Born c. 1947 in Greensboro, NC. Addresses: Record company--MCA/Nashville, 60 Music Sq. E., Nashville, TN 37293.

In 1978, when Tony Brown left his keyboards behind and joined the artists and repertoire (A&R) ranks at RCA, few would have suspected that within 15 years he would assume the presidency of MCA/Nashville. But with Brown's on-the-road experience and many hours spent in the recording studio, he had his hand firmly on the pulse of the average country music listener. Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill, and Trisha Yearwood are only a few of the many artists he discovered--and all three have helped country music rise to unprecedented popularity during the 1990s. Brown's understanding of the traditional country sound, combined with the pop influences of the present, have made him a significant force in determining the future of the Nashville recording industry.

Brown was raised in Greensboro, North Carolina, and grew up in a family heavily influenced by gospel music. He took to the piano as a child and played in his family's gospel group; when he went on the road as a professional musician, one of his first jobs was as keyboard accompanist for the then-gospel sounds of the Oak Ridge Boys. Over time, Brown's musical tastes broadened beyond the restrictions of gospel. He worked for a while with the Sweet Inspirations Band; then, in 1975, he played with the Stamps Quartet, a career move that allowed him an incredible opportunity: the Stamps were hired as backup vocalists by none other than Elvis Presley, and Brown was able to perform onstage in Las Vegas with the King himself. After Presley's tragic death in 1977, Brown signed on with country-folksinger Emmylou Harris and performed with her Hot Band, a stop along the road to success for such high-caliber, innovative musicians as guitarists Ricky Skaggs, Rodney Crowell, Albert Lee, and Vince Gill.

During the year that followed, Brown began to reconsider his role in the music business; he decided to try his hand at other facets of the recording industry. In 1978 he accepted a leadership role in the A&R department of Los Angeles-based Free Flight Records, a pop subsidiary of RCA. (A&R representatives are responsible for recruiting and nurturing talent at the record label.) When the label was discontinued two years later, he was given the option to remain in California or to transfer to RCA's Nashville office. The choice was easy: Brown's roots were in country music, so he returned to Tennessee, where he signed such talented acts as Alabama and Debra Allen to the RCA label.

After a year in Music City, Brown decided to return to the studio as a musician. Along with Gill and bass player Emory Gordy, Jr., he played keyboards with the Cherry Bombs, the backup band for Roseanne Cash and Rodney Crowell, who were married at the time. Working full-time with such musical talent sparked Brown's interest in the production end of the industry. Calling upon his extensive background knowledge of gospel music, he worked with gospel artist Shirley Caesar on three albums that would culminate in Caesar's winning the 1984 Grammy Award for best female gospel/soul performance.

After proving his skills as a producer, Brown returned to RCA later in 1983. That same year he produced Steve Wariner's hit single "Midnight Fire." Then, shortly after signing former bandmate Gill to RCA, rival MCA/Nashville made Brown an offer he couldn't refuse: he joined the label in 1984. "I wanted to produce," he noted in an MCA profile. "MCA was then reorganizing, starting an in-house A&R department with in-house production. In hindsight, it was a good move on my part."

If it was a good move for Brown, it was certainly one for MCA/Nashville. The list of stars he has signed to the label reads like a who's who of "Young Country": Rodney Crowell, Marty Brown, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Marty Stuart, the Mavericks, Tracy Byrd, Trisha Yearwood, Mark Chesnutt, and Gill--whom he wooed from RCA in 1989. And Brown has produced top-selling albums like Reba McEntire's Rumor Has It; I Still Believe in You by Gill; Wynonna's self-titled solo debut; Patty Loveless's Honky Tonk Angel; Marty Stuart's This One's Gonna Hurt You; and western swing master George Strait's Pure Country.

But Brown wasn't always such a strong force in the country music industry. As Peter Cronin noted in Billboard, "The Nashville powers that be had Brown pegged as a bit too edgy for the mainstream" in his early days with MCA. Brown drew folksinger and songwriter Nanci Griffith to MCA in 1987 and produced Lone Star State of Mind, an album that would become her biggest country hit. Lyle Lovett was another of Brown's finds; the idiosyncratic musician's self-titled debut was produced on MCA's Curb label in 1986. And songwriter-guitarist Steve Earle was signed by Brown in 1986; their work together on that year's Guitar Town introduced one of the most exciting new Nashville-based talents of the decade. While each of these releases proved to be a watershed for the respective performers' careers, they showed little, if any, movement on the all-important sales charts for MCA.

