Years ago, indeed it seems like a lifetime, three of my siblings and I sang in a family gospel quartet.
We are four of the eight children of Rev. Melvin and Mrs. Ruth Brown who ministered in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia for most of their adult lives.
It was the 70s, and we had a lot of fun singing together around the piano as my brother Phillip played. We were blessed to be able to share this joy and the Good News with many people in little churches all over Southside Virginia, North Carolina, and even a view places in Tennessee and Mississippi. I am thankful that I got to be a part of it.
This week, my brother shared with me and my other brother and sisters his memories of the summer we made an album. We called the album, “To God Be the Glory” after the song by Andraé Crouch that we covered. A beautiful story, a tribute to my brother-in-law Larry Cullum, it reminds me that God is always at work in our lives, and sometimes, we get to be a part of the working of His miracles. I asked if I could share the story in this blog, and Phillip graciously agreed.
It was the summer of 1975. You will recall that Daddy had just completed four successful years pastoring the Keysville EMC. We were out visiting [our older siblings] Becky, Joan, and Paul. At some point, I think it was Larry [Becky’s husband] who suggested that we record an album. He had a friend, Tommy Paramore, who had some connections with Advent Studio in Memphis. I think he called Tommy to see if there would be any possibility for us to record. Tommy was able to get a bass player and a drummer for $10 an hour and the studio for $40. I think the total deal with 500 albums produced came to $1200. Mama and Daddy, along with some others, financed it. We were booked and ready to go.
The night before recording, I got one of the worst sore throats I can ever recall experiencing. We were staying at Joan’s house, most of the kids sleeping on the floor. When I awoke the next morning, my throat felt awful but “the gig was on.” I figured that my voice would loosen up as the day progressed and it did.
The drummer, who had backed up Elvis at some point, was quite a guy. He wrote out all of the chord charts for us, we went over the instrumentals a couple of times, then we did the vocal tracks. What was really odd to me was that I was on one side of the studio and, tucked in a small glassed-in cubicle on the other end of the room, were the 3 Brown sisters. The whole thing was a strange and wonderful experience.
It seems that, at some point in the day, Carolyn and Barry [sister and her husband] stopped by. A real treat came during the lunch break. A cool African-American dude with a smooth delivery and a sax came up behind me and said, “You sound good, man.” It was Andrew Love, who along with trumpeter, Wayne Jackson, of the Memphis Horns, had come in to lay down an instrumental track for a song, “Happy Go Lucky.” I later saw their names on some Doobie Brothers albums I had bought.
The album was rough and unpolished. Still, God has used it over the years to bless and encourage people’s hearts. We were His instruments. God worked through us and what a blessing it was for us to serve Him together. I’m thankful for Larry’s willingness to listen to God’s voice and clear direction in helping to bring it all together.
I have probably “mis-remembered” some of this story but felt compelled to share it with you all. It’s amazing to think that the awesome God who created the universe saw fit to choose, call, justify and sanctify us for His work (Romans 8:28-32). I am deeply humbled by it all.
I am so glad that you wrote about the making of that album! I’ve always loved it, and now I love it even more!
Chris [Carolyn’s adult son] liked it a lot, and, as I have told you all before, on Christmas afternoon shortly before he died, he mentioned that he wished he had it on a CD so that he could listen to it more easily. About that time, I remembered he had an unopened gift from JoAn and [her husband] Bill, and when he opened it, there was the CD which Bill had made for him! What a blessing that was!
I don’t know what this story will mean to you, but it is one of my happiest memories. Those times around the piano singing with my family were a part of my life that I took for granted. Now, I look back and see the beauty of that close family relationship we had, made even closer and more special because of our shared love for Christ.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?
Romans 8:28-32 NLT
(I had to include this medley of Andraé Crouch songs — we sang a lot of these, but not quite like this. I hope you enjoy it.)