Nappy Brown is the stage name of Napoleon Brown Culp (October 12, 1929 – September 20, 2008).He was the son of Kathryn Culp and Sammie Lee Brown. After his mother died he was
brought up by Fred and Maggie Culp. They attended Gethsemane AME Zion Church and he attended school in Charlotte, North Carolina. Brown was a gospel-influenced blues singer, whose hits include the 1955 Billboard Chart No 2, Don't Be Angry and Night Time Is the Right Time. His style is instantly recognizable; Brown used a wide vibrato, melisma, and distinctive extra syllables, in particular, "li-li-li-li-li."
Nappy Brown was among the biggest stars in R&B
, frequently touring with the legendary revues of Alan Freed
. His songs, along with those of his peers and contemporaries (such as Little Richard
, Chuck Berry
, and Fats Domino
) were among the first wave of African-American pop music to become noticed and popular among white audiences.
In addition to Brown's influence on blues music, and 1950s R&B and pop, Brown's powerful and protean voice, combined with his distinctive emotive style is widely viewed as a key link to what would become known as Soul music.
In the early 1980s, a renewed interest in R&B led to some of Brown's early songs being released on European albums. At the urging of Bob Margolin
, former guitarist for Muddy Waters
's band and a huge fan of Brown, Brown returned to the music business, beginning with a successful tour of Scandinavia
in 1983. In 1984, 14 years since his last recording, Brown signed with Landslide Records
and released the album Tore Up
with The Heartfixers. Other recordings followed.
Brown's Savoy Records hit, Piddly Patter was featured in the John Waters film, Cry-Baby, starring Johnny Depp.
Nappy Brown's final album, Long Time Coming
-- recorded in May 2007 -- on Blind Pig Records
, was released on September 25th, 2007. Reviews were overwhelmingly positive (4-1/2 stars from the All Music Guide
); the album and Brown were each nominated for a Blues Music Award
(the genre's highest honor). The album, produced by Scott Cable
, features the guitarists Sean Costello
, Bob Margolin
, Junior Watson
, and other special guests performing Brown's hits and several new songs. In the fall of 2007, Nappy Brown was Living Blues Magazine
's September cover artist, and followed that honor with a European tour. Nappy Brown was a musical guest on Garrison Keillor
's Prairie Home Companion
, October 20th, 2007.
At the ceremony for the Blues Music Awards in May 2008, Brown gave one last electrifying performance, capping an incredible comeback year.
On June 12008 following the performance at Crawfish Festival in Augusta, New Jersey, Brown fell ill due to series of ailments and was hospitalized. He died in his sleep on September 202008 at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.