Blues Singer Nappy Brown Dies in Charlotte at 78

Nappy Brown
Nappy Brown
Renowned blues singer Nappy Brown died Saturday night at 10:30 pm after a lengthy hospitalization. He was 78. The funeral service will be held September 27 at 1:30 p.m. at St. Paul Baptist Church on 1401 Allen St. in Charlotte, North Carolina. Visitation is at 1 p.m.

Nappy Brown (Napoleon Brown Culp) was one of the last remaining classic R&B vocalists and blues shouters. He was featured on the cover and in the lead article in a recent issue of Living Blues magazine. The seven page article chronicles Brown’s life from his birth in 1929 in Charlotte, North Carolina as well as his highly successful singing career which began with a series of hit recordings in the mid 1950s.

During his heyday, in the mid to late 50s, Nappy was a prolific recording artist for Savoy Records and a much-in-demand stage performer, often playing every night and touring all over the country. During that period he traveled and performed with Jackie Wilson, Ray Charles, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Richard, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, and T-Bone Walker. He provided ground-breaking hit songs for other artists, one of his biggest being "Night Time Is The Right Time" which was recorded and made famous by Ray Charles in 1958.

In the early 1960s, Nappy continued to record and tour, but eventually ended his association with Savoy Records. Except for a lone album done in 1969 on Elephant Records, Nappy remained unrecorded for years. He moved to a small town outside of Columbia, South Carolina, where he concentrated his singing efforts towards gospel during the 1970s and early 1980s. But renewed interest in his R&B recordings abroad and the re-release of a number of his early songs on albums in Europe resulted in a highly successful Scandinavian tour in 1983.

Landslide Records decided it was time to bring back Nappy Brown. After contracts were signed, Nappy went to Atlanta to record during the summer of 1984. The result, Tore Up, was a collection of diverse songs that showed Nappy’s incredibly powerful voice to still be in excellent form. The band backing Nappy on Tore Up was none other than the Heartfixers, featuring future guitar star Tinsley Ellis. Brown’s voice, a true instrument in its own right, blended so well with the band it’s hard to believe that Nappy hadn’t recorded for over 14 years.

Since his comeback in the 1980s, Nappy Brown released a series of albums for Alligator, Ichiban, Black Top, and New Moon Music and appeared as a guest on recordings by Bob Margolin and Bob Corritore.

Nappy Brown was active as a performer until the end, performing until his illness was too much. His last CD, Long Time Coming, was recorded with a group of younger musicians with an abiding knowledge of and respect for Nappy’s music and the era of its greatest success. Guitarists Sean Costello and Junior Watson, among others, provided superb backing for Nappy on Long Time Coming, his first studio recording in many years, which was released by renowned blues label Blind Pig Records on September 25, 2007. Said an exultant Nappy at the end of the recording sessions, "This is the best record I have done since 1955."

His last performance was in May at the 2008 Blues Music Awards.


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