Michael Brown, keyboard player and songwriter for the Left Banke and the 70’s band Stories, died on Thursday from heart failure at the age of 65.
Brown, George Cameron, Tom Finn, Warren David-Schierhorst and Steve Martin formed the Left Banke in 1965. Michael’s father, violinist Harry Lookofsky, became their producer, manager and publisher and recorded demos for the band in his studio.
A song written by Brown, Walk Away Renee, was picked up by Smash Records in 1966 and became the group’s breakthrough hit, going to number 5 on the Billboard and 2 on the Cash Box charts. They followed with another Brown song, Pretty Ballerina, which did slightly worse, peaking at 15 on Billboard and 12 on Cashbox. Both songs became part of the band’s first album released in February 1967.
Soon after, Brown entered the studio to record his song Ivy, Ivy, using the name the Left Banke but using session musicians, including actor Michael McKean, and brought in Bert Sommer to handle lead vocals. The rest of the band ended up hiring an attorney to stop Brown from using the name and the single flopped.
The band recorded one last single together, Desiree (1967 / #99) before Brown quit and the remaining members continued recording and touring until their breakup in 1969 although Brown and Martin went back in the studio late that year to record a final Left Banke single for Smash and Cameron and Finn joined them in the studio to record two songs for the movie Hot Parts.
Outside of the Left Banke, Brown was instrumental in a number of other groups including the band Montage, with which he recorded one album.
In 1970, Brown was introduced to Ian Lloyd and the two set to putting together a band that would play more sophisticated rock ala the Beatles. They added Steve Love and Bryan Madey to form Stories and, eventually, signed with Kama Sutra Records where they released their first self titled album in 1972. A single from the album, I’m Coming Home, got some regional support and went to number 42 nationally.
The next year, the group released About Us but, right after its release, Brown left the group before Kama Sutra decided to add the band’s cover of Hot Chocolate’s Brother Louie to the album which went on to become a number one single.
Brown later went on to form The Beckies.
He is survived by his wife, Yvonne and twin 17-year-old sons.