Tommy Brown R.I.P (1931-2016)
Plus new music from Little Tybee, Kap G, and more music news
Atlanta has lost one of its undisputed rock 'n' roll, soul, and blues music legends. On March 12, after being in hospice care for several weeks, "Weepin'" Tommy Brown passed away. He was 84 years old.
Brown was one of an early group of Southern gospel-infused rockers to make waves in the 1950s along with contemporaries such as Little Richard and James Brown. Big Joe Turner was an influence on his sing-shouting style. According to his website, Tommy was born in Atlanta on May 27, 1931. His biggest national success, and the source of his nickname, was his 1951 No. 1 R&B hit titled "Weepin' and Cryin'," credited to the Griffin Brothers with whom he sang lead.
The song became a highlight of his dynamic show that often found him crawling across the stage and leaping into the audience, crying hysterically. It's widely acknowledged that James Brown picked up aspects of his own inimitable concert moves from Tommy.
Locally, Tommy was also known for his 1949 recording "Atlanta Boogie." It was notable as one of the first songs to coin the term "rock 'n' roll." Both "Weepin' and Cryin'" and the lesser known "Atlanta Boogie" were staples of his live sets, as was "Honky Tonk," a 1956 R&B and pop hit for Bill Doggett that Tommy claimed to have written.
Although he left the music business for decades — doing comedy during the '60s and '70s — Tommy moved back to Atlanta in 1977, and made a comeback in 2001 due to the request of fans who remembered him laying a foundation for soul, blues, and rollicking boogie. That culminated in Tommy being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis in 2015, a clear acknowledgment of his influence on the music. The Atlanta City Council also honored him with Tommy Brown Day on Sept. 8, 2015.
Much of Tommy's work remains available. In 2002 he produced a reissue of his '40s and '50s sides, appropriately titled Classic Tommy Brown. He also released surprisingly solid albums, such as 2004's Remember Me and 2009's Rockin' Away My Blues, that captured the enthusiasm and sheer sweat-soaked entertainment he injected into all his shows.
Brown performed through 2014 and even played a gig with the Breeze Kings for his 83rd birthday that year. However, he soon became too ill to continue his live work. He was a recognizable presence for more than a decade after his early aughts rediscovery at Atlanta blues clubs Blind Willie's and Northside Tavern.
Italian label Wild Honey Records announced last week that it will release Shantih Shantih's debut album, Winter in September. The album is due out in May. Dusty Medical is co-releasing the album stateside. Shantih Shantih plays an album release party May 20 at the Earl. Soon after the band will hit the road for full U.S. and European tours.
City Winery has pushed the opening for its Atlanta location to June due to construction delays. The 10,000 Maniacs show on June 4 is still on, but planned May shows including Mavis Staples and Steve Earle will happen at a later date.
Little Tybee is crowdsourcing its self-titled fourth record via a recently launched Kickstarter campaign. The group is reaching to hit a $20,000 goal by Sat., March 26. There's a bounty of rewards available, too.
Nevado Records welcomed indie rockers Gringo Star to its growing roster. Stay tuned for details on the group's first full-length since 2013's Floating Out to See.
In new releases news, rapper Kap G released a new mixtape, El Southside, which can be streamed or downloaded. Yamin Semali, of hip-hop duo Monday/Friday, recently uploaded a new remix of the group's track "High As You," featuring the talents of Bright Son. And last, but not least, Faun and a Pan Flute unveiled a new song, "Brevity," via Coastal Beats Media. The group is currently on a short touring stint through the Midwest and Southeast.
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With additional reporting by Chad Radford, Ben Braunstein, and Bobby Moore.