Lattimore Brown was deep. There was a certain compassion, a spirituality about him that was hard to define. You can see it in the Cheryl Gerber portrait above. When you were around him, things happened. Unexplainable, almost mystical things. He lived his life on the edge, walking a fine line between Heaven and a Hell that never seemed too far away.
“I’ve thought about it a lot since then,” I wrote after I first met him in 2008, “and for me it’s come to represent the apparent contradiction of absolute beauty living right next door to the ultimate evil… of the dark as a necessary component of the light. It’s helped me to understand the reality of a life of tragedy that is continually redeemed through faith, of art that is purchased with pain… of the true meaning of Soul.”
From the blistering heat of a broken childhood spent picking cotton in the Mississippi Delta, to the unspeakable cold of a Korea that froze his Army comrades to death, Lattimore had become well acquainted with that pain before he turned twenty, yet he went on to live an incredible life. He was there with Sunbeam Mitchell in Memphis in the early fifties, with Ernie Young at Excello later on in Nashville. In Houston, in Dallas, in Little Rock, he made a name for himself leading one of the best ‘reading bands’ on the circuit. Busting out of the Club Stealaway on Jefferson Street in the mid-sixties, he would become known as ‘The Tennessee House Rocker’. Before long, Brown was recording with The M.G.’s at Stax, with The Memphis Boys at American, and with Rick Hall’s Fame Gang in Muscle Shoals…
Yet, success remained elusive. Despite the inherent quality of his records, for one reason or another, they never made the charts. By the time Benny Latimore dropped his first name in the early seventies, our Lattimore felt he was fighting a losing battle, and just walked away, into an obscurity that all but devoured him.
Everyone thought he was dead.
By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard the story of how Hurricane Katrina nearly blew what was left of him away – of how it led, instead, to his miraculous re-discovery. It seemed he still had a tale to tell – unfinished business on this side of the line, in the land of the living…
Sir Lattimore would have turned ninety this year, and in honor of that fact, Chase Thompson and I are collaborating on a ‘documentary mini-series’ that will attempt to convey the power and the personality of this American original in his own words, using unreleased video footage that we shot of him along the way.
We’ve completed two episodes so far, and I’m including them here, as well as on the completely re-imagined sirlattimorebrown.com, where we will post more of them as they become available.
-red kelly, October 2021