Check out these new and used Brownie McGhee vinyl records LPs for sale. Brownie McGhee was born in Tennessee in 1915. He contracted Polio when he was four years old which affected his right leg. Brownie spent much of his youth making music singing with a local vocal group while he taught himself to play guitar. A surgery paid for by the March of Dimes allowed him to walk again. He became a traveling musician at age 22 and became good friends with Blind Boy Fuller. In fact, after Fuller died at an early age, Columbia Records promoted Brownie as Blind Boy Fuller #2. His real success came after moving to New York City in 1942 and teaming up with Sonny Terry. The two of them ended up recording and touring together until 1980. Brownie started acting later in life, and his most notable appearance was in the Steve Martin movie The Jerk. McGhee died of stomach cancer in 1996 at the age of 80. We recommend starting your Brownie McGhee vinyl collection with Around My Head (with Sonny Terry) from 1962. Our inventory is constantly changing, so check back often, or browse our list of vinyl from blues musicians.
Brownie McGhee: Blues Ambassador and Piedmont Guitar Virtuoso
Brownie McGhee, born Walter Brown McGhee on November 30, 1915, in Knoxville, Tennessee, was a pivotal figure in the world of blues music. Renowned for his expressive and virtuosic guitar playing, he left an indelible mark on the blues landscape. With a career spanning over five decades, Brownie McGhee’s contribution to blues and folk music continues to inspire and influence musicians and fans alike.
Early Life and Musical Beginnings
Brownie McGhee’s early life was marked by his love for music. He was exposed to the rich musical traditions of the South and was influenced by the blues and gospel music he heard in his community. McGhee’s brother, Granville “Sticks” McGhee, was also a musician, and the two played together in their early years.
The Piedmont Blues Style
Brownie McGhee became a master of the Piedmont blues style, characterized by its intricate fingerpicking patterns, alternating bass lines, and a syncopated, ragtime-influenced guitar style. He was a virtuoso on the guitar, known for his dexterity and complex fingerpicking.
Recording Career and Success
In the 1940s, Brownie McGhee began his recording career, which would become prolific. He recorded for labels such as Columbia, Okeh, and Savoy, and his music was characterized by its engaging and melodic style, which appealed to a broad audience. His recordings often featured him as a solo artist, showcasing his guitar work and soulful vocals.
Collaboration with Sonny Terry
One of the most influential partnerships in the blues and folk music world was that of Brownie McGhee and harmonica virtuoso Sonny Terry. Their collaboration created a dynamic and exciting sound that became a hallmark of folk-blues music. Their harmonica and guitar work complemented each other, and their live performances were electrifying.
Civil Rights and Social Commentary
Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry used their music to address social and political issues. They were vocal supporters of the Civil Rights Movement and used their songs to raise awareness about the struggles of African Americans. Their music often touched on themes of social justice, inequality, and the challenges faced by marginalized communities.
Influence on Folk and Blues Revival
Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry played a pivotal role in the folk and blues revival of the 1950s and 1960s. They introduced traditional acoustic blues to new audiences and helped popularize the genre among a younger generation. Their music influenced folk and blues artists who emerged during this period, including Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk.
Personal Struggles and Resilience
Throughout his life, Brownie McGhee faced personal challenges, including health issues. However, he continued to perform and record, demonstrating his unwavering commitment to his music.
Late Career and Passing
Brownie McGhee’s career extended into the late 20th century. He continued to tour and record, earning accolades and recognition for his contributions to music. He passed away on February 16, 1996, in Oakland, California. His death marked the loss of a true blues legend.
Legacy and Influence
Brownie McGhee’s legacy as a Piedmont guitar virtuoso and blues ambassador endures in his recordings, his influential collaborations with Sonny Terry, and his role in popularizing traditional acoustic blues. His complex fingerpicking patterns and soulful vocals continue to serve as an inspiration to musicians who appreciate the depth and complexity of the blues.
Brownie McGhee’s impact on the blues and folk music genres, his virtuoso guitar playing, and his powerful stage presence left an indelible mark on the world of music. His contributions to the blues and his collaboration with Sonny Terry continue to resonate with music enthusiasts and artists who appreciate the enduring power of acoustic blues and folk-blues music. Brownie McGhee remains a true luminary of the blues, celebrated for his exceptional talent and his role in shaping the landscape of American music.