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Browning Bryant (Biography)

Page history last edited by Nicolas Martin 2 years ago
John Baxter Browning Bryant (January 24, 1957 - November 16, 2019) was a singer-songwriter whose greatest commercial popularity was before and during his early teens.
 

Browning BryantKnown professionally as Browning Bryant, he was the only progeny of Maude Lavinia Ballew Bryant and Ray Kenneth Bryant and lived most of his life in Pickens, South Carolina, where his father owned a sporting goods store.(1) Coming from a musical family, his early interest was piqued by a guitar he received from his uncle at age 3. "I couldn't play it but I always remember holding it," he once told a reporter. He eventually began to play guitar at age 7. During the next few years he was entertaining at social events in nearby towns. He gained national attention when he was 10, with the first of 6 performances on Arthur Godfrey's CBS radio show, after being seen by a representative of the William Morris agency on a local Charlotte, North Carolina TV program.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFmDZt-Ww4g

 

With his first album, Patches, he attained success singing Nashville-style pop that was uncharacteristically mature and introspective for a pre-teen heartthrob. From that album, came the bestselling song of his career, Games that Grown Up Children Play, leading to many televised appearances, including on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Kraft Music Hall (10 times), and The Tonight Show (Christmas Eve, 1970). He also appeared on popular daytime TV venues, The Merv Griffin Show and The Mike Douglas Show, including a week as Douglas' co-host. His performance touring included three weeks with headliner Wayne Newton and two weeks with comedian Alan King in Las Vegas. He was nominated "Best boy singer" in a reader poll by 16 Magazine, then a favorite with teenagers. Eddy Arnold, who championed Bryant, said that he had "the finest voice that I have ever heard on a young man in a long time." His second album, One Time In a Million, (1970) mostly dispensed with country in favor of a pop appeal designed to win favor with a Vegas-type audience. Both albums were primarily produced by Alex Zanetis, whose songs have been recorded by a Who's Who of country music. Zanetis called Bryant "an explosive talent."

 

In 1974, already a striking six foot-five, Bryant charted a surprising new musical course. This time he recorded with another renowned producer, New Orleans hit-maker Allen Toussaint. The result, the eponymous Browning Bryant is one of the most durably pleasing R&B albums of the 1970s. Though he was 15 and then 16 when the album was recorded, his mellifluous vocals are remarkably seasoned and emotionally intense, the boyish soprano voice having evanesced. His three self-penned songs also belie his age, with one, Cure My Blues, being covered by singer Ellen Mcilwaine (Her version is described as "majestic" by All Music Guide.). Despite recording in a style drastically different than his earlier work, it turned out that Bryant was well-paired with Toussaint's trademark syncopated funk. Browning Bryant ranks as one of the best albums that Toussaint has produced in his illustrious career (2). It also has the distinction of being the first album recorded at Toussaint's historic Sea-Saint studio.

 

In an interview published in 2014, Toussaint said the following about a production of his that music buyers might have overlooked:

 

Well, many years ago there was an album with a young white guy called Browning Bryant. A young white guy from South Carolina. A good looking young chap who played just enough guitar to support his singing. I remember feeling very good about the album but it didn’t do very much at all. I didn’t give very much thought back then to what should happen as I was always on to the next project. But thinking back that was a good one.

 

Browning BryantAfter his early triumphs, Bryant sojourned to North Carolina and Georgia, but eventually returned to his home town, where he continued to write songs and record. He is survived by his parents.

 

Browning Bryant Discography

Lyrics by Browning Bryant

Browning Bryant Articles and Pictures Index

 

Notes:

1. Though his parents then lived in Pickens, he was born at St. Francis Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina, which is why some sources list that town as his birthplace.

2. Allen Toussaint produced music by many artists, including Labelle (Lady Marmalade), Dr. John (Right Place, Wrong Time) , Jess Roden (Under Suspicion), Lee Dorsey (Working in a Coal Mine), Jesse Hill (Ooh, Poo, Pah, Doo), and Ernie K-Doe (Mother-in-Law), His compositions have been recorded by scores of musicians, including The Rolling Stones (Fortune Teller), Robert Palmer (Night People), Bonnie Raitt (What Do You Want the Boy to Do), Glen Campbell (Southern Nights), Herb Alpert (Java), and Three Dog Night (Brickyard Blues). In 2012, Toussaint was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

 

Links:

1. Browning Bryant Facebook fan page.

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