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Grand Ole Opry Star Jim Ed Brown Dies At 81

June 11, 2015

Another singer takes the largest stage ever.


Jim Ed Brown, a star of the Grand Ole Opry for more than fifty years and a newly elected member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, died today after battling cancer.  The smooth tones are silenced but not forgotten.

Last September, he revealed that he had been undergoing treatment for lung cancer. In early 2015, Mr. Brown announced that he was in remission, but on June 3 of this year, his daughter Kim posted on Facebook that her father’s cancer had returned—although not in his lungs—and that he had resumed chemotherapy. One day later, when Mr. Brown’s condition appeared unlikely to improve, his dear friend and country legend Bill Anderson visited Mr. Brown in his hospital room to present him with a Country Music Hall of Fame medallion, five months ahead of the official induction ceremony.

In 1954, Mr. Brown and Maxine, who had been singing on the radio and performing regionally as a duo, signed a deal with Fabor Records; their debut single, the lighthearted “Looking Back to See,” peaked at No. 8 in June of that year. The young singers became regulars on The Louisiana Hayride and Ozark Jubilee. In 1955, their teenaged sister Bonnie joined the group; a year later, The Browns’ recording of “I Take the Chance” for their label RCA Victor, hit No. 2 on the country charts. One of their best-known songs was “I Heard the Bluebirds Sing,” a song that was released in 1957, the same year that Mr. Brown was drafted into military service. He continued to record with his sisters while on leave, and when the group toured, sister Norma would take his place.

In late March of 2015, it was announced that Mr. Brown, along with his two sisters, were going to be officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. At the podium, an emotional Mr. Brown began his remarks by telling the audience that he was cancer free. During an interview, he remarked that one of the most meaningful aspects of his induction was that “my family, friends and fans (will) always have a place to go and remember me. I’ll be there forever.”

Two weeks ago, “Whispering” Bill Anderson was told The Browns had asked that he be the Hall of Fame member to induct them into the Country Music Hall of Fame at the ceremony in the fall. Then he got a call on the morning of June 4 saying Mr. Brown’s induction needed to happen that day. He canceled a doctor’s appointment and joined a group of people, including the Country Music Association’s chief executive officer Sarah Trahern, in Mr. Brown’s hospital room to surprise him with his commemorative Hall of Fame medallion.

“Jim Ed was pretty emotional,” Anderson recalled. “He was very lucid. He laughed and he cried and you could tell just how proud he was.”

Mr. Brown took his ball cap off and Anderson slipped the medallion over his head, around his neck and laid it on his chest in the hospital room signifying that he was officially a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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