Saturday, July 16, 2016
– Bonnie Brown Ring, one-third of one of The Browns, passed away earlier today at Baptist Hospital in Little Rock, Ark. following complications from lung cancer at 77.
Born July 31, 1938 in Sparkman, Ark., Brown became became interested in music from watching her older siblings, Maxine and James Edward. The two performed together, earning a hit in 1954 with "Looking Back To See." Upon her graduation from high school, Bonnie joined her siblings.
They began performing together on The Louisiana Hayride on KWKH in Shreveport, which led to appearances on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee. Chet Atkins and RCA came calling soon after, and the Browns found themselves on the chart with hits such as "I Take The Chance" and "I Heard The Bluebirds Sing." James Edward (now known as Jim Ed) was drafted in 1957, but the trio recorded when he was on leave.
By 1959, the group recorded one of the biggest hits of the era in "The Three Bells." The song topped the Billboard Country charts - their first, and also crossed over to the Hot 100. They soon played The Ed Sullivan Show.
"Scarlet Ribbons," "The Old Lamplighter" and "Then I'll Stop Loving You" were hits, all showing their rich harmonies with Bonnie singing the high harmony parts. The Grand Ole Opry extended membership to The Browns in 1963.
Bonnie and Maxine decided to leave the trio in 1967 to spend more time with their growing families. Jim Ed continued on as a performer, with hits to his credit such as "Pop A Top." He also remained a member of the Opry, where his sisters would join him from time to time.
In March 2015, it was announced that The Browns would be among the new inductees for the new class of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Jim Ed passed away following his own battle with cancer prior to the official Medallion Ceremony that fall, though he was presented with his medallion a few days prior to his passing. Not too long after the Hall of Fame announcement, Bonnie announced that she too had been diagnosed with cancer, but was in attendance at the Hall for the induction ceremony in October.
Country Music Hall of Fame CEO Kyle Young said, "When Bonnie Brown joined her brother, Jim Ed, and her sister, Maxine, in song, the siblings created an incomparable harmony: the smoothest and most elegant blend in country music. Bonnie offered harmony offstage as well. She brought people together with regal grace and kindness. She lived a remarkable life, singing on grand stages, raising a beloved family, entering the Country Music Hall of Fame, and breaking up with young Elvis Presley because he was, she said, a lousy kisser. Today, she is reunited with Jim Ed, and with her husband of 56 years, Brownie Ring."
Bonnie Brown is survived by two daughters, Kelly (Ed) Bulleit, and Robin (Rob) Shaver, Kelly's children, Clark, Kendall, and Raleigh, as well as Robin's offspring, Skylar and Stone, and her sister, Maxine.