Bonnie and Jim Ed (top) with Maxine in the late 1950s
|Origin||Sparkman, Arkansas, United States|
|Genres||country, folk, gospel, traditional pop|
|Past members||Jim Ed Brown (deceased)|
Maxine Brown (deceased)
Bonnie Brown (deceased)
The Browns were an American country and folk music vocal trio best known for their 1959 Grammy-nominated hit, "The Three Bells". The group, composed of Jim Ed Brown and his sisters Maxine and Bonnie, had a close, smooth harmony characteristic of the Nashville sound, though their music also combined elements of folk and pop. They disbanded in 1967 and were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in March 2015.
James Edward, older sister Maxine, and younger sister Bonnie Brown sang individually in Pine Bluff, Arkansas until 1954, when Maxine and Jim Ed signed a record contract as a singing duo. They earned national recognition and a guest spot on Ernest Tubb's radio show for their self-penned song "Looking Back to See", which hit the top ten and stayed on the charts through the summer of 1954. The song would be a hit again nearly 20 years later for Buck Owens and Susan Raye in 1972.
They were joined in 1955 by then-recent high school graduate, 18-year-old Bonnie, and began performing on Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana. By the end of 1955, the trio was appearing on KWTO in Springfield, Missouri, and had another top ten hit with "Here Today and Gone Tomorrow", which got a boost by their appearances on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee, which Maxine Brown called "our real breakthrough." Jim Ed and Maxine had first appeared on the show as a duo in 1955. Producer Si Siman signed them with RCA Victor in 1956, and soon they had two major hits, "I Take the Chance" (a cover of a Louvin Brothers composition that showed the Browns' close harmony) and "I Heard the Bluebirds Sing". When Jim Ed was drafted in 1957, the group continued to record while he was on leave, and sister Norma filled in for him on tours, as did Billy Walker.
In 1959, The Browns scored their biggest hit when their folk-pop single "The Three Bells" reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop and country charts. The song also peaked at No. 10 on Billboard's Rhythm and Blues listing. Based on a song called "Les trois cloches", it was originally a hit in France for Édith Piaf. The recording sold over one million copies, and was nominated for both Record of the Year and the Best Group or Vocal Performance in the Grammy award categories in 1959. Their version of "Blue Christmas" reached No. 97 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in December 1960.
The Browns appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand, and followed up with "Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)" and "The Old Lamplighter", recordings that also did well on both the pop and country charts. With an international following, they toured Europe extensively and saw further moderate success on the country music charts. In 1963, they joined the Grand Ole Opry.
Jim Ed began recording as a solo artist for RCA Victor in 1965 and these efforts quickly began overshadowing the trio's recordings. Maxine sang lead vocal on the group's final singles released in 1968, "Big Daddy" and "I Will Bring You Water," with Jim Ed only supplying background vocals. The trio officially disbanded that year and Maxine signed with Chart Records in 1969, resulting in a small hit with "Sugar Cane County".
In the 1980s, The Browns began performing occasionally in concert for the first time in nearly 20 years. In 2006, the trio performed "The Old Lamplighter" and "The Three Bells" for the PBS special, Country Pop Legends.
On June 11, 2015, Jim Ed Brown died from lung cancer at age 81. On July 16, 2016, Bonnie Brown also died from lung cancer at the age of 77. Maxine Brown died on January 21, 2019 at the age of 87 from complications of heart and kidney disease.
The Browns were honored with the Arkansas Country Music Award for "Lifetime Achievement" on June 3, 2018 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
|1957||Jim Edward, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown||RCA Victor|
|1959||Sweet Sounds by the Browns|
|1960||Town & Country|
|The Browns Sing Their Hits|
|1961||Our Favorite Folk Songs|
|The Little Brown Church Hymnal|
|1963||Grand Ole Opry Favorites|
|1964||This Young Land|
|Three Shades of Brown|
|1965||I Heard the Bluebirds Sing|
|When Love Is Gone||18|
|1966||Alone with You|
|Our Kind of Country||25|
|The Best of The Browns|
|1967||The Old Country Church|
|Browns Sing the Big Ones from Country|
|1968||A Harvest of Country Songs||RCA Camden|
|1984||Rockin' Rollin' Browns||Bear Family|
|1985||20 of the Best||RCA Victor|
|1986||Looking Back to See||Bear Family|
|1993||The Three Bells|
|1996||Family Bible||Rock Bottom|
|2008||The Complete Hits||Collector's Choice|
|Year||Single (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
|US Country||US||CB Country||CB Pop|
|1954||"Looking Back To See"
b/w "Rio De Janeiro" (Non-album track)
|8||Jim Edward, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown|
|"Why Am I Falling"
b/w "Itsy Witsy Bitsy Me"
|1955||"Draggin' Main Street"
b/w "Your Love Is Wild As The West Wind" (Non-album track)
|Jim Edward, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown|
|"Do Memories Haunt You"
b/w "Jungle Magic"
|"Here Today and Gone Tomorrow"
b/w "You Thought I Thought"
|1956||"I Take The Chance"
b/w "Goo Goo Dada" (Non-album track)
|2||Three Shades Of Brown|
|"Just As Long As You Love Me"
b/w "Don't Tell Me Your Troubles"
|"A Man With A Plan"
b/w "Just-A-Lot-Of Sweet Talk"
b/w "It Takes A Long Long Train With A Red Caboose"
|"Getting Used To Being Lonely"
b/w "I'm In Heaven"
|"I Heard The Bluebirds Sing"
b/w "The Last Thing I Want" (Non-album track)
|4||20||Jim Edward, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown|
|"True Love Goes For Beyond"
b/w "The Man In The Moon"
b/w "Ain't No Way In The World"
|"Would You Care"
b/w "The Trot"
|1959||"Beyond The Shadow"
b/w "This Time I Would Know" (from I Heard The Bluebirds Sing)
|"The Three Bells"
b/w "Heaven Fell Last Night" (Non-album track)
|1||1||1||1||Sweet Sounds By The Browns|
|"Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)"
b/w "Blue Bells Ring" (Non-album track)
|7||13||5||17||Town & Country|
|1960||"The Old Lamplighter" /||20||5||12||8|
|"Lonely Little Robin" /||105||39||78||The Browns Sing Their Hits|
|"Margo (The Ninth of May)"||35||89|
|"Whiffenpoof Song" /||112||tag|
|"Brighten the Corner Where You Are"||114|
|"Send Me the Pillow You Dream On"
b/w "You're So Much A Part Of Me" (Non-album track)
|23||56||21||50||I Heard The Bluebirds Sing|
b/w "Greenwillow Christmas"
|1961||"Ground Hog" /||97||Our Favorite Folk Songs|
|"Angel's Dolly"||41||Non-album track|
|"My Baby's Gone"
b/w "Whispering Wine" (Non-album track)
|I Heard The Bluebirds Sing|
|"Alpha And Omega"
b/w "Foolish Pride"
|1962||"Buttons And Bows"
b/w "Remember Me"
|"The Old Master Painter"
b/w "It's Just A Little Heartache"
|1963||"The Twelfth Rose"
b/w "Watching My World Fall Apart"
b/w "Dear Teresa"
|42||49||I Heard The Bluebirds Sing|
|"Then I'll Stop Loving You"
b/w "I Know My Place" (Non-album track)
|12||20||The Best Of The Browns|
|"Everybody's Darlin', Plus Mine"
b/w "The Outskirts Of Town"
|1965||"I Feel Like Crying"
b/w "No Sad Songs For Me"
|"You Can't Grow Peaches From A Cherry Tree"A
b/w "A Little Too Much To Dream" (Non-album track)
|120||21||134||The Best Of The Browns|
b/w "One Take Away One"
|"I'd Just Be Fool Enough"
|16||29||Our Kind Of Country|
|"Coming Back To You"
b/w "Gigawackem" (from Our Kind Of Country)
|1967||"I Hear It Now"
b/w "He Will Set Your Fields On Fire" (from The Old Country Church)
|1968||"Big Daddy" /||52||55|
|"I Will Bring You Water"||64|