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Bonnie Brown of the country music trio the Browns dead at 77

18 July 2016, 12:58

Little Rock — Bonnie Brown, one of three siblings whose smooth harmonies as the Browns influenced generations of singers from the Beatles to Lady Antebellum, died Saturday at age 77.

Her publicist, Kirt Webster, said Brown died in Little Rock of complications from lung cancer.

With older siblings Jim Ed Brown and Maxine Brown, the three helped define the Nashville sound of the 1950s and '60s. They were inducted in 2015 into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum after Jim Ed's death earlier that year.

The Browns were from Sparkman, Arkansas. They began singing at school and church functions. In 1952, Maxine entered Jim Ed in a talent contest, but he lost first place to a harmonica player, according to the Hall of Fame's website. The radio station that ran the competition was impressed anyway and made him a regular.

Maxine soon joined him on stage and in TV appearances and the duo began recording hits. They were joined by their little sister, 18-year-old Bonnie, in 1955 and the trio's version of "Here Today and Gone Tomorrow" made it into Billboard's country Top 10. The Browns were signed by RCA Records in 1956 and by the next year had more hits with "I Take the Chance" and "I Heard the Bluebirds Sing," along with others.

The Browns crossed over into pop, folk and rhythm and blues, including the No. 1 hit "The Three Bells," previously a success for the French cabaret singer Edith Piaf. The group disbanded in 1968 as Jim Ed and Maxine pursued solo careers. All three reunited in the '80s and again in 2006 for a PBS special, "Country Pop Legends."

Kyle Young, the Hall of Fame's chief executive, said in a statement that the siblings created the "smoothest and most elegant blend in country music."

Offstage, Bonnie once broke up with a young Elvis Presley "because he was, she said, a lousy kisser," according to Young.

- AP

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