Ada Brown

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The artist credited with singing on what is considered the first recording of Kansas City jazz, "Evil Mama Blues" with the Bennie Moten band, was not one of the stockyard city's famed "blues shouters."…
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The artist credited with singing on what is considered the first recording of Kansas City jazz, "Evil Mama Blues" with the Bennie Moten band, was not one of the stockyard city's famed "blues shouters." Classified in the classic blues class, Ada Brown was an example of singers from this genre who had both the training and chops to sing on musical theater stages. This she did, beginning in the '30s, her second decade in the music business. She came from a Kansas City, KS, family in which musical creativity was strongly encouraged. Most notably there was her cousin, the noted ragtime composer and performer James Scott. She already had quite a few national and international tours under her soles when she worked with the Moten band in early '20s, including tours with the historic recording artist George E. Lee.

Through much of the '20s she worked on vaudeville stages, but much greater opportunities developed in the following decade. An original founder of the Negro Actors Guild of America in 1936, she performed at the London Palladium in the late '30s and became active in many Broadway shows in New York City. In 1943, Brown was featured with Fats Waller in the film Stormy Weather. This was followed by a part in the hit revue Harlem to Hollywood. Through much of these activities she would be accompanied by pianist Harry Swannagan. In the mid-'40s, however, Brown went home and retired.