Roy Lee Brown
2003 Hall of Fame Inductee
Roy Lee as a teenager, sixty years ago, had his own band, the Junior Brownies. After his brother Milton's untimely death and brother Derwood's retirement from the music profession, Roy Lee had a number of bands called the Musical Brownies.
His earliest recordings with the Swing Record Co,. was in 1949. Two of his current cassettes, Western Heritage # 1 and #2 are on the market, as well as his book, "Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing."
There are several tunes from the old Brownie records and a couple of new ones. Roy Lee and his wife Ellen, appeared on a Public Broadcasting Station for a documentary film, "Cowtown Memories" in 1994.
Most people don't know that Roy Lee, for over thirty-four years, was a Fort Worth Firefighter, retiring as a Battalion Chief.
During days off in that profession, his music was his avocation. Since retiring from fire fighting, Roy Lee has continued playing with a Western Swing Quartet, regularly. They have played for 8 years in September at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington and five times yearly in Dallas at the Apparel Mart. They have also played for many private parties and business functions.
Roy Lee will celebrate his eighty first birthday on February 27th. He and his bride, the former Ellen O'Malley have been married for 64 years. They have two sons, one daughter-in-law, two grand-daughters and 4 great-grandchildren.
It has been said that Roy Lee knows more songs from the 30's and 40's than just about anyone. He also does do the newer songs when the occasion requires it.
Three years ago, Roy Lee was inducted into the Cowtown Association of Western Swing Music, and was inducted that same year into the Texas Swing Music Hall of Fame in Austin Texas.
Roy Lee was inducted into the POWS in 2002.
MILTON BROWN and HIS MUSICAL BROWNIES
Two of the Musical Brownies were previously members of the very first group of Light Crust Doughboys, who were under the leadership and direction of the late W. Lee O'Daniel.
Organized in late 1930, the Light Crust Doughboys were strictly a fiddle band and vocalist. Their names and instruments played by each were. Milton Brown (vocalist); Derwood Brown (rhythm guitar); Bob Wills (fiddle); and Herman Arnspiger (rhythm guitar).
Milton and Derwood left the Light Crust Doughboys in September, 1932, and organized the Musical Brownies. The originals were: Jessie Ashlock (fiddle) Ocie Stockard (tenor banjo) Wanna Coffman (who slapped bass fiddle); Derwood (rhythm guitar); and Milton (vocalist and M.C.). Milton also was their manager and booking agent.
Shortly thereafter, Milton added the first jazz piano-player ever to play in a western band -Fred "Papa" Calhoun. Fred brought improvisation to the band, thus creating what was later to be called Western Swing Music.
In the early 1933. a second fiddler was added, Cecil Brower, who was actually a formally trained violinist.
This was another "first" -two fiddles playing in harmony, referred to as "twin" fiddles. and creating a sound that has carried on to the bands of the present day.
String bands playing for dances before amplification was invented rarely had singers.
Vocalizing was Milton's forte. In order to be heard above the music and the noise of the dancers, Milton used a megaphone until microphones became available. Singing then became a popular feature of western dance bands.
The Brownies brought vocals and improvisation to the early-day bands. In music terminology, they put "hokum" in their music. All the Brownies had this aptitude, even Milton, who often did "scat" singing, as in their recording "Four or Five Times."
Tunes introduced and recorded by the Brownies were later recorded by other artists. They include "My Mary"; "Corine, Corina"; "Four or Five Times"; "Sitting on Top of the World"; and "Right or Wrong", which was recorded recently by George Strait.
In the fall of 1934, Milton's next innovative move was to add the first amplified instrument ever used in a western band. It was a steel guitar, played by Bob Dunn. Dunn was the first to bring jazz played on a steel guitar. Other steel players apparently were limited to playing the slow chorded Hawaiian-style tunes.
Milton and the Brownies recorded over a hundred tunes during a two year period. They recorded twice in 1934 for RCA Victor/Bluebird label, once in 1935 for Decca, and again in 1936 for Decca Records.
After only three and a half years of very successful leadership, Milton met a most untimely death in April 1936 as a result of an automobile accident. For a time the Brownies continued on under the direction of Derwood Brown. This group recorded in 1937.
Roy Lee Brown, the youngest brother, eventually assumed leadership of the Brownies.
Although the personnel has changed many times throughout the years, Roy Lee's group of Musical Brownies continues with periodic personal appearances. They play true Western Swing that dates back to the thirties and on to the nineties.
Roy Lee is dedicated to keeping the Musical Brownies name alive!
Western Swing Heritage" was co-produced by Johnny Case and Roy Lee Brown. It is a tribute to Milton and Derwood Brown and the Musical Brownies band of the 1930's. Milton has been accepted by most as the originator of Western Swing Music.
In April 1989, Roy Lee Brown accepted a Plaque for the posthumous induction of Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies into the Texas Western Swing Music Hall of Fame in Austin, Texas. The inscription reads. "Milton Brown (1903-1936) and his Musical Brownies.
A giant in Western Swing. A true innovator and stylist of the music he would be remembered for He combined jazz piano, twin fiddles, and the amplified steel guitar for a sound not heard before. He was truly a genius in a field that was just being born. Milton and his Brownies laid the groundwork for Western Swing Music."
In October 1989, Roy Lee accepted an award inducting Milton Brown into the California Western Swing Music Hall of Fame in Sacramento, California.
"Western Swing Heritage" recreates the tunes the Brownies did many years ago, with the able assistance of the following line-up of some top modern-day musicians
ROY LEE BROWN-vocals (Musical Brownies)
RANDY ELMORE. and WES WESTMORELAND-twin fiddles, .mandolin
JOHNNY CASE-jazz piano
TOM MORRELL. steel guitar
BILLY LUTTRELL-rhythm guitar
LEON RAUSCH-bass/vocals (The Texas Playboys)
BOB VENABLE-drums (The Light Crust Doughboys)
Since the Brownie theme song was never recorded, the producers deemed it appropriate to open and close the program with the theme.
Special Thanks to Tom Holmes.
This album is dedicated to the ones who have gone before.