Brown, however, remained confident that his musical tastes reflected those of the record-buying public, particularly the country radio audience. "I really, really thought I could make an impact on country radio with those artists. I didn't end up making an impact on country radio, but I did make an impact on country music." Artists like Lovett, Griffith, and Earle helped blur the distinctions between country music and the genres of jazz, folk, and rock--and paved the way for an influx of new styles into the country music mix. Finally, Brown's first big commercial production--Rodney Crowell's Diamonds and Dirt in 1988--led to a succession of top-selling records that made the producer a key player in Music City circles.

After five singles from Diamonds and Dirt charted, more successes were quick to follow. Country crossover artist Lovett's 1989 effort, the Tony Brown-produced Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, received that year's Grammy Award for best vocal performance by a male country artist; Brown's production of Gill's "When I Call Your Name" won the Grammy Award for song of the year in 1990, and together the Gill/Brown duo took the same award the following year for "I Still Believe in You."

In addition to expanding the boundaries of country music, Brown bucked the conventional wisdom that women buy records mainly by male artists who wear hats and look cute. Vocalist Wynonna--a member of the Judds until her mother, Naomi, retired from the duo because of health problems--made her debut album as a solo act with Brown's capable production. Against industry tradition, Wynonna went double-platinum in 1993. The huge success of that album came on the heels of Brown's third "producer of the year" award from Billboard; these back-to-back successes propelled him up another rung of the industry ladder.

In a contract maneuver that was preceded by a great deal of speculation in the music industry, Brown replaced Bruce Hinton as president of MCA/Nashville in 1993. While noting that Brown had been unhappy with his existing MCA contract, attorney James Mason told Billboard that the producer "wasn't looking to leave the place where he's been that successful." Brown welcomed his additional responsibilities but made it clear that he would not leave the studio, explaining to Billboard's Debbie Holley: "I'm not going to turn into such an administrative person that I will dilute my creative position."

Many music critics agree that there is no overall "Tony Brown Sound." The reason may be that Brown enters the recording studio confident in the instincts of the musicians he is producing. During studio sessions, he is noted for his light touch--his ability to give his artists the reins while offering subtle guidance. "For me, producing is a feel thing, and it's contributing to what's happening in the room," Brown told Cronin. "Country music is not a producer's forum like pop music is. Country is an artist's forum."

Respect and appreciation for a musical artist as just that--an artist--have earned Brown a reputation as both a sound judge and a prudent creative force in the country music arena. In 1994, with numerous gold, platinum, and multiplatinum albums to his credit, Brown was honored with a Grammy nomination for producer of the year, the first time a member of the country music recording industry had been in contention for that award since 1979.

by Pamela L. Shelton

Tony Brown's Career

Keyboardist for the Oak Ridge Boys and Sweet Inspirations; keyboardist for Stamps Quartet, Las Vegas, NV, 1975-77; member of Emmylou Harris's Hot Band, 1977-78; head of Artists & Repertoire (A&R), Free Flight Records (an RCA subsidiary), Los Angeles, CA, 1978-80; worked in RCA's A&R department, Nashville, TN, 1980 and 1983; keyboardist for the Cherry Bombs, c. 1980-83; joined MCA/Nashville's in-house A&R department, 1984, became executive vice-president and head of A&R, then served as president of MCA/Nashville, 1993--. Has produced records for artists including Jimmy Buffett, Vince Gill, Wynonna, the Mavericks, McBride & the Ride, Reba McEntire, George Strait, and Steve Wariner.

Tony Brown's Awards

Country Music Association (CMA) Award for production on single of the year, 1991, for Vince Gill's "When I Call Your Name"; producer of the year, Billboard, 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993.

Recent Updates

May 26, 2004: Brown won the Academy of Country Music Award for Producer of the Year. Source: Academy of Country Music, www.acmcountry.com/2004_acm_nominees.htm, May 27, 2004.

