Family Brown | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Family Brown

Family Brown. Ottawa Valley country music group, active 1967-90 and latterly the most successful act of its kind in Canada.

Family Brown

Family Brown. Ottawa Valley country music group, active 1967-90 and latterly the most successful act of its kind in Canada. It was formed by 'Papa Joe' (Joseph William) Brown (b Amherst, NS, 30 Aug 1925, d Chesley, Ont, 30 May 1986), previously a member of the Hillbilly Jewels (heard in Nova Scotia and, in the early 1950s, on radio station CHML in Hamilton, Ont) and 1955-66 of the Happy Wanderers (heard on CFRA in Ottawa).

Founding members of the Family Brown were 'Papa Joe' (vocals, bass guitar) and his children Barry (vocals, guitar), Lawanda and Tracey (vocals), with the guitarist Dave Dennison and the drummer Ron Sparling. The last also served as the group's manager throughout its 23-year history. In 1985, when the younger Browns had long since moved to centrestage and the band's identity was firmly established in their strong harmonies and in Barry's songwriting, the secondary members were re-organized and came to include Tracey's husband, the multi instrumentalist (bass guitar, harmonica, etc) Randall Prescott. Prescott subsequently became a full member of the group and, as its record producer, brought to its music a decidedly polished, contemporary flavor.

The Family Brown made its early appearances in the Ottawa Valley, and by 1970 had begun to tour across Canada, performing in clubs, at fairs, and in concert. It was seen 1972-85 on a nationally-syndicated TV series (initially 'Call It Country,' then 'Country Way,' and 'Family Brown Country') and 1989-90 with Ronnie Prophet on 'Ronnie 'n' the Browns'. Both shows originated from CJOH-TV, Ottawa.

The Browns' first hit record, 'R.R. #2' (for MCA) in 1971, was followed 1972-90 by more than 40 popular titles issued by RCA, including the 'Top 10' Canadian hits 'Family Love,' 'Kids in the Kitchen,' 'Light at the End of the Hall,' 'Jukebox Lover,' 'You're the Light,' 'Love Is a Contact Sport,' 'Love Was on Our Side,' 'But It's Cheating,' 'It's Really Love This Time,' 'Some Never Stand a Chance,' 'We Really Got a Hold on Love,' 'Repeat After Me,' 'Til I Find My Love,' 'Town of Tears,' 'Pioneers,' and 'How Many Times'. Some songs - eg, 'It's Really Love This Time' in 1981, 'But It's Cheating' in 1982, and 'Repeat After Me' in 1984 - were modest hits in the USA and brought the Family Brown club and TV appearances there - eg, on 'Hee Haw' in 1982. The group also performed in Europe during the early 1980s. It gave its final performance in September 1990 at the Kanata [Ont] Kountry Fair.

The Family Brown received the 1985 Juno Award as country group of the year, and won some 17 Big Country Awards 1976-90, including those for top group (annually 1976-81, and again in 1985, 1987, 1989, and 1990), and for single of the year ('Stay with Me,' 1979) and album of the year (Familiar Faces, Familiar Places, 1979; Feel the Fire, 1986; These Days, 1989). Individual Big Country Awards went to Barry Brown for outstanding male performance in 1977 and as composer of the year in 1980 and 1985.

The Family Brown also received CCMA awards for group of the year 1982-4 and 1986-9, for entertainer of the year in 1982 and 1983, for the albums Raised on Country Music (1982, 1983), Repeat After Me (1984) and Feel the Fire (1986), for both song and single of the year ('Some Never Stand a Chance,' 1982; 'Raised on Country Music,' 1983; 'Town of Tears,' 1989), and for song of the year ('Pioneers') in 1990. Randall Prescott received CCMA citations 1988-90 and Big Country Awards in 1989 and 1990 for record production.

'Papa Joe' Brown was inducted posthumously into the CCMA Hall of Honor in 1986 and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989. Sparling was inducted into the Hall of Honor in 1990. A street in the Ottawa suburb of Nepean was named Family Brown Lane in 1989.

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