I just read the obituary of Sir Lattimore Brown today. I'd never heard of him before, but he seems to have had an indomitable spirit,despite his many misfortunes through life. He sounded an amazing person, to keep trying despite everything that happened to him.
A singer, songwriter and band leader active on the "chitlin' circuit" of the eastern and southern United States between the 1950s and 1970s, Brown shared a stage with the likes of Etta James, Jackie Wilson, Muddy Waters and Otis Redding.
His 17 singles on seven labels, made between 1960 and 1975, were minor hits. But wider recognition was not encouraged by the online All Music Guide's declaration that he had "retired from music in 1980 and passed away in Arkansas in the subsequent decade".
Certainly fortune did not smile on Brown. When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 he was badly injured and his home in Biloxi was destroyed; shortly afterwards his wife died of a heart attack, news of which took five months to reach him. Reduced to living in a trailer home, in 2007 he was stabbed, robbed of his Veterans' Association benefit and left for dead. But these were merely the latest in a series of disasters to which he was prone throughout his life.
He was born LV Brown at Mound Bayou, Mississippi, on August 20 1931, and brought up in cotton fields by his sharecropping grandfather, having never known his parents. While attending a local church he formed a vocal group, The Shady Grove Specials. But after one too many beatings from his aunt, he left aged 12, beginning an itinerant life. By 15 he had married and at 17 he enlisted (illegally) in the Army. The registration process obliged him to invent a full name, and he chose "Lattimore Vernon Brown".
After three years in Korea and Vietnam (before the latter war had officially started), he returned to Mississippi to find his wife pregnant with another man's child. In disgust, Brown again went on the road, in 1953 ending up in Memphis, where the music scene was beginning to boom.
He joined a travelling minstrel show touring the South, and in 1957 met Jimmy "Buzzard" Stewart, through whom he signed with Zil Records, which in 1960 released his first single, Somebody's Gonna Miss Me. After two more, unsuccessful, singles he moved to Dallas, where he set up a club called the Atmosphere Lounge and put together a band. Renowned for their rare ability to read music, they were frequently booked on chitlin' circuit tours.
Brown's extensive contacts helped to keep his club busy until disaster struck in 1963, when his "sleeping" business partner, Jack Ruby, shot President Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, live on television. Eventually resettling in Nashville, Brown secured a deal with the label Sound Stage 7, and recorded with the producer Willie Mitchell in Memphis.
In 1966 he added "Sir" to his name and the next year signed to Otis Redding's touring agency RedWal, only for the star to die in a plane crash shortly afterwards. Brown's tribute Otis Is Gone (1968) was his most successful recording, but if he thought his fortune had changed, he was wrong.
It was during his convalescence from the mugging in Biloxi in 2007 that a nurse put him in touch with the vintage soul enthusiast and blogger Red Kelly, leading to Brown's first recording in 33 years, Pain In My Heart. The next year he returned to performing, and in 2009 Nobody Has To Tell Me – a remastered collection of his recordings – was released, with liner notes by John Ridley and Red Kelly.
In 2010 Kelly helped to reunite Brown with his children, grandchildren and first wife – all of whom survive him. A deeply religious man, Brown reflected on his misfortunes: "God has blessed me. I've been through many trials and tribulations in life, but so many of us have. The greatest thing in life is to let your heart be kind and respect others as you would have them to do unto you."
Lattimore Brown died on March 25. He had found a new home at Pensacola, Florida, only to be struck by a car while crossing a road nearby.