R.I.P. Texas Johnny Brown: Smoothest Houston Bluesman Dies at 85
Hearts are heavy in the Houston blues community tonight as word spreads that 85-year-old Texas Johnny Brown, one of the classiest acts on the scene and the author of Bobby Bland's epic "Two Steps From the Blues," has passed. Brown's son Shawn had been handling his father's care, and he tweeted news of Brown's passing to members of the Blues Society around 7 p.m. Monday.
Photo by Jason Wolter Texas Johnny Brown at the Big Easy in 2011
According to one follow-up message we received, Brown passed in his sleep and without pain.
The diminutive, dapper bluesman has been a fixture on the Houston blues scene since arriving here from Mississippi at the tender age of ten with his father, who was a blind blues musician. Brown worked with his father for some time before beginning a successful solo career.
One of the most pleasant and affable men on the blues scene, Brown had been performing once a month at the Big Easy for years. The first hint of his health issue, which was quickly identified as liver cancer, was in May when he cancelled his monthly Big Easy gig.
According to Houston Press sources, Brown had declined chemotherapy. Hospice nurses were brought in to care for Brown full time only a few days back.
A native of Ackerman, Mississippi, Brown was honored by the state of Mississippi with his own plaque on the Mississippi Blues Trail in September 2011. Brown and his Quality Blues Band attended the unveiling in Ackerman and played a concert celebrating the event, and he was a featured artist at the 2012 Chicago Blues Festival.
But Houston was Brown's adopted home, the place where he made his bones as a songwriter, arranger, guitarist, and performer. Dr. Roger Wood, author of the definitive Houston blues history book, Down in Houston, recently told us that in spite of other claims, Brown "wrote and came up with the arrangement for 'Two Steps From the Blues' all on his own."