The music industry is full of stories. Some good. Some not so good. But it must be said, it’s not every day that a magical storyline like Jewel Brown’s comes around.
Her journey started back before her teen years. Like most musical talents at the time, Jewel began singing in the church. But it didn’t take her long to start a commercial singing career. In fact, she played her first show when she was just 12, and she was cutting records by the time she was a teenager. Brown recorded a handful of hit songs with Clyde Otis in the mid-’50s for Liberty Records and by the early ’60s she was playing jazz clubs nationally, many of which happened to be owned by Jack Ruby. Yep, that Jack Ruby.
But Jewel Brown was and still is, best known for her work with Louis Armstrong and His All-Star Band. She sang with Satchmo from 1961 until 1968, until Armstrong fell ill. She continued singing for a while after her stint with Armstrong, headlining shows, mainly in Vegas. She stepped out of the limelight in the early ’70s, not because there wasn’t a demand for her talent, but because it was time for her to care for her aging parents.
But her success didn’t end with show biz. Jewel started up numerous businesses and enjoyed a successful career as, of all things, an insurance agent, a career she nurtured until retiring from the business in 2000. Jewel still receives calls from people looking to buy insurance from someone “they can trust.”
Though retired, her generations of fans didn’t allow her musical legacy to be forgotten. In 2007 she was inducted into the Blues Smithsonian and in 2015 she received a Congressional acknowledgment for her contribution to the arts. And, in 2020, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner set aside
December 12, 2020, as Jewel Brown Day.
But the story’s not over, not by a longshot. Today, Jewel Brown is back, this time, for the first time, with songs of her own. Thanks for Good Ole’ Music and Memories is Brown’s long-awaited new recording, done in collaboration with Nic Allen (better known as Joe Sample’s longtime musical director). “Over the years,” she notes in her bio, “I had the opportunity to work with various songwriters, but I never put my name on anything. I feel like the Lord has given back to me what was taken, and I’ve enjoyed doing a lot of writing lately with Nic.”
The ten jazz and blues tracks on the album reflect that collaboration. While it nods to Brown’s legacy, revisiting two songs that form important chapters in her musical history (the brilliantly updated opener “Did You Hear About Jerry” and the lush “Song of the Dreamer,” written by her ex-husband Eddie Curtis.) But there’s so much more, including the rockin’ cover “Which Way Is Up,” the a cappella “Pain and Glory,” the jazzy “Why Did You Do That,” and the boppin’, bluesy closer “How Did It Go.” The recording is rich and full, showcasing great playing and Brown’s elegant, sage-like vocals.
So, no, it’s not your typical throwaway comeback recording. Thanks for Good Ole’ Music and Memories is an inspired reintroduction of an impressive talent, an important musical figure, and, best of all, an incredible voice.