Arkansas native Jim Ed Brown will be appearing as part of the ‘34th Annual Fordyce on the Cotton Belt’ celebration in Fordyce on April 26. Show time is 4 p.m.
“I’m looking forward to coming to Fordyce. I always love coming back to Arkansas. I still have a lot of family and there. It’s always a fun time,” Brown said in a phone interview.
Like many artists, Brown, who is originally from Sparkman, grew up signing in church. His family attended regularly and those old gospel songs are still his favorites.
“My mother made sure that we all went to church. So, I grew up singing a lot of old hymns,” Brown stated. “Daddy was a hard working man in the sawmill business. If he was working on Sunday, it was my job and responsibility to harness up the team and get us to church. That was an important part of our life.”
Initially, Brown began performing with his sister, Maxine. Later, their sister, Bonnie, joined, thus forming the Browns. Under the keen production of Chet Atkins, the trio delivered several memorable recordings for RCA Records. Their hits included “I Heard the Bluebirds Sing,” “The Three Bells” and “Scarlet Ribbons” In 1963, the Browns became members of the Grand Ole Opry. This marked a major milestone in their career.
“For me, the Grand Ole Opry is the cornerstone of country music,” Brown said. “Back in the 1940s, the 1950s and the 1960s, if you were a big artist, you needed to be on the Opry. I’ve had a great experience as an Opry memeber. I’ve shared the stage with a lot of wonderful artists and made lifetime friendships at the Opry. And the Opry was certainly good to the Browns back in the 1960s.”
Wanting to get away from the hectic nature of the music business and to have time for their own families, Maxine and Bonnie retired in 1966. As for their brother, he remained with RCA and pursued a career as a solo artist. His debut single, “Pop a Top,” was a big hit and opened the door for more successful releases.
“It set me up enough that I was able to continue in the business,” Brown recalled. “I was afraid that I was going to have to come back to Arkansas and go into the sawmill business. Thankfully, I did not have to do that. ‘Pop a Top’ started a good run for me.”
Brown followed with many more solo hits, such as “Morning” and “Southern Loving.”
Another facet of his career has been television. In 1969, Brown hosted The Country Place. Later, his popularity grew as one of the stars of Nashville on the Road. Beginning in 1974, the syndicated program ran for six years, featuring performances from various locations across the country. Reruns of both of those programs can viewed via RFD-TV and their sister network, Rural-TV.
For Brown, his success continued into the late 1970s as a chart-topping duet with Helen Cornelius Their partnership produced a handful of hits, most notably “I Don’t Want to Have to Marry You.” In addition, they were named the Vocal Duet of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1977.
“That was the beginning of a whole new career for me,” he said. “I was like a child with a new toy. We had some big hit records and we had a lot of fun together.”
As the 1980s came, Brown wandered back into television as host of the Nashville Network’s You Can Be a Star. Today, he remains active.
“I still enjoy going out and performing,” Brown concluded. “As long as the Man upstairs gives me the voice and the ability, I am going to keep doing that.”
Beebe native Charles Haymes is a member of the Country Music Association and the International Bluegrass Music Association. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org