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Blues, R&B singer Nappy Brown dies at 78

Influential Charlotte-born blues and R&B singer Nappy Brown died Saturday at Mercy Hospital at the age of 78.

He was in the midst of a successful comeback following the September 2007 release of his latest album, “Long Time Coming,” which he'd recorded with Wilmington-based producer Scott Cable at Mitch Easter's Fidelitorium studios in Kernersville.

Born Napoleon Brown Culp in 1929, Brown began his career as a gospel singer. He had a string of hits in the 1950s with “Don't Be Angry,” “Piddily Patter Patter,” and “I Cried Like a Baby.” He was also an early influence on up-and-coming R&B singers, including Elvis Presley, who according to his label Blind Pig Records would go to Brown's shows in Memphis, Tenn.

Cable met Brown while Cable was a student at Quail Hollow Junior High. “I was dating his great niece and there was this guy that would sing at family reunions who I knew as Uncle Napoleon,” Cable recalled.

When Cable was 17 he met “Uncle Napoleon” again. “Bob Margolin said this guy was coming out of retirement and they were playing at the Double Door. He walks in and it was Uncle Napoleon. We started talking and I said ‘One day we're going to make a record together.'”

Twenty-three years later they did. Cable, who produced “Long Time Coming,” persuaded Blind Pig Records to release the comeback album. Appearances on “A Prairie Home Companion,” the cover of Living Blues magazine, and two Blues Music Awards nominations followed.

Funeral is Saturday at St. Paul's Baptist Church in Charlotte, with a viewing at 1 p.m. and services to follow.

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