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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 434

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This is the grave of Jim Ed Brown.

Born in 1934 in Sparkman, Arkansas, his family moved to Pine Bluff when he was a child. They frequently sang publicly as a family. In 1953, Jim Ed and his sister Maxine received a recording contract as a duo, which got them a little bit of attention, although there were lots of marginal labels signing small-time acts at this time. But that contract and their work did get the attention of Ernest Tubb, who highlighted them on their radio show in 1954 to sing their country comedy song (largely a terrible subgenre popular in these years) “Looking Back to See,” which charted on the country charts. Jim Ed and Maxine were now joined by their younger sister Bonnie and, performing as The Browns, became regulars on the Louisiana Hayride, which was a show out of Shreveport that was second only to the Grand Ole Opry as the premier country radio show. They had several charting songs over the next few years, even as Jim Ed was drafted and was stationed in Colorado for awhile. These included “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow,” “I Take the Chance,” and “I Heard the Bluebirds Sing.” They even reached #1 in 1959 with “The Three Bells,” which also topped the pop charts and reached the top 10 on the R&B charts. They joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1963, but their popularity was already waning and they broke up in 1967.

At this point, Jim Ed started his solo career. He had a huge hit in 1967 with “Pop a Top,” which became his most famous song over his long career. He received his own TV show in 1969, The Country Place, which is where Crystal Gayle got her start. He managed a hit or two a year, not always that memorable, but enough to make him a legitimately major figure on the country scene. He began recording a series of duets with Helen Cornelius that did well, including a #1 song in 1976 with “I Don’t Want to Have to Marry You.” Other hits included a cover of the Neil Diamond/Barbra Streisand song “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” which suggests the vein that Brown was mining. He had a couple other short-lived television shows during these years. He also became the spokesperson for Dollar General. He remained a frequent figure on the Opry until his death. In 2015, The Browns were inducted into the Country Music of Hall of Fame. He was personally inducted early though, because he was dying. Lung cancer took him that June, at the age of 81.

Let’s listen to some Jim Ed Brown.

Jim Ed Brown is buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park, Nashville, Tennessee. I actually didn’t know he was there and just stumbled upon him while looking for someone else, which happens more often than you’d expect.

This grave visit was supported by LGM reader contributions. I am very grateful for all of them and have a couple of trips planned for this spring and early summer that you are allowing to expand to see many more graves. So thanks! If you would like this series to cover more members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Grady Martin, also inducted in 2015, is in Laws Hill, Tennessee and Jean Shephard, inducted in 2011, is in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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