Mel Brown
Mel Brown
1939 – Born October 7th in Jackson, Mississippi into a musical family. His grandfather was a fiddle and guitar player during the early 1900’s. Mel’s father John Henry "Bubba" Brown, is cited by Mel as his major influence."He had perfect pitch and was a natural musician, music to him came as easily as walking to other people" Mel recalls.

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 Jackson.

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, Jackson’s 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 - Mel’s 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". "I’d 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 the time.

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 Mel’s 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", "I’d Rather Suck My Thumb"," Blues For We", "Mel Brown’s Fifth", and "Big Foot Country Gal", as well as the best of collection "Eighteen Pounds of Unclean Chitlins", all showcased Mel’s superb guitar work with an occasional vocal outing. The "Fifth" LP also featured an appearance by Mel’s 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 Bland’s 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 It’s All Night, It’s 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 I’m 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 Pryor’s Electro-Fi debut "Can’t Stop Blowin".

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!".

2001 – "Neck 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 L’Academie Du Jazz " and Soul Bag magazine’s "Album of the Year" awards. Mel Brown and The Homewrecker’s first live CD "Homewreckin’ Done Live" is released worldwide October 23rd on Electro-Fi.

— Andrew Galloway

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 author’s own interviews with Mel Brown.


B.B.King… L.A. Midnight – Guitar
B.B.King and Bobby Blue Bland…Together for the first time – Guitar
Albert Collins …Cold Snap – Guitar
James Cotton …Mighty Long Time – Piano
Lightnin’ Hopkins …It’s a Sin To Be Rich – Guitar,Organ,Electric Piano
John Lee Hooker …Endless Boogie – Acoustic Guitar
John Lee Hooker …Never Get Out of The Blues Alive – Guitar and Bass
Jimmy McGriff – Dream Team – Guitar
Doug Sahm …Juke Box Music – Keyboards
Earl Hooker …Simply The Best – Guitar
Charles Brown …Legend – Guitar
T-Bone Walker …Funky Town – Guitar


"Can’t 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 Homewreckers (2001)
"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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