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Brownie McGhee

Brownie McGhee was born on 30/11/1915 in Knoxville, Tennessee. His full birth name was Walter Brown McGhee. He would grow up in Kingsport, Tennessee. When he was four he contracted Polio, which incapacitated his leg. His brother would push him around in a waggon with a stick. This gave his brother the nickname "Stick" and would later be known as Stick McGhee when he also became a musician. Brownie's father would play the guitar and sing and his uncle made him a guitar made out of a tin marshmallow box and a piece of board. McGhee would teach himself how to play the guitar and could also play the five string banjo, the ukulele and the piano. McGhee would sing with the local harmony group the Golden Voices Gospel Quartet. He would be able to walk after he had surgery funded by the March of Dimes.
When he was 22 he became a travelling musician and he joined the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. He would become friends with Blind Boy Fuller and would be greatly influenced by his guitar playing. In 1941 Fuller died and J.B Long of Columbia Records promoted McGhee as Blind Boy Fuller No. 2. McGhee was recording for Okeh Records in Chicago.
In 1942 he moved to New York and joined Sonny Terry, who he had first met in 1939 when Terry was in Blind Boy Fuller's band. The two would record and tour together till 1980.
In the forties, the duo would play jump blues as Brownie McGhee and his Jook House Rockers, or as Sonny Terry and his Buckshot Five. They would often be joined by Champion Jack Dupree and Big Chief Ellis. The duo would also appear on Broadway in "Finian's Rainbow" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".
In the sixties, the two of them were popular in the blues revival scene.
In 1979 McGhee and Terry appeared in the comedy film "The Jerk".
In 1987 McGhee appeared in the thriller movie "Angel Heart". The next year he would appear in a "Family Ties" episode called "The Blues, Brother". The year following that he would appear on tv series "Matlock" in an episode called "The Blues Singer".
In February 1996 McGhee died from stomach cancer.

The Music History Calendar is written by the Blues Rock artist Marshland Pete
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