Further Reading

Sources

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

almost 3 years ago

Tony, Knew you back in Long Beach, Calif. You were crazy about one of the 3 "Hispanic" sisters (the youngest, prettiest one) that I would be with. I was (and am) long time friend of Donnie's. My cousin, who I was also with in Long Beach, married Armond Morales. I'm glad to hear of your success. God Bless you!!! Marci

about 3 years ago

Hello Tony, I lived a little past the end of Camp Betty Hastings Road, we were the other poor family on that road. I am glad you made it good, and I am sure that you clearly remember where you came from, that is why making it Good is so much better. Remember all the shoe polish yal were given that time. I remember me you and Nancy looking through all the colors and you wondering what in the world are we going to do with it. Good luck in the future if you are ever in Gloucester Va, (near Williamsburg) give me a call,I'm in the book. Thanks for letting me ride your bicycle that time, up the road and back with the rest of you brothers. Clyde

almost 4 years ago

Tony, just a note to let you know how proud I am of what you have accomplished over the years. I'll never forget those years with the "Original" Dixie Melody Boys and the good times we had traveling in that old four cylinder bus. I remember you listening to my Frankie Carl albums and picking up some of the runs that he was doing on his albums. Best to you and I'll be staying in touch through the internet. God Bless!

about 4 years ago

Tony... I remember riding the school bus with you and your sisters when you lived in Walkertown, NC. I know that isn"t mentioned in any of your bios (Walkertown). I remember your sister Nancy and you dated my sister Linda Pegram back in the '60's. That was around the time you went south to study gospel music. I live just down 66 from the road where you lived back then, Camp Betty Hastings Road. You remember that? Wouldn't blame you if you didn"t! Really glad that you survived that terrible injury. Also my deep condolences for the loss of your mother. I will always remember you as a soft spoken and gentle person from way back when. God bless you and the music you have blessed us with. Jimmy Pegram

almost 5 years ago

Hey Tony, I wonder if you remember me. I was a bass singer at the Stamps Conservatory of Gospel Music in 66, 67, and 68. You and I became close enough friends that we double-dated two different nights. I was a major groupie of J.D.'s and I sang with the Stamps in Hot Springs, Arkansas and Ft. Worth Texas when J. D. had vocal chord cancer. I sang "Walk That Lonesome Road" hitting the low "G" that J. D. always sang and with you probing me by holloring, "Hit the Eflat Billy", I slid on down to the Eflat and got a standing ovation. That was the first tine I had ever sung in front of an audiance--5200 people. I will never forget that night and you encouraging me. After that I sang with the Priemers Quartet from Riverbank California for 5 years then with the Sego Brothers and Naomi for a little less than a year. I am amazed with what you have done with your life since then. I am very proud to say that I ever knew you personally--You are AWSOME,m buddy! Billy D. Ward

almost 5 years ago

Hi I'm a big fan of Elvis. I was born in 1955 so growing up Elvis & John Wayne were my favourites. (don't want to say "idols" as I met Jesus as my Savior in 1973) About 3 mos. ago on YOU TUBE I listened to Elvis singing "BLUE SUEDE SHOES" & happened by chance to listen to a young lady now 17yrs old sing the same song. Her name is TIFFANY JO ALLEN. She has her own website...on YOU TUBE etc... She recently won America's Yahoo yodelling contest. She's a christian !!!! She has such a friendly personality/stage presence/very talented singer/musican......really she's a TOTAL PACKAGE. She in my view has a very very special calling. Ya can tell she loves performing...& my guess sings alot of hrs. just because she enjoys it so much...just like Elvis after his shows...his day was just starting as he'd sing with yous till the am hrs. I do not know this girl personally. Check her out. Elvis as ya know was special...this girl has a touch of that same specialness. Also great job on the HE TOUCHED ME the gospel music of ELVIS PRESLEY. Your comments were from the heart & insightful...in fact the whole 2 dvd set was A-1. From Vancouver BC area In Christ Al & Daisy

almost 5 years ago

Hi Tony, I am a country singer and songwriter and would like for you to produce my next cd. You can hear my music on cash box charts Hero. Also I have a website it is www.jackiestanwood.com and my email address is jmax@maineline.net.

almost 5 years ago

Mr. Brown gave my mother, Connie, piano lessons back in the day. I just wanted to thank him. We've gotten a lot of enjoyment from her playing down through the years!

over 5 years ago

Tony - met you at your brother's surprise birthday party in GA a few years back... then again in Nashville when I told you he was hospitalized. My chance, and honored, meeting you both times has been one of my musical highlights of my life. I wish you well, pray that you are fully re-couped from the slipping accident, and hope our paths cross yet again. God bless.

