Bonnie Brown, the youngest of the three siblings that made up the group The Browns, died earlier today from complications of lung cancer. She was 77.
Bonnie is the second of the group to pass in the last fourteen months. Her brother, Jim Ed Brown, also died due to lung cancer on June 11, 2015.
Bonnie was born in Sparkman, AK with her family later moving to Pine Bluff. Each of the three siblings, Maxine, Jim Ed and Bonnie, performed individually around the town until 1954 when the two older members signed a recording deal with Fabor Records. Their first single, Looking Back to See, became a national hit going to number 8 on the Country charts. The next year, after graduating from high school, Bonnie joined the group and the trio became regulars on the Louisiana Hayride. Another hit in 1955, Here Today and Gone Tomorrow brought the group to the attention of RCA Records who signed them in 1956. Once again, they hit with their first single for the label, I’ll Take a Chance (1956 / #2 Country) and followed the next year with I Heard the Bluebirds Sing (1957 / #4 Country).
For the next two years the group were on hiatus as Jim Ed served in the military but, after his release in 1959, their career took a big turn when they recorded the French song Les triois cloches, now known as The Three Bells. The song not only topped the Country Singles but crossed over and became a number 1 single on the Hot 100 and a number 10 hit in R&B. They continued their hit streak with two more traditional songs, Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair) (1959 / #13 Pop / #7 Country) and The Old Lamplighter (1960 / #5 Pop / #20 Country).
After 1960, the Browns’ hits dried up with only one more top twenty country hit before the middle of the decade. In 1965, Jim Ed broke out on his own as a solo artist even though he also continued to record with his sisters but, in 1968, the group officially broke up.
Bonnie did not continue in music, choosing instead to raise her family although she did reunite with her brother and sister in the 80’s and in 2006 for a PBS special.
Bonnie announced that she was suffering from stage 4 lung cancer in September of last year. The Browns were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame the next month.
Brown is survived by her two daughters, five grandchildren and her sister Maxine.
Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum said:
When Bonnie Brown joined her brother, Jim Ed, and her sister, Maxine, in song, the siblings created an incomparable harmony: the smoothest and most elegant blend in country music. Bonnie offered harmony offstage as well. She brought people together with regal grace and kindness. She lived a remarkable life, singing on grand stages, raising a beloved family, entering the Country Music Hall of Fame, and breaking up with young Elvis Presley because he was, she said, a lousy kisser. Today, she is reunited with Jim Ed, and with her husband of 56 years, Brownie Ring.
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