The fourth of April, 2019, marks a historic occasion, for on this day eighty-five year prior, Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies made their debut recordings, and they surely did so with a bang.
Milton Brown first cut a record in Dallas, Texas on February 9, 1932, while still a member of “Pappy” O’Daniel’s original Light Crust Doughboys. He left that band not long afterward, and started his own, the Musical Brownies, which would gain him considerable renown. When the Victor record company returned to Texas in April of 1934, Brown and his Brownies traveled to San Antonio for a session at the Texas Hotel. The Brownies’ musical excellence was demonstrated by their first track, “Brownie’s Stomp”, played masterfully and hotter than anything, and laid down in one take without a hitch. Thereafter, they submitted a total of seven additional sides to hot wax, including the classics “Four, Five or Six Times” and “Garbage Man Blues”. The following August, they returned to San Antone and recorded once again for RCA Victor, immortalizing a further ten performances, including blues songs like Memphis Minnie’s “Talking About You” and the Mississippi Sheiks’ “Just Sitting On Top of the World”, pop songs like “Girl of My Dreams” and “Loveless Love”, the old-time number “Get Along, Cindy”, and the waltz “Trinity Waltz”. That session concluded the Brownies engagement with the Victor company; in 1935, they made a longer journey to Chicago, to begin a longer and more fruitful contract with Decca, which lasted until 1937, holding one final session after Milton Brown’s untimely demise the previous year.
Bluebird B-5775 was recorded at the Texas Hotel in San Antonio, Texas on April 4, 1934, the first two sides from Brown’s first session with his Musical Brownies. The Musical Brownies consist of Cecil Brower on fiddle, Derwood Brown on guitar, Ocie Stockard on tenor banjo, Wanna Coffman on string bass, and “Papa” Fred Calhoun on piano. Both are instrumental numbers, so Milton sits them out aside from an occasional holler or shout.
The Brownies’ “Joe Turner Blues”—a different melody than the 1915 W.C. Handy composition, apparently attributed (though both names are misspelled on the label) to the Brownie’s fiddler Cecil Brower and Milton Brown himself—is a superbly orchestrated blues instrumental, beautifully demonstrating their musical talent. This “Joe Turner Blues” became a standard of Texas string band repertoires and was later recorded in 1937 by the Hi-Flyers and in 1940 by Adolph Hofner and his Texans.
“Brownie’s Stomp” on the other side—their first side recorded—is a real show piece, with hot solos by every Brownie.