T. Graham Brown defies genres

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Recently while at a record shop in Nashville, I noticed some old recordings of T. Graham Brown. I was reminded of his heyday in the country music world and how his sound has no boundaries. It is a combination of the many styles that he heard while growing up in Georgia.

“I grew up in the rural South. I’m a country boy by any definition of the word. However, I listened to a lot of different music. I lived in south Georgia for about nine years and we could only pick up one radio station. That station played a wide variety of music. They might play a George Jones song then play a Rolling Stones song. So, I was influenced by all of that,” Brown said in a phone interview.

As a youngster, he dreamed of being a big league baseball star. He was an all-state pitcher and center fielder. After making the team at the University of Georgia, Brown found himself on the bench. Soon, he quit the team and focused on music.

“I wasn’t getting to play at Georgia,” he noted. “Finally, I went to the coach and told him that I was used to being a star player and that I had been offered a job with a band for $100 a week. I asked him what he thought I should do. He put his hand on my shoulder and told me that I should take the job with the band.”

Brown remained in college but eventually, the music got the best of all of it and he started to explore and experiment with different musical styles. He was part of a soul duo. Later, he fronted an outlaw country band.

Ready to make a major stab at the music business, he moved to Nashville in 1982. Brown’s break came by singing demos for publishing companies. Those demos led to a recording contract with Capitol Records in 1984. The following year, he scored a top 10 hit with “I Tell It Like It Used to Be.”

“I would be nothing in the music field if it wasn’t for ‘I Tell It Like It Used to Be,’” he commented. “I did the demo on that song and when I went to record my own album, nobody had cut it. I’m so thankful that I got to be the one to record it.”

For the next seven years, Brown was consistently on the charts and on radio due to such tunes as “I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again,” “Don’t Go to Strangers,” “Hell and High Water,” “Darlene” and “If You Could Only See Me Now.”

“That sure was a fun time,” he said. “We had a lot of great records. Recently, I was looking at some of my past records. To be honest, I was surprised to see how many singles that I placed on the Billboard charts. It was more than I realized.”

After a few years with little airplay, Brown moved to an independent label, Intersound Records, in 1998. Soon, he was back in the mainstream with “Wine into Water.” The autobiographical ballad is the most heartfelt recording of Brown’s career.

“That song really struck a nerve with people,” he said. “When I first started singing it in my shows, I would get a standing ovation almost every night. It’s a powerful song and it was number one in a lot of markets.”

In 2008, Brown continued to display his versatility with “The Present.” The album featured Brown covering such pop favorites as “Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There Is a Season),” “You’ve Got a Friend,” “You’re the Sunshine of My Life” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Beebe writer Charles Haymes is a member of the Country Music Association and the International Bluegrass Music Association. Email him at charleshaymes@gmail.com.

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