over 5 years ago

hi, Tony I don't know if you remember me or not. we are cousins. Your mother and my mother were sisters. Mae Shinault was my mother. She's been gone for almost 20 years now. Since the last time we got to see each other,now have a 8 year old daugther. Her name is Codie Mae she has blonde hair and blue eyes. I hope to hear from you soon. Love Your Cousin Glenda

over 5 years ago

i am the cadillac roadside tech who helped change anastasia's tire on her escalade,i just wanted you to know i had no idea whom i was helping and that mr brown was such a celebrity and that it was a honor to meet you face to face and you can call on me anytime you need me..and also jimmy buffett is one of my favorite musicians..thank you mr brown..

almost 6 years ago

Hi Mr. Brown, have you spoken with Mark Wayne Walter, MD from Winston-Salem in a while? Patrick and I are hoping that he will be headed for a visit to TN soon, but I think he has the snow now. I wanted to invite you to attend our fundraising vocal competition on March 7 in Maryville, TN if you can get away. We have a lot of talent entered from over 7 states and all funds raised go to repair homes that are unsafe in Blount County, TN. Hope that you can make it, and maybe we can give Mark a call while you're here.

almost 6 years ago

Good-Morning Mr. Brown, I'am very interested in speaking with you, I have written numerous songs, and would like to have you and George Strait look at them. I hope you have the time to e-mail be back, you never know,A guy from Kansas might have some really good songs!!!!!!Thank-You for your time, Michael.

almost 6 years ago

Tony, I've got an idea for a concept album that is dead on for the times we are living in, and only someone such as yourself can make it happen. If you would like to discuss it, please contact me via e-mail above. Thanks, Gary Poole

almost 6 years ago

H i Tony Im a friend and Fan of Kostas here in Montana. He once invited me to a local Charity with some Nashville Stars when I first moved here. I gave him a demo and He said . "It all right there Straight from The heart" I was offered a record label from Fz studios Montreol Canand aback in 1994. I was raising mmy girls single handedly and just continued writing and playing here and throughout the us and Montreol canad. Any way now Im raising Two beautiful grandchildren and thinking mmmmm maybe i should have sighned. I have over thirty songsand although self taught, I know with the right connections I could put it all together, Thanks so much for your time. Permission to send a cd and song titles word ect. Best of the holiday to you from Montana. Sincerly Kathawren Kathawren.com WIth my music and linc to myspace. You could check it out at your convience. Also a short bio. Thanks for your time and freeing the music.

almost 6 years ago

Tony It was good to see you again last night on the CMA awards. I have tried to contact you a few times in the past few years to say high and speak of your mom, dad, and Nancy who attended Urban Street Baptist Church with me and my family. I used to sing in the choir and remember many times after practice turning the pages for your dad as he played the piano like no other. From the heart as only he could. I can remember your family singing together in the church as well.I do hope you read this and let me know how you are doing - before your mom's death, I stopped in on her a time or two at the retirement home. She was wonderful and always with a smile. Take care -

almost 6 years ago

Hi Tony, I remember hearing you play the piano at Urban Street Baptist Church in Winston-Salem NC. I was but a young boy but I remember sitting there in awe as you played, that moment changed my life forever, and I was so inspired that I went on to become an accomplished pianist myself. I remember your Dad Flyod also playing the piano for me, I have such fond memories of him, and also of your Mother Agnes. My Dad Joe McWethy was music director at Urban Street at that time, you may remember him, and Pastor Billy Martin. I hope you read these comments because I just wanted to say Thank-You for inspiring a young boy to use and develop his God given talent in music. Sincerely, Alan McWethy

almost 6 years ago

HI TONY BROWN:I AM A COUNTRY/POP COUNTRY SONGWRITER, PITCHING MY SONGS IN NASHVILLE!..I WROTE A BRAND NEW FEMALE ROCKIN COUNTRY SONG CALLED "BOYS"..PLEASE CHECK IT OUT ON MY MYSPACE SITE @ WWW.MYSPACE.COM/COUNTRYSONGWRITERGILBERTBURKE OR WWW.MYSPACE.COM/SONGSBYGILBERT THANKS TONY!..HAVE A GREAT NIGHT! GIL

almost 6 years ago

Hey Tony, Shouldn't Nashville have credit for RCA/Free Flight since that's where it was? I was there, remember? LOL. Hope all is well with you, my friend. Mychael

almost 6 years ago

Wow! Every wonder what happened.Do you remember my work? So happy life has been so good to you.If you know I'm still doing what I can.So seek and you will find Terry.

