From Charlottean Curt Peters, a friend of the late bluesman “Nappy” Brown.
I was truly saddened to read the news about the death of a true, though seldom appreciated, Charlotte legend, “Nappy” Brown.
While most of your readers probably had never heard of him, my knowledge goes back to days as a student at Johnson C. Smith University in the early '60's. It wasn't the “Nappy” Brown who headlined “chicken circuit” shows across the country, including appearances at the world-famous Apollo Theater in Harlem. I saw a hard-working maintenance man on the campus and someone said, “You know, that's Nappy Brown.”
My blues efficiency wasn't too keen back then, but I soon learned that the gentleman I saw raking leaves and doing other manual labor jobs at JCSU was, at one time, one of the biggest names in black music history. ... and everyone knew some song or the other that Nappy had sung with his deep, unforgettable voice and charismatic stage presence.
While Nappy had been the toast of soul music for a while, his star had faded and he came back to his hometown to get back on his feet. He never regained the acclaim that once followed him, but he worked diligently and with dignity, at the menial jobs he was able to secure, never complaining about his lot in life and always willing to go the extra mile to make his efforts the best.
Last year, my wife Sandra and I went to the Blues, Brew & Que event in Charlotte to see him perform. It was startling to see his command of the stage, even as ill health battered his body. Nappy was at his best. Then he ended his performance with the song every living soul should know, “Nighttime Is The Right Time.” Oh, that Ray Charles song you might say … or the song that Rudy Huxtable sang on the Bill Cosby show, you might ponder.
No. “Nappy” sang his song, the one he wrote while in Charlotte and performed worldwide. The one that made toes tap, hips shake, and lovers get some wonderful ideas as the Carolina sun sank.
I have been blessed to have met the man raking leaves at JCSU, to have gained his friendship, to have seen one of his last performances in Charlotte .
Charlotte, look into your musical history and finally give recognition to a true native son of the Queen City and a true man of the world.