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Hylo Brown
Born:  April 20, 1922
Died:  January 17, 2003
WWVA Original Jamboree
WING Dayton, OH
WLOG Logan, WV
WPFB Middletown, OH
WWSO Springfield, OH
WWVA Wheeling, WV

About The Artist

Johnson County, Kentucky native Frank Brown had a country singing voice suited to bluegrass and hard country. He made some impact on the music world from the middle-1950's for about a decade.

His career continued into the early 1990's with less success and he eventually drifted into an undeserved obscurity. Nonetheless, in his heyday Brown was a country hero, especially to his fan base in Appalachia and in Appalachian migrant enclaves in the Midwest.

Brown was born and grew up in the same area a few years before Loretta Lynn put that part of the Kentucky mountains on the music map. He was influenced by local musicians he heard growing up and traditionalists on recordings such as the Monroe Brothers, Bradley Kincaid, and the Blue Sky Boys.

He first sang on radio at sixteen on WCMI in Ashland, Kentucky and had his first program-15 minutes weekly-at WLOG in Logan, West Virginia. During the war he moved to Springfield, Ohio and worked in a defense plant. In 1944, one of his heroes, Bradley Kincaid, relocated from Nashville to Springfield where he bought a radio station, but still continued singing on the airwaves.

After the war, Brown worked in a factory and sang part-time on radio where he got the nickname Hylo from his extensive voice range. He often worked with Kincaid, even helping him on a Capitol record session in 1950, but gave little thought to making music an occupation until 1954.

Beryl Harrell Beryl Harrell

That year Brown wrote the song "Lost to a Stranger," which he hoped someone would record on a major label. When he took it to Nashville, Ken Nelson of Capitol suggested that he do it himself. The next day, November 7, Hylo found himself in a studio cutting four numbers. He continued with Capitol through 1960, recording a mixture of bluegrass and traditional country.

With his contract in hand, Hylo went into music with a will forming a band, the Buckskin Boys. He joined the WWVA Jamboree which took him to venues as far away as New England and the Maritimes in Canada.

Later, he became a featured vocalist traveling with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs on a TV circuit for Martha White Flour.

As Flatt and Scruggs made Martha Flour ever more popular, they added a second band led by Hylo called the Timberliners and gave him a circuit as well. Jim and Jesse also became a third band. Hylo's band included such pickers as Red Rector and Tater Tate and they cut one of the first truly classic bluegrass long-play albums in 1958.

Beryl Harrell Beryl Harrell

Unfortunately, when videotape came along, the Flatt and Scruggs show was played on all the stations. After a few months, Brown gave up his band and went back to his prior featured spot with the Foggy Mountain Boys.

After a final Capitol session in October 1960 (which remained unreleased until 1992), he signed with Starday Records.

Hylo continued with Starday until 1964 during which time he turned out four long play albums and a number of singles, all of good quality although not quite up to the standard of his best Capitol sides.

Quaker Puffed Rice Ad with Monte Hale - 1949

Quaker Puffed Rice Ad with Monte Hale - 1949

Although still with the Flatt and Scruggs organization when his first Starday album came out, he soon went back on his own. Probably his most notable offerings for that label were "Picture in the Wallet" a Jimmie Skinner Composition; "Cabin on the Hill," an inspirational classic written in 1943 by blind piano tuner Boliver Lee Shook; and the traditional ballad "Roane County Prisoner."

Webmaster Note: About 50 years ago while my family was visiting my aunt and uncle, I was just learning an 8-string Fender Hawaiian Steel Guitar. They had an old dobro and I just tuned the string to the way I was learning. I started plucking away and soon calls were made to neighbors to come on by. An informal picking session began. The family penny-a-point rummy game got postponed that night. But my uncle asked me if a knew a certain tune that I had never been able to find until Mr. Tribe wrote this item about Hylo. He asked me if I knew "I Saw Your Picture In Another Man's Wallet." Then in Hylo's discography, I noticed a tune on Starday record number 578, "Picture in the Wallet." It took me several attempts to download the MP3 file and when I finally got to hear it, I knew that was the song my uncle wanted to hear. I tried to write the lyrics to the first two verses and chorus, but could not quite get them right. I mentioned it to Mr. Tribe and during his Sunday, January 17, 2021 broadcast over WOUB.ORG, he said he sent them to me based on what he remembered. That song resonated with my uncle and Ivan remembered the lyrics 50 years later. It's a story song, so here are the lyrics to the first two verses and the chorus.

Picture In The Wallet
Written by Jimmie Skinner and Vernon Lyons
Recorded by Hylo Brown in 1961 and released on Starday 578.

While talking with an old friend who casually said to me
there's a picture of an old flame I'd like for you to see
He thought she was a beauty tho he'd loved them by the score
Just another party girl he didn't see 'round no more

On the photograph you gave him, says "Darling, I love you."
I guess it's just a habit, those little things you do.
I wonder now how many notes so fearlessly you penned.
What a shame I saw your picture in the wallet of a friend.

Yes I saw your picture in the wallet of a friend.
With these words I love you, you had written there for him.
I could not believe my eyes, my word was shattered when
I saw your lovely picture in the wallet of a friend.

Although Brown's stature was slowly diminishing, he continued recording extensively for the smaller bluegrass-oriented Rural Rhythm label, turning out six albums over the next five years of roughly twenty songs each, some of which were atypically short. He seldom carried a full band in that era, and used local bands for backup. Roy Ross and his Blue Ridge Mountain Boys from Pike County, Ohio was one of them.

By the 1970s, Hylo usually worked primarily in clubs and played a few bluegrass festivals. He also experienced some voice problems, finding it more difficult to sing in natural highs although he could still do his trademark falsetto on "The Prisoner's Song." Singing in low keys became increasingly common and had lesser appeal for a bluegrass audience that was his natural fan base.

He did some later recording for labels like Jessup and Attieram, but they failed to revive his career and Hylo eventually retired. In post retirement, Copper Creek Records released a compact disc of material taped from a live show at New River Ranch which captured the old Hylo at his best.

In 1996, the State of Kentucky added Hylo Brown's name as well as Crystal Gayle and Loretta Lynn to a road sign on Highway 23 that was designated "Country Music Highway." Back then there was an Exxon Station along the road near Paintsville that had many items that belonged to Hylo haning on the wall. Other stars honored on the road in Eastern Kentucky are Billy Ray Cyrus, The Judds, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Dwight Yoakam, Patty Loveless and Gary Stewart.

He died a few years later.

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its thanks to Ivan M. Tribe, author of Mountaineer Jamboree — Country Music in West Virginia and other books that can be found on Amazon.com and numerous articles in other publications for providing us with information about this artist.
  • Eastern Kentucky Highway Dedicated To Country Music; September 22, 1996; Advocate-Messenger; Danville, KY
  • State designates mountain road as 'Country Music Highway'; Courier-Journal; September 22, 1996; Louisville, KY
  • Singer Frank 'Hylo' Brown is added to list of honorees; Lexington Herald Leader; Lexington, KY

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

 
Capitol
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  3124 A Lost to a Stranger
  3124 B Get Lost You Wolf
  3240 A Lovesick and Sorrow
  3240 B A One Sided Love Affair
  3327 A Let?s Stop Fooling
  3327 B The Wrong Kind of Life
  3448 A I?ll Be Broken Hearted
  3448 B In the Clay Beneath the Tomb
  3554 A The Only One
  3554 B The Prisoner?s Song
  3671 A Nobody?s Darling But Mine
  3671 B One Way Train
  3853 A Foolish Pride
  3853 B Stonewall
  4035 A There?s More Pretty Girls than One
  4035 B John Henry
  4132 A The Shuffle of My Feet
  4132 B Your Crazy Heart
  4210 A Thunder Clouds Of Love
  4210 B You Can?t Relive the Past
  4380 A I?ve Waited As Long As I Can
  4380 B Just Any Old Love
  4434 A It?s All Over Now But the Crying
  4434 B How Could You Forget So Soon
 
Starday
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  578 A Picture In The Wallet
  578 B Hills Of Georgia
  593 A Take A Look
  593 B Rose Of Love
  601 A Time
  601 B The Girl In The Blue Velvet Band
  613 A Prisoner's Song
  613 B Treasures From The Past
  622 A Daddy's Place
  622 B Seasons Of My Heart
  638 A Tiny Doll
  638 B Take A Look At That Rain
  659 A Hole In The Wall
  659 B The Room Over Mine
  680 A Sad Prison Song
  680 B Silent Partner
  697 A Walk Slowly Darling
  697 B When The Bright Lights Grow Dim
  715 A Outlaw Girl
  715 B I Wonder What You'll Find
  742 A Someone To Care
  742 B Trickle Down Teardrops


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