with its walking bass line.

Tommy Brown is no Johnny Taylor but his delivery on “Cheaper To Keep Her” is much funnier. This is where his comedic background comes into play. He sings it as if he truly has experience on the subject. “How Much Do You Think I Can Stand” also seemed a bit dated to me but I enjoyed the horn work. “I’ll Die Happy” is snappy and “Do Fries Come With That Shake” is tasty. The weeping and crying throughout “Weepin’ And Cryin’ Blues” is definitely over the top. Another good one for a live performance but for a recording a little less weeping and crying would have been better. The final song “Rock Away My Blues” is a traditional song; again rather dated in style.

The CD is a mix of modern blues and old style R&B. The background vocals provide a smooth contrast to Brown’s gruff, shouter voice, especially on “Do Fries Come With That Shake.” There are real musicians and they’re good. I’d like to give a shout out to the entire horn section and a special shout out to Jimmy Britton on piano and organ.

Reviewer Sheralyn Graise graduated from the University of Akron a while back. A former Social Services professional, she is now pursuing other interests such as music history, writing, and photography. She has been a member of the Blues Foundation since 2001.

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