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Legendary Carolina Blues Man Nappy Brown, Dead at 78

Posted: Sep 22, 2008

Back during the 80's and 90's, I must have seen Nappy Brown play his show a dozen times, always backed by some of our best local musicians, many of them friends of mine. He was a hell of a performer, and I enjoyed meeting and talking with him almost as much as I enjoyed watching him play the blues.

Nappy passed away peacefully in his sleep at 10:30 pm this past Saturday, September 20, 2008 at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. The 78 year old performer had been hospitalized for several months.

Although Brown was a well-known star in the mid 1950s with a string of hits on the Savoy label, he had largely disappeared from public view a decade later.  Few knew that he was such a great, ground-breaking vocalist back then who had an enormous influence on a lot of R&B singers, including a young Elvis Presley, who used to come out to see Nappy whenever he performed in Memphis. 

Brown's career was revived with the release of Long Time Coming on Blind Pig Records in September of 2007. The CD led to Brown's being re-discovered and heralded for his role as the forefather of rhythm & blues. He was invited to perform on Garrison Keillor's popular "Prairie Home Companion," was featured on the cover of Living Blues magazine, was honored by the State of South Carolina with a "Nappy Brown Day," and received two Blues Music Award nominations from the Blues Foundation.  In one of his final performances, he brought down the house at the Blues Music Awards show in Mississippi in May.

Brown's performing career ended in June when he was hospitalized with a series of ailments.  In his last conversation with his wife Ann, Nappy said that this last year was the best of his life and was brought to tears by reading all of the cards and letters from fans.  He told her he never realized who he was and how many people cared.

Funeral services are being arranged for this Saturday, September 27, at St. Paul's Baptist Church in Charlotte.  Both the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and MusicCares have announced that they will help defray funeral expenses.

Keep it Real. Keep it Southern.


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