In October of 2015, Bonnie Brown was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame as part of the sibling trio The Browns. Less than a year later on July 16, 2016, she passed away in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the age of 77, just fifteen days before her 78th birthday.
Bonne Jean Brown was born July 31, 1938, in Sparkman, Arkansas. Growing up in a musical family, her older brother and sister, Jim Ed and Maxine, who were already performing together, took young Bonnie on the road to perform with them as a graduation gift. From that point on, the duo was no more and the trio, with some of the most angelic harmonies we’ve ever heard to this day, was born.
In the 1950s, the Browns were cast members on “The Louisiana Hayride” and “Ozark Jubliee,” both staples for country music fans and for a time toured with a young unknown singer who went by the name Elvis Presley.
While the trio had many successes with songs like “The Old Lamplighter,” “Scarlet Ribbons” and “I Take The Chance”, by all accounts, their shining moment comes in the form of the 1959 release of “Three Bells.” Produced by Chet Atkins, “Three Bells” spent 10 weeks atop the country chart, four weeks on the pop charts and even squeezed into the Top Ten on the Hot R&B Sides chart. Fifty years later, the song resurfaced and gained a whole new following as it was featured in two episodes of the final season of highly rated HBO drama “The Sopranos.”
The Browns were invited to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1963, but, sadly, disbanded just a few years after in 1967 as Bonnie did not want to leave her children home while they toured. Brother Jim Ed went on to a successful solo career, and her sister Maxine put out another album as well. Bonnie and her husband, Dr. Gene Ring, returned to Arkansas to raise their two young girls. The trio did come together at times to perform on the Opry stage as well as other one-off performances. Bonnie even sang on her brother’s final album “In Style Again,” released in 2015.
The last year has been particularly hard on the Brown family as brother Jim Ed passed away in June of 2015, while Bonnie’s husband of 56 years died in January of this year.