Junior Brown alongside wife, Tanya Rae, at Mainstreet Crossing in Tomball.Photo by Lisa Strain
Junior Brown is a country western workhorse. Consistently touring for decades, he began as a back up musician for such acts as The Last Mile Ramblers and Asleep at the Wheel. “I had no other skills in life than playing music,” Brown has said. “I played more nights in honkytonks during the ‘70s and ‘80s than most musicians will see in a lifetime.” His group became the house band at the Continental Club in Austin in the ‘90s, and he now sells out shows regularly throughout the year.
And he'll be bringing his deep baritone drawl, humorous lyrics and innovative guitar picking back to Houston at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck on January 25.
Brown’s signature sound has kept him busy outside of the nightclubs as well. His credits include TV appearances on shows such as The X-Files. He has lent his voice to an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, written the theme song to Better Call Saul, and appeared multiple times on David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Saturday Night Live, and Austin City Limits. He has even done advertisements for Lipton Ice Tea and Gap Jeans. That kind of brand association can be cringeworthy, but when it’s Junior Brown alongside his talented wife and rhythm guitar player, Tanya Rae, it comes across as charming and cool.
Brown was born in Cottonwood, Arizona in 1952, but it wasn’t until his family moved to Kirksville, Indiana that he really started to take an interest in music. He has stated that country music was blooming everywhere, “growing up out of the ground like crops.” An old guitar, found in his grandparents' attic, started the boy on the long road toward his destiny.
In 1985 Brown came up with the idea of a double neck guitar called a “guit-steel,” that would make him one of a kind. The design consisted of a traditional six string on top, with a full size lap steel guitar on bottom. “I play both instruments and it would be frustrating because if I wanted lead guitar behind the vocals, I couldn’t have steel in that song,” Brown explains. The guit-steel allows him to conveniently switch instruments mid song without interruption. Brown has expressed that it was the invention of the guit-steel, built by Michael Stevens of Stevens Electric Instruments, that helped him come into his own as a songwriter.
It was that signature “Junior Brown” style of songwriting, including dry wit and clever guit-steel arrangements, that helped win him a CMA in 1996 for, “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead” and that same year he appeared alongside country music idol, George Jones in Jones’s music video “Honky Tonk Song.”
His shows never disappoint in providing good old classic country western and blues, but he’ll throw some surprises at his audiences with the inclusion of surf rock and even punk rock. There’s a Youtube video showing Brown covering The Ramones song, “Outsider."
He released a new album in 2017 titled, Deep in the Heart of Me. Pick it up and don’t miss the chance to see this one of a kind character at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck. He will be playing again on Thursday May 30 and Friday May 31 at Mainstreet Crossing in Tomball as well. In the words of Junior Brown, come to the show and “GUIT with it!”
Junior Brown plays at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on January 25 at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. For information, call 713-528-5999 or visit mcgonigels.com. $30 in advance, $33 at the door.
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