Roy Brown – Let The Four Winds Blow

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Released in June of 1957. Roy James Brown was an American blues singer who had a significant influence on the early development of rock and roll and the direction of R&B. His original song and hit recording “Good Rockin’ Tonight” has been covered by many artists including Wynonie Harris, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Joe Ely, Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pat Boone, James Brown, the Doors, and the rock group Montrose. Brown was one of the first popular R&B singers to perform songs with a gospel-steeped delivery, which was then considered taboo by many churches. In addition, his melismatic, pleading vocal style influenced notable artists such as B.B. King, Bobby Bland, Elvis Presley, Jackie Wilson, James Brown and Little Richard.

Brown was a fan of blues singer Wynonie Harris. When Harris appeared in town, Brown tried but failed to interest him in listening to “Good Rockin’ Tonight”. Brown then approached another blues singer, Cecil Gant, who was performing at another club in town. Brown introduced his song, and Gant had him sing it over the telephone to the president of De Luxe Records, Jules Braun, reportedly at 4:00 in the morning. Brown was signed to a recording contract immediately. He recorded the song in a jump blues style with a swing beat. It was released in 1948 and reached number 13 on the Billboard R&B chart. Ironically, Harris recorded a cover version of the song, and his version rose to the top of the Billboard R&B chart later in 1948. Presley also covered the song for Sun Records in 1954; it was re-released by RCA Victor when his recording contract was sold to that label in 1956. According to the Paul McCartney Project, “the song has also been credited with being the most successful record to that point to use the word ‘rock’ not as a euphemism for sex, but as a descriptive for the musical style.

Brown continued to make his mark on the R&B charts, having 14 hits for De Luxe from mid-1948 to late 1951, including “Hard Luck Blues” (1950, his biggest seller), “Love Don’t Love Nobody”, “Rockin’ at Midnight”, “Boogie at Midnight”, “Miss Fanny Brown”, and “Cadillac Baby”, making him, along with Harris, one of the top R&B performers in those three years. One source suggests that Brown was the “best selling R&B artist from 1949-51”. Another states that during 1948–51, “he had 15 records on the charts”. A third source adds that Brown “chalked up a dozen top 10s”.

After his popularity had peaked, Brown began to experience a lull in his career. Doo-wop and R&B groups were quickly gaining popularity as the standard sound of R&B in the early to mid-1950s. His declining fortune coincided with the resolution of a lawsuit against King Records for unpaid royalties in 1952, in which Brown prevailed, one of the few African-American musicians to do so in the 1950s. This coincidence has led some, such as the writer Nick Tosches (in his book Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which contains a chapter on Brown) to believe that Brown may have been blacklisted. Brown’s other misfortunes included trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. When confronted by the government for unpaid taxes he owed, he approached Elvis Presley for help. Presley wrote him a check on a brown paper bag, but it was not enough to keep Brown out of prison for tax evasion.

In 1951, Brown performed at the seventh famed Cavalcade of Jazz concert held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles which was produced by Leon Hefflin, Sr. on July 8. Also featured were Lionel Hampton and his Revue, Percy Mayfield, Jimmy Witherspoon, Joe Liggins’ Honeydrippers and Billy Eckstine. The following year, June 1, 1952, he performed for the eighth Cavalcade of Jazz concert with His Mighty Men. Also featured that day were Anna Mae Winburn and Her Sweethearts, Jerry Wallace, Toni Harper, Louis Jordan, Jimmy Witherspoon and Josephine Baker. And Brown came back in 1953 to play at the 9th Cavalcade of Jazz on June 7. Also featured that day were, Don Tosti and His Mexican Jazzmen, Earl Bostic, Nat “King” Cole, Shorty Roger’s Orchestra, and Louis Armstrong and his All Stars with Velma Middleton,.

Brown had a brief comeback on Imperial Records in 1957. Working with Dave Bartholomew, he returned to the charts with the original version of “Let the Four Winds Blow”, co-written with Fats Domino, who would later have a hit with it.

Brown returned to King Records, but his popularity had diminished by 1959. He found sporadic work, performing wherever he was wanted, and he made some recordings through the 1960s. To supplement his income, he sold the rights to “Good Rockin’ Tonight”. “I was selling door to door,” he reminisced, referring to his stint as an encyclopedia salesman

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