almost 6 years ago

Hi Tony how are you?! I hope you actually read these emails. LoL My name is Linda Lang (vocalist/songwriter) I understand you are friends with Ron Wheeler, and that he presented my demo to you last November. From what he understood, he thought you liked my demo. Though we haven't heard anything back. As of now, i'm gearing up to record my CD, and just written a song about child abuse which is receiving a lot of hits on YouTube called "Stop The Abuse". I guess what i mean is i'm doing really well, and would love for the chance to work with you. And wondering if in fact you really liked my demo? If you could, please contact me at Lindalang2007@Hotmail.com To reach me, or visit me on myspace: www.myspace.com/lindalangmusic It would be so wonderful to hear from you. I've watched your career for years, and i'm always left speechless and impressed. LOL Thanks Tony. :) All The Best, ~Linda Lang~

about 6 years ago

Hey Tony, I remember you from years ago when you were with the Dixie Melody Boys. You went to visit us in Deep Run North Carolina. My Stepdad played the piano for them. I have been around Gospel Music all my life. We saw you on a Bill Gaither show this past Sat. night, A tribute to Elvis. You are a very talented Guy! My Mother has piles of old Gospel albums still in covers. Do you know of anybody who would like these and are they of any value? Please e-mail me back! Thanks

about 6 years ago

Hey Tony! I had the privilege of meeting you at this year's Kentucky Derby. I was in the box just in front of you, and we got talking about music and Nashville. I asked you if you knew Al Anderson. And, of course, you did. I grew up in the same town as Al (Windsor, CT) and he just gave a concert on the town green. And what a band he brought from Nashville. Chad Cromwell, Reese Wynans, Glen Worf...they all know Tony and what a good guy he is. Tony, I have a great photo I took of you and your wife at the Kentucky Derby. Let me know if you'd like a copy. I'd be happy to e-mail it to you. Regards, Gary

about 6 years ago

My mother and Tony were friends in elem. school. She also went to Walkertown Elem. in Walkertown, NC. I have been trying to contact Tony to tell him thank you many times for the things he did for my mom and I when I was growing up. Tony, you are a wonderful person and we love you dearly! Come visit! We are growing! You would not even know Walkertown! If you can find it in your heart, please email me with your snail mail address so that I can properly thank you. 4158 Camp Betty Hastings Rd. Walkertown, NC 27051 or 2499 Bethabara Rd Winston Salem, NC 27106 Thank you and God Bless! Bonnie

over 6 years ago

I met Tony years ago when he showed up at my house for Christmas, he was married to my cousin Gina and not being into country music at the time I had no idea who he was or what kind of powerhouse I was in the presence of. He was a nice guy and they took my brother and I to see Raiders Of The Lost Ark. It is a great memory> we road in a car George Strait gave him. I haven't seen Tony is years, they are long since divorced. I am proud though of his career. I hope all is well with you and never forget us back her in Missouri.

over 6 years ago

Tony, What an amazingly talented guy you are! I really admire the fact that you allow the artist to use their talents to the best of their abilities.(guiding them, not changing everything about them). I am the mother of a 13 year old daughter who is a gifted singer/songwriter/guitar player. She picked up a guitar for the first time in September and played her first gig 3 weeks later in front of about 200 people.The rest is history. This has been an exciting adventure for our family since no one in our family knows anything about any kind of instrument. She is determined to pursue this career, when she's ready we will encourage her. Well, I was wondering if you have any advice concerning her career and any pitfalls we need to watch for? Kim

about 7 years ago

To whom it may concern: Just read the bio on Tony. My husband and I both were in school with Tony from first grade though grade nine in Walkertown, NC. I suppose Tony and his family may have moved to Walkertown from Greensboro when Tony stated elementary sschool. But for nine years he was in Walkertown, closer to Winston-Salem, than Greensboro. The last time I spoke to Tony was in May of 1993. The GQ article had just been published. My husband US Army officer and I were in San Antonio at the time. Tony gave me his phone number...unfortunately, a friend of mine called his number asking for tickets for a George Strait Concert at the Alamodome. I haven't had the nerve to ever try to contact him again...but I wish him and his family well. We live on the Outer Banks of NC now...living the good life . Marilyn Beeson Harrison Po Box 151 Rodanthe, NC 27968-0151