This interview was published January 29, 2015, and we are re-publishing it as a feature article in memory and in honor of Jim Ed Brown, who died Thursday, June 11, 2015, age 81. Rest In Peace Jim Ed Brown.
Jim Ed Brown Interview
His Return to the Opry, the New Album “Back In Style,” and His Fight with Cancer
Jim Ed Brown (#JimEdBrown) is worth his weight in pure country gold. He is one of the last surviving members of the era that built country music, and his voice is like butter on a fresh biscuit straight out of your grandmother’s kitchen.
And in 2015 Jim is celebrating his 51 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He has been a professional performer since the 1950s as a member of The Browns, a trio that included his sisters Maxine and Bonnie. They had a string of top ten hits, most notably the classic entitled “The Three Bells,” which was a number one smash.
As a solo artist Jim racked up a slew of hits such as the timeless “Pop A Top,” “Morning,” and “Sometime Sunshine”; and as a duo with Helen Cornelius, the noted songs, “I Don’t Want To Have To Marry You” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.”
Recently, Jim has been battling cancer. He is a strong fighter. Even in my interview with him, his enduring spirit and morale was evident. And he’ll be making his comeback in style this weekend in Nashville at “his second home,” as he calls the Grand Ole Opry. According to his press release, if you’re not anywhere near Nashville you can catch it live online:
Living legend JIM ED BROWN returns to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry on Friday, January 30 and Saturday, January 31, following a four-month absence for treatment of lung cancer. Brown will appear both nights during the 8:45 p.m. CT segment, and will sign copies of his new CD, IN STYLE AGAIN, at the Opry Store on Saturday from 9:15-10 p.m. Fans can listen to the performances live as they stream on WSMonline.com.
Brown was given an “all clear” by his doctors on January 19. “I am in remission,” he stated. “There are not enough thanks for the prayers, well wishes, and support I’ve received during the toughest time of my life. I am so grateful.”
I was thrilled to be able to share some time with him and discuss his new album “In Style Again.” The title has a great ring to it, but as far as I and many others are concerned, Jim Ed Brown never went out of style.
Every cut on the album is killer; it’s my new constant companion at the gym and on bike rides. He has very special guests on this album, including The Browns on “When The Sun Says Hello To The Mountain,” Vince Gill on “Tried and True,” The Whites on “You Again,” and Helen Cornelius on the revamp of the classic “Don’t Let Me Cross Over.”
This album will win a Grammy this year. If it doesn’t, to say that it would be a shame would be the understatement of 2015. He has kept his touch and he has been a trailblazer for generations to come in the art of country music. I often wonder who is going to fill Jim Ed Brown’s shoes, and the answer is no one. He is one-of-a-kind.
I’m not the only who feels this way, as strong reviews have poured in for his comeback album:
USA TODAY (Brian Mansfield)
Jim Ed Brown sounds as smooth, as charming as ever on ‘In Style Again,’ an album that reflects on every facet of a long and varied musical career. Makes me wish he’d gotten into the studio more over the years, because it’s crystal clear nobody else sounds quite like he does.
BILLBOARD (Chuck Dauphin)
Some things never change, nor should they. The vocal style of Jim Ed Brown is one of those things. In Style Again showcases that rich and warm voice in such a way that would make Chet Atkins and Jim Reeves proud!
AXS.COM (Allen Foster)
Jim Ed Brown’s voice is as warm and comforting as sitting in front of a gently crackling fire. There’s a rich history in every single note that rises from his exquisitely seasoned vocal cords. His music is a poignant nostalgia that can bring even the most hardened soul to the brink of tears.
THE NASHVILLE BRIDGE (Brad Hardisty)
IN STYLE AGAIN spotlights Jim Ed Brown at the top of his game with pristine production that rivals latter day works by Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Charlie Louvin and Ray Price.
MUSIC NEWS LOS ANGELES (Rick Moore)
This recording will no doubt be one of the year’s most memorable albums of any genre.
The new album, on Plowboy Records, is available for purchase through Ernest Tubb Record Shop, Amazon, iTunes and other retailers, and fans eager to immerse themselves in Jim Ed’s story can hear candid reflections on the artist’s career on YouTube.
Tell us about the new album “In Style Again.” I understand you have some very special guests?
What a great thrill it was to be able to do that album after all these years. But, yes, I do have some special guests like Vince Gill. Vince Gill came in and sang harmony with me on a song and The Whites, they came in, Helen Cornelius, golly yeah, it was fantastic. You know what? After 30 years or after how many years it was since the recording of my last album, it is really a thrill to get to go into the studio and get to do another album, and this came out so good I think. I also had my sisters come in and do one with me. Isn’t that great?
When do you think they will make a movie about The Brown Family and their country music legacy?
[laughs] I don’t know who would play me, much less Maxine.
How do you feel about celebrating 51 years as a member of The Grand Ole Opry?
I feel very honored in the first place and thrilled that I have been there this long and that they have
let me stay there this long you know. They still let me come out there and they want me to come out there and, in fact, I just did a little thing last week and Pete Fisher said, you know what, Jim Ed, I think your singing is good enough to come back to the Opry. I said, “Well, Pete, give me another week or two and I think I will be better.” What a thrill that is, that is kind of a second home to me. And we all have our homes where our families are and wives and everything. It is great where you have a place where you can go and mingle with your peers and chat with them and talk with them and stay in touch with them. Because you can get out of touch pretty easy.
Could you give us a story about Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens?
You know what, there is so many things I could say about Little Jimmy. He was such a good friend. You know he may be a little man, but he’s a big man in my eyes, and the whole world, I think, because there is so many accolades I could say, so many superlatives, there is so much I could say about him. When it is all said and done he was a great little man, you know, he loved everybody. Many times he and I would sit backstage there at the Opry and watch the young people go onstage and watch some of the older people go onstage, and he was like me: I loved the new ones and I love the old ones; of course, I love the old because I love the old songs that were out from years ago, and on my radio show I talk about that. We love to see some of the new ones come along to, you know, in order to perpetuate the Grand Ole Opry, as well as country music, you gotta have new, so he loved that, and me and him would discuss some of these newcomers that come along from time to time. He was truly a great person and just a really great friend.
So you are still doing your radio show?
Well, I will be, just as soon as I get over this cancer. It kind of held me back, it has shortened my breath where I can’t talk very long. I love that radio show because it gives me the opportunity to play some of the older songs and tell some stories I know about the songs as well as the artists themselves. It is a lot of fun. They are waiting for me to come back.
How is your battle with cancer going?
I am finished with chemo. I still have about two-and-a-half to three weeks left of radiation, I hope not three. I have to go back in for radiation to make sure the cancer is gone. Hopefully I am through the worst part of it.
I am definitely keeping you in my thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery.
You know, Josh, I have gotten get well cards and well wishes and all of them must be a foot and a half high. It is really something. You have got to get sick to know you have got all of these friends, ’cause I didn’t know I had all of those friends out there. Boy, I tell you what, it is really great to know they are praying for me, and I thank God, it is what helped keep me up and keep me going through all of this.
Our site deals with a lot of religious and spiritual topics, and in every interview we usually ask a question related to spirituality. Do you consider yourself a religious or spiritual person?
Yes I do, I am a Baptist. I do love the Lord. Whenever I got this cancer I turned it all over to Him. Lord, I said, it is not for me to do. It is for You to take care of and He has done that. I have all confidence in Him, and I believe very strongly in my God upstairs.
One rumor I wanted to address. Is it true you have got a callus in your mouth from performing “Pop A Top?”
I do the pop part in the song an awful lot myself, but then I have other people in my band that do it for me to because after awhile you get tired of doing it all of the time. A callus? I don’t know if I have got a callus in there or not. You know what, I will have to feel it to see if I do. I think I may have said that one time, but no I don’t so far.
To send letters, thoughts, and prayers please send all mail to:
The Grand Ole Opry
Attn: Jim Ed Brown
2804 Opryland Drive
Nashville, TN 37214