Some of the most delightful singing I have ever heard on this planet came from the harmonious voices of Jim Ed Brown and his sisters, Maxine and Bonnie, who were simply known as “The Browns.” The Browns were rightfully inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame just a few weeks ago; they deserved their place much sooner. Of course, Jim Ed had his own very successful solo career. You either know all about him and his music or you can find out more on your own. You can also click on this link: here
This is about the passing of a true Southern gentleman of the likes we’ll hardly see again. Jim Ed died yesterday, after a battle with cancer, which I’m sure he fought with every bit of the grace that accompanied him everywhere he went. If there’s anything I’m certain of, it is the certainty that that same grace, and its source, are accompanying him now. Grace is a hard thing to beat. If you could collect it and put it in a container, it’d sell for thousands of dollars a gram. The only thing more valuable is blood. Jim Ed was covered in one and filled with the other. You can ponder that if you’d like. God bless him and his family.
I had the great privilege of meeting him once.
About 2003 or thereabouts, Raymond Huffmaster and I had taken a trip to Nashville on a bit of business. He had his and I had mine, but we had decided to go together and enjoy the trip since some of our business overlapped. Overlapping business or not, Raymond and I would enjoy the trip there and back as much as the destination, since we like each others company.
We both needed to go see Mark Taylor, at Crafters of Tennesse. Mark is a first-class luthier and the son of the late dobroist Tut Taylor. We planned our trip around an open-house Mark had announced at his place of business. We arrived, visited with Mark, took care of our business ahead of the hour planned for the open-house festivities, but hung around because there would be plenty of picking and grinning with some of Nashville’s finest, along with the great Tut himself. I had to run another errand though, and Raymond advised me to leave him there and for me to hustle on back as soon as I got my other business done, which I did. Music had already started in a Country-Store set that Mark had built as a showroom, and I didn’t want to miss one more opportunity to play with the elderly Tut, who was still on his game and seemed to enjoy my singing. Of course, Tut liking my singing made me think the legendary player was all the more legendary.
Upon my return from my errand, I rushed into the showroom and there were about fifteen or twenty so folks, a third of them holding instruments, and the rest listeners (at the moment!). But at that moment, they were all listening, because Jim Ed Brown stood there telling a story while holding a beautiful custom guitar he had had Mark build for him.
I did not want to interrupt Jim Ed Brown in the middle of a story, so I quietly stood near the door, waiting for him to finish so I could find a spot to sit and listen to the music for a while. Jim Ed cut his eyes over at me and smiled. I nodded and smiled back. He went on with his story, but looked several more times over at me, seeming to become more distracted. He stopped in the middle of his story and said to his friends, “Please pardon me for a moment.”
He put down the guitar and walked straight over the few feet to me, the kindest smile on his face. “Pardon me, sir, but I don’t believe we have met. I’m Ed Brown.” With that, he stuck out his hand.
I shook his hand and said, “Hello, Mr. Brown. I’m Chris Sharp.” Of course I smiled since I grin all the time.
“Hello, Mr. Sharp. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.” And with that, he went right back to his story. Afterward, we all sang a few gospel tunes, and enjoyed visiting. He then bid his farewells and departed, again shaking my hand and calling me by name.
He thought it was discourteous for someone to enter a room and to not acknowledge them. He thought it was even more discourteous to be in an intimate setting and to not know, at least by introduction, everyone in the setting. He could just as easily waited until he had finished his story, which was only a minute or two, or just as easily let the initial smile and nod serve as the initial acknowledgment and the permanent acknowledgment. Neither of those were suitable. They were not in his playbook of proper etiquette and common courtesy.
I never forgot that. It was a humbling experience for a Country music legend to deem it important that he introduce himself, formally and at inconvenience to himself in order that he not show a discourtesy to someone he didn’t know. We could use a whole lot more of that type of chivalry, but I fear that a significant portion of the little bit that remained on this earth passed away with the great Jim Ed Brown on June 11, 2015.
He and his rare and diminishing class of courteous gentleman will be sorely missed.
©2015 Mississippi Chris Sharp