Pop Trios: The Browns; The Fleetwoods

Now Russ and I would probably consider this elevator music, but these two trio’s where very popular and sold a lot of vinyl, the first country and the next group Pop.

The Browns

(Ed, Maxine & Bonnie brothers & sisters)

The Browns

Three Big Hits:

1.   The Three Bells/ RCA 7555/ 8/3/59/ # 1 (4 weeks) Billboard
2.   Scarlet Ribbons/ RCA 7614/ 11/23/59/ # 13 Billboard
3.   The Old Lamplighter/ RCA 7700/ 3/28/60/ # 5 Billboard

The Browns were an American family singing group from Pine Bluff, Arkansas made up of Jim Ed Brown and his sisters, Maxine Brown and Bonnie Brown.

Country music singers, they sang individually at rural venues until 1954 when Maxine Brown, and younger brother Jim Ed, signed a record contract as a singing duo. Eighteen-year-old Bonnie joined the group in 1955, and the following year they were signed by Chet Atkins, RCA Victor Records producer in Nashville, Tennessee.

The family trio recorded several songs that met with only modest success until 1959, when their 45 rpm folk single called “The Three Bells” was a no. 1 hit on both the Billboard Hot 100 pop music and country music charts.

The Three Bells

Based on a song called “Les trois cloches,” the song was originally a hit in France for both the group Les Compagnons de la chanson and Édith Piaf.

The Browns followed up the success of “The Three Bells” with “Scarlet Ribbons” and “The Old Lamplighter,” recