The Browns—Maxine, Bonnie, and Jim Ed—are a trio of siblings that had tremendous success in the 1950s and 60s. Following in the tradition of the best of such books, such as Loretta’s Lynn’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, this memoir, told in Maxine’s own plucky, spirited style, delves deeply into the Browns’ remarkable past, beginning with a Depression-era childhood in rural south Arkansas. From it emerged a duo, Maxine and Jim Ed, and in 1954 they had a Top Ten hit with “Looking Back to See.” Sister Bonnie later joined ...
The Browns—Maxine, Bonnie, and Jim Ed—are a trio of siblings that had tremendous success in the 1950s and 60s. Following in the tradition of the best of such books, such as Loretta’s Lynn’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, this memoir, told in Maxine’s own plucky, spirited style, delves deeply into the Browns’ remarkable past, beginning with a Depression-era childhood in rural south Arkansas. From it emerged a duo, Maxine and Jim Ed, and in 1954 they had a Top Ten hit with “Looking Back to See.” Sister Bonnie later joined them, and strengthened by shared experience they sang their way on to Little Rock’s Barnyard Frolic in 1952, and were soon regulars on the well-known Louisiana Hayride. They would eventually help a young Elvis Presley get started on the show and toured with him as their opening act, and it wasn’t long before he became a close friend of the family. Other hits followed, including “I Take the Chance” and “I Heard the Bluebirds Sing.”
Early mismanagement (which Maxine describes quite graphically in her own gutsy style) couldn’t prevent the Browns’ careers from soaring. The group began a long relationship with RCA, and with Chet Atkins, and later joined the Grand Ole Opry cast. In 1959 their rendition of Edith Piaf’s song, “The Three Bells” not only went to the top of the country charts but spent weeks at number one on the pop charts, and led to appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand.
A vocal group without peer, The Browns were central artists in the changing sound of country and American popular music at mid-century. They were part of major changes in the entertainment business and American culture, participated in the folk music movement in the ‘60’s, and saw the steady birth of rock ‘n’ roll up close as they worked with Presley and others. Illustrated with many never-before-published photographs, Looking Back to See is a remarkable story told here for the first time.
"LOOKING BACK TO SEE is a good book. It touches my heart to hear her story and to think back to my boyhood. Her story is real."
"The Browns became leading exponents of what was then developing as the 'Nashville Sound.' That sound was making musical history and increasing the popularity of country music worldwide. Maxine was right in the middle of it."
"Fascinating....She's warm, honest, gossipy, and outrageously funny....Maxine wasn't just present at the birth of rock 'n roll, she was one of its midwives."
"Here, for the first time, is an inside look at the 'Golden Age' of country music from a woman's perspective....It's a strong book, and a vital book."
Tom T. Hall
"I am happy to have known and worked with this trio and sincerely hope you enjoy the tale. It is told with honesty and humility and in a wonderful American voice."
"I never considered The Browns to be anything except perfect ambassadors of our music. To me, they were never 'pop,' although their 'works' were so super that they were accepted in the pop field. Simple as that. The Browns never abandoned country music. Honestly, I have always considered them the perfect 'country' unit."
—the Midnight Cowboy on XM Satellite Radio
"The good times as well as the bad, are portrayed in this colorful book by a woman who was a participant in one of the groups that defined trio vocal harmony during country music's golden era."
Maxine Brown was born April 27, 1931 in Campti, Louisiana, and raised in various towns and villages in Arkansas. She began singing with her younger brother, Jim Ed, on the Barnyard Frolic, a live weekly radio show from Little Rock in 1952. The two recorded their first hit, “Looking Back To See,” Maxine’s own composition, in 1954. It went to No. 8 on the charts. Soon after, their younger sister, Bonnie, joined the act. Their next song, “Here Today And Gone Tomorrow,” which Maxine also wrote, went to No. 7. Initially, the three siblings billed themselves as “Jim Edward, Maxine & Bonnie Brown,” but by 1958, they were performing and recording simply as “The Browns.” They joined The Louisiana Hayride in 1954. It was here that they met and befriended Elvis Presley, who was then seeking a job on that show. The Browns toured with Presley from 1954 to 1956, when they became members of the nationally broadcast TV series, The Ozark Jubilee.
During the mid-to-late 1950s, the trio charted such hits as “I Take The Chance,” “I Heard The Bluebirds Sing” and “Beyond The Shadow.” Then, in 1959, they released the record that would make them literally world-famous. It was “The Three Bells,” an English version of the French song “Les Trois Cloches.” Their producer was the renowned guitarist Chet Atkins. The song went to No. 1 on the country music charts and stayed there for 10 weeks. It topped the pop charts for four weeks, and it even went to No. 10 on the rhythm & blues chart. After that, The Browns “crossed over” from the country to the pop charts with “Scarlet Ribbons,” “The Old Lamplighter” and “Send Me The Pillow You Dream On,” among others. They toured Europe (where they were greeted by members of another singing group that would soon be calling itself “The Beatles”) and appeared on such popular musical variety programs as American Bandstand, The Ed Sullivan Show and The Arthur Murray Show.
After numerous guest appearances, The Browns in 1963 joined the Grand Ole Opry, where they continued as one of its most popular acts. Faced with family responsibilities, Maxine and Bonnie left the group in 1967, while Jim Ed continued as a soloist. Maxine also recorded briefly as a solo act with Chart Records in 1968-69, scoring the country hit “Sugar Cane Country.” In recent years, The Browns have reunited for special events and still perform occasionally on The Grand Ole Opry, where Jim Ed remains a member.