Bonnie Brown, the youngest of the Browns singing trio, died Saturday (July 16) in her native Arkansas of complications of lung cancer. She was 77.
Her passing leaves oldest sister, Maxine Brown, as the only survivor of the group that populated both the country and pop charts during the late 1950s and early ’60s with such hits as “The Three Bells,” “Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)” and “The Old Lamplighter.”
Jim Ed Brown, the founder of the trio and a longtime member of the Grand Ole Opry, died June 11, 2015, just months before the Browns were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Hailing from Sparkman, Arkansas, the three Brown siblings formed their singing group incrementally. Jim Ed was the first to distinguish himself as a performer, beginning in 1952 as a soloist on the Barnyard Frolic radio show in Little Rock.
Maxine soon joined him onstage, and in 1954 the two scored a No. 8 hit on the country charts with their own composition, “Looking Back to See.”
Bonnie Jean Brown (born July 31, 1937) joined the act the following year, by which time the Browns were appearing on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana.
She and fellow Hayride performer Elvis Presley were involved romantically briefly during this period, in which the Browns toured with Presley and another rising star, Jim Reeves.
Between 1955 and 1967, when the trio disbanded, the Browns had such country hits as “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow,” “I Take the Chance,” “I Heard the Bluebirds Sing,” “Just as Long as You Love Me,” “I’d Just Be Fool Enough” and “Coming Back to You.”
But it was their 1959 recording of “The Three Bells” that made the group international stars and earned them appearances on the major TV variety shows, including American Bandstand and the Ed Sullivan Show.
“The Three Bells” topped both the country and pop chart for weeks and was even a Top 10 R&B hit. The Browns became members of the Grand Ole Opry in 1963.
Bonnie Brown is survived by two daughters, Kelly and Robin. Her husband, Dr. Gene “Brownie” Ring, died in January 2016.