The elder Brown played frequently with Tommy Johnson and the Chatmon Brothers,
but due to the constraints of raising a family did not pursue music full
time, becoming instead the first African American president of the local
glass workers union. Music abounds in the Brown household with Mel, his
brother James, and cousin Andrew, all receiving instruction from John
Henry and the many delta legends who stopped by on their travels through
1953 - Fourteen year old Mel contacts meningitis
and is bedridden for several months. His father purchases him a Gibson
Les Paul and a small amp. During his recuperation, he begins a serious
study of the recorded work of B.B.King, Tal Farlow, Louis Jordan, Hank
Williams and T-Bone Walker with the Les Paul in hand. "All of a sudden,
everything just clicked", Mel remembers. "I could tell what
B.B.King was doing, or what notes Tal Farlow was playing. Healthy once
again, Mel joins "The Duke Juniors", a younger version of The
Duke Huddleston Orchestra, Jacksons most popular society band. He
also made his way to Canton, Mississippi where he saw Elmore James, Bobby
"Blue" Bland, Hank Ballard and The Midnighters and Sonny Boy
Williamson. Mel ended up working several gigs with Sonny Boy in nearby
Vaughn, Mississippi "He needed a guitar player, so he came by my
house and got me".
1955 - Mels first trip to Los Angeles
to check out the music scene. "Coming out of the South I was a little
bit over my head then". "Id been around cotton fields
all my life, so when I heard a couple of guys who played so much better
than me, I decided to go back to Mississippi and practice some more".
Mel returned to Jackson where he continues woodshedding and rejoins the
Huddleston Orchestra, he also plays briefly with the Joe Dyson Band.
1958 - Mel returns to Los Angeles and this
time he is ready. Signing on with West Coast R&B artist Jimmy Beasley
for a six month stretch, then stepping into Johnny Otis Band for
two years of steady touring and recording work as well as appearances
on Otis KTLA TV show.
1960 Mel leaves Johnny Otis to tour
briefly with The Olympics riding high on the chart success of "Hully
Gully". He next hooks up with blues diva Etta James for most of 1961
and 1962. At about this time Mel switches from the Les Paul to a hollow
bodied Gibson ES-175, developing a fuller, more mellow tone uncommon at
1963 1967 Tiring 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 Mels 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.
1968 1971 - 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", "Id Rather
Suck My Thumb"," Blues For We", "Mel Browns
Fifth", and "Big Foot Country Gal", as well as the best
of collection "Eighteen Pounds of Unclean Chitlins", all showcased
Mels superb guitar work with an occasional vocal outing. The "Fifth"
LP also featured an appearance by Mels 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.
1973 - Mel appears on "The California
Album" Bobby Blue Blands debut for the ABC label.
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.
1978 Mel rejoins Bobby Blue Bland.
In this incarnation of the band, Mel moves over to the piano bench and
showcases his considerable piano and B3 skills.
1982 Taking a well deserved break from
music, Mel and Miss Angel move out to the country in Northeast Mississippi,
13 miles from the nearest phone.
1983 Recharged, Mel accepts a long
standing offer from Clifford Antone to join the house band at his renowned
Austin, Texas club. Here Mel works with the cream of the blues world including
Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Snooky Pryor, James Cotton
and Clifton Chenier.
1986 Albert Collins asks Mel to join
The Icebreakers and appear with him on his Alligator LP "Cold Snap".
1987 1989 Back at Antones, Mel
continues his stellar work with the house band and in 1989 releases "If
Its All Night, Its All Right" with The Silent Partners,
Russel Jackson (Bass) and Tony Coleman (Drums), on the Antones label.
Mel produces as well as contributing guitar, vocals and keyboards.
1990 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 Im
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.
1998 Mel appears on his old friend
Snooky Pryors Electro-Fi debut "Cant
1999 Mel records his Electro-Fi debut
"Neck Bones & Caviar".
2000 Mel records a duo CD with Snooky
Pryor for Electro-Fi entitled "Double Shot!".
Bones & Caviar" wins Mel the coveted W.C. Handy "Blues
Comeback Album of the Year" award." Double
Shot!", his CD with Snooky Pryor, is nominated for the W.C.
Handy "Traditional Blues Album of the Year" award. Mel tours
France in July, where "Neck Bones & Caviar"
wins both the esteemed " Grand Prix De LAcademie Du Jazz "
and Soul Bag magazines "Album of the Year" awards. Mel
Brown and The Homewreckers first live CD "Homewreckin
Done Live" is released worldwide October 23rd on Electro-Fi.
Source Material: Feature Story on Mel Brown by Jeff Hannusch
in Living Blues #154.
Mel Brown interview by Rusty Russell in Guitar Player August 2000.
The authors own interviews with Mel Brown.
DISCOGRAPHY as Sideman
L.A. Midnight Guitar
B.B.King and Bobby Blue Bland
Together for the first time
Cold Snap Guitar
Mighty Long Time Piano
Its a Sin To Be Rich Guitar,Organ,Electric
John Lee Hooker
Endless Boogie Acoustic Guitar
John Lee Hooker
Never Get Out of The Blues Alive Guitar and
Jimmy McGriff Dream Team Guitar
Juke Box Music Keyboards
Simply The Best Guitar
Funky Town Guitar
RELEASES ON THE ELECTRO- FI LABEL:
"Cant Stop Blowin" (E-fi 3359) Snooky Pryor with special
guest Mel Brown (1998)
"Neck Bones & Caviar" (E-fi 3363) Mel Brown (1999)
"Double Shot! " (E-fi 3367) Snooky Pryor and Mel Brown (2000)
"Homewreckin Done Live" (E-fi 3370) Mel Brown and The
"Blues - A Beautiful Thing" (E-fi 3394) Mel Brown and The Homewreckers (2006)
"Mel Brown - The DVD" (E-fi 3395) (2006)
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