Sunday, 30 August 2015

Olive Brown born 30 August 1913

Olive Brown (b. 30 August 1913* – 9 May 1982) was an American blues singer whose major influence was Bessie Smith. Her repertoire included numbers associated with Smith and also Ethel Waters. Olive, who led her own bands such as Olive Brown & Her Blues Chasers, was associated with the music scenes in three major cities in the Midwest, and was comfortable not only with blues but with jazz and even early rock & roll.
She was born Olive Jefferson in St. Louis, Missouri 30 August 1913.  Jefferson had yet to turn Brown when, at age five, she sang at a sanctified temple in St. Louis. By then her family, including a mother who played ragtime piano, had relocated to Detroit. Her professional debut was in Motor City clubs in the early '40s, and within several years she had relocated west to the Windy City. Brown maintained an axis of gigging most of her career between Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis. Because of both being born and dying in the latter city, it is there that her name is often listed as a native talent, following Helen Brown alphabetically.
Her connection with Chicago is just as strong, however, and includes the required connections with talent such as the Todd Rhodes Orchestra, Earl Bostic, Cecil Gant, Tiny Bradshaw, Gene Ammons, and even the young soul singer Jackie Wilson.  She was christened “Princess of the blues” in the black press.
Here’s Olive Brown with “St. Louis Blues” recorded at a club during the 60’s. 
In the mid-'60s she recorded for the Spivey label, organized by label maestro Victoria Spivey, which allows listeners to sample the colour contrast between guest star Muddy Waters and Olive Brown. In this same period, Brown began nearly a decade living in Canada, but this was hardly an exile from music. The roster at a Colonial Tavern date recorded by the CBC in Toronto promises great things, featuring Brown as vocalist with a band including the marvellous trumpeter Buck Clayton, stalwart pianist Sir Charles Thompson, and basso profundo Tommy Potter. Like many of the radio network's live recordings, this '60s session has never been issued on disc. Her life story was the subject of a CBC program in 1967 and in 1968 she performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

A similar fate seems to have been in store for some of Brown's other great moments on tape. Her track entitled "Roll Like a Wheel" received much attention when included on a compilation entitled Don't Freeze on Me: Independent Women's Blues, but was actually never released at the time it was recorded. In the early '70s she returned to St. Louis and began performing on the major riverboat lines. In 1973 she received rave reviews for a boisterous performance at the St. Louis Ragtime Festival. She last appeared at a benefit concert in 1980.

As Mrs Olive Brown Graham, she was president of Black Rose Inc., a manufacturer of costume jewellery.
Olive Brown died in hospital on May 9, 1982 in St. Louis, MO from kidney failure after a long illness.
* (other sources give birth year as 1922. 1913 date given by The Blues Encyclopaedia also obit from “The Lakeland Ledger”) (Info mainly edited from AMG) 


Don Dan said...

To complete your good post, here is the great Olive Brown... and her Blues Chasers.


ps: the two covers you posted are of the same album.
The "new empress of the blues" is the french edition of the "blues chasers".

boppinbob said...

Excellent. Thanks Don Dan. I posted the second LP cover as it was the only "late" photograph of Olive I could find on the internet.
Regards, Bob