Ruth Brown Day declared
Ruth Brown is known to the world as “Miss Rhythm.”
The rhythm and blues artist has been a star in the musical genre since the late 1940s, and 50 years later is still being nominated for awards-this year, three Grammys.
Brown has been a photo subject of celebrity photographer Charles Adams for 20 years. About 25 photos of Brown are included in a celebrity photo display at the Nevada State Library and Archives titled “When the Stars Come Out.”
A reception to introduce the collection will be Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. Brown is expected to be in attendance. Mayor Ray Masayko will declare it “Ruth Brown Day” in Carson City.
“I don’t know much about rhythm and blues, but I will find out about Ruth,” Masayko said. “If she comes to Carson City, I’ve got to know some more about her.”
Adams has known about Brown since he was in junior high school.
As a student in Atlanta, Ga., Brown worked as a disc jockey for radio station WAOK. One day Adams was offered the opportunity to review a Ruth Brown show.
“I asked my mother who Ruth Brown was,” Adams said. “Of course, everybody knew who Ruth Brown was. My mom played the record ‘Mamma, He Treats Your Daughter Mean’ for me. At the time, I didn’t know what that meant.’
Brown was playing the Magnolia Ballroom, an upscale Atlanta establishment. A problem for Adams was his age. But was given permission to attend the appearance on the condition that he didn’t drink.
“Ruth was electric,” Adams said. “I was young. I didn’t understand blues. I didn’t know you had to suffer and change for your music to be good.”
While he was a photographer, Adams met Brown during one of her performances at the Parisian Room in Los Angeles.
“When I got the pictures back, I realized I had captured her really involved in her singing,” Adams said. “Not all the pictures were perfect, not all were flattering. In some she looked like she was swallowing the microphone. But I captured the soul of the show.”
The meeting became the basis of their friendship during the last 20 years, and Adams has chronicled her public and private life since.
Brown has been called the greatest R&B singer of all time and has been given credit for creating the R&B vocal style. She came on the music scene in 1948, and from 1951 to 1953 was the top-selling black female artist for Atlantic Records. In the late ’60s and ’70s, her career stalled and she made her living driving a school bus, but came back as “Motormouth Maybelle” in the cult classic film “Hairspray.”
In 1989, she won a Tony award for her performance “Black and Blue.” Her song “I Don’t Know” appears in the Academy Award-nominated movie “The Hurricane.” At 72, she’s still headlining at shows throughout the country and is scheduled to appear on the “David Letterman Show” on Feb. 21.
For information or to RSVP for the Carson City open house with Ruth Brown, call Chris Harris at (818) 558-5766.