KIRK BROWN - GUITAR/VOCAL
Kirk Brown was born January 30, 1956, in Detroit, Michigan. He got the guitar bug at age 12, inspired by an uncle who brought his six-string along whenever he came to visit. Kirk soon discovered Chuck Berry, Lightning Hopkins, Memphis Slim, Mississippi John Hurt and all the other cool stuff he could find in his dad's well-rounded record collection. An appreciation of roots music allowed a rich perspective on the progressive sounds coming out of Detroit's music scene during the late sixties.

By the time his family moved to rural Missouri in the early 70's, Kirk's budding guitar virtuosity was feeding heavily from rock's new wave of guitar greats. Duane Allman, Peter Green, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix opened doors leading into the future and, as Brown also realized, back to the past. Chicago urban blues excited him. But it was Freddie King who most perfectly bridged the new sounds with the old. King's music had balls, his guitar work was masterful, and his singing was heart-felt and deep. Kirk's music today bears the marks left by early imitation of the master.

Despite those formative influences, Brown's guitar style is not easy to categorize or compare to any one other guitarist. Really, it's Kirk Brown, which is as it should be...the blues is self-expression. A strong and powerful singer, his vocal style has been likened to Johnny Winters'.

Kirk began performing professionally around 1975, and those early bands (Half Cocked, the Bourbon Cowboys, the Push Band, the Bluesberries), brought a mixture of southern rock and rockin' blues to Missouri audiences.  In 1984, Kirk joined the Del Rays of Wichita, Kansas, after relocating to work for an airplane manufacturer there. Kirk later moved to Stockton, Missouri, and an early incarnation of the RayBans materialized in 1985. A big step for Brown, it was the first time he'd fronted a blues group himself and been the principal singer and sole guitarist.

In 1986, an old man asked to sit in at a gig in a honky-tonk outside El Dorado Springs, Missouri. He said he'd moved in down the road, could play a little harp, and liked what he heard the band doing.  Kirk readily agreed as there before him, stood a black man in a county that knew of none, who said he could play the blues and would like to do a Little Walter song. What they heard blew the hatch off (pun intended)...with a voice like Muddy Waters and harmonica somewhere between Little Walter, John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, and Rice Miller!

Though Mississippi born and Arkansas bred, Provine Hatch had no intention of launching a new music career. He'd moved from Kansas City to retire and do some truck farming. Kirk (and drummer Dennis Spears) eventually persuaded the reluctant bluesman to return to a business he'd long since given up on. Little Hatch & the Houserockers was the result and, following the money, band jobs soon centered around Kansas City. Kirk routinely opened shows for Hatch with his own songs and then stepped into the background to accompany him. Though not widely known in his home town before his reemergence, by the time Hatch died in 2003, "his reputation as a harp man in Kansas City [was] legendary," and he'd recorded three nationally distributed CD's. Few people realize the role Kirk and Dennis played in making that possible.

Despite the excellence of the music, family factors and the long commutes to gigs caused Kirk to leave Little Hatch in 1989. The RayBans reformed, playing regionally with varying personnel through the 90's. Side projects included a stint with Springfield, Missouri's Prime Cut and a long stretch of engagements backing harpman-wildman, Gary "Alaska" Sloan.

A fine bass player, Brown spent two years or so backing Springfield songwriter, Bert Smith and recording a CD, Bert Smith and the Smokin' Herd: Spank Me Baby. The band appeared at the Eureka Springs Blues Festival in 1995. Later bass activity included recording with Kansas City guitarist, Bill Carter on Bill Carter Blues Revue: Livin' the Blues and an appearance at Blues Estafette, 1999, in the Netherlands (opening for Carter on guitar, then backing him on bass).

The RayBans renamed themselves the Kirk Brown Band in 2000 and represented the Ozarks Blues Society in that year's Springfield Blues Festival and the International BluesFirst band competition in Memphis.  This was Kirk's second entry into the prestigious competition, the first being in 1988 with the Houserockers.   In 2002, Kirk's guitar work was featured on the CD, Ruth & the Right Brothers: Blues for My Friends. He hopes to record under his own name soon.

Brown plays Gibson guitars through vintage Fender amps. Believing "the sound comes from the fingers," he does not use external effects.

Friends know Kirk Brown as a down-to-earth guy who can be counted on to give a solid performance any time, anywhere. Equally capable of fronting a band or quietly assuming a supportive role, he aims to please, not tease. He's fond of saying, "let the music do the talking," and wastes little time on flash or insubstantial stage patter.

Guitarists with the ability to constantly switch between lead and rhythm, always coming back in with the right part at the precise moment it's needed are rare.  To sing further compounds the difficulty. It takes years of practice and real world application to play the way Kirk Brown does. You owe it to yourself to take a listen! 

 

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