One of the premier shouters of the jump blues era, Brown has been called ‘the first singer of soul’ (in John Broven’s Walking to New Orleans), ‘one of the great blues lyricists of all time’ (in Jeff Hannusch’s I Hear You Knockin’), and the artist responsible for the breakthrough of New Orleans rhythm & blues. An acknowledged and obvious influence on Bobby Bland, B.B. King, Junior Parker, Little Milton, James Brown, Little Richard, and Jackie Wilson in the blues and R&B fields, Brown also had followers on the rock ‘n’ roll side by the names of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. He was a trendsetter both in his use of fervent gospel-styled singing in black secular music and in the infectious rhythms that helped pave the way for rock ‘n’ roll in songs such as ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’  (written and recorded by Brown but a bigger hit for Wynonie Harris) and ‘Rockin’ at Midnight’.  Though never again as commercially successful as he was in 1948-51, when he had 15 records on the charts, Brown continued to perform and record now and again in later years, still boasting the magnificent voice that enthralled and inspired listeners when he was ‘the mighty, mighty man’ of rhythm & blues. Despite his accomplishments as a rock pioneer, he was somehow largely bypassed during the 1950s rock ‘n’ roll boom when his followers were headlining shows around the country. Brown died in Lake View Terrace, California, near San Fernando, on May 25, 1981. A New Orleans native who also lived in Eunice, Louisiana, and Houston before he moved to Los Angeles, Brown was born on Sept. 10, 1920, according to official documents revealed after his death. (His bios usually cited a 1925 birth date.)

– Jim O’Neal (Revised from O’Neal’s entry in the first edition of The All Music Guide.)