With his gospel-inflected vocals, full of melismatic swoops and sighs, and a penchant for speeded-up jump blues songs with strong sax lines, Roy Brown created the very template for early rock & roll in the late '40s and early '50s. His first single, an easy, natural reading of "Good Rockin' Tonight" on DeLuxe Records (which Wynonie Harris turned into a huge hit with a cover version) is arguably the first true rock & roll record, and although Brown influenced countless singers, including Little Richard, James Brown, Fats Domino, and many others, he is little known today. This fine collection includes "Good Rockin' Tonight" and its flip side, "Lollipop Mama," both issued by DeLuxe in 1947. DeLuxe was then purchased by Cincinnati-based King Records, which continued to issue sides from Brown under the DeLuxe imprint until 1952, when his records were released officially on King. Brown left for an unsuccessful stint with Imperial Records in 1955, returning to King in 1959 to record "Good Lookin' and Foxy Too," his last work for the Federal/King label family. Everything from the DeLuxe/King years is here, and it is wonderful and indispensable stuff, making this the perfect starter collection. Highlights include the loose-as-a-goose saxophone raver "Boogie at Midnight," "Cadillac Baby" (Chuck Berry, anyone?), the gorgeous "Sweet Peach," "Big Town," and the quasi-experimental "Mr. Hound Dog's in Town," a sweetly atmospheric rocker that jettisons the horn section for some nice jazz guitar work from Bill Jennings. Brown wrote nearly all of his material, and the nascent roots of rock & roll are clearly outlined in his songs. That he is so little known to the public at large is a complete shame. The Rhino collection Good Rockin' Tonight is another nice place to start to get a taste of this marvelous musician, but The Very Best of Roy Brown has half a dozen more tracks, and although Brown recorded for other labels after he left King, his certainty seemed to suffer, and the absolutely essential stuff is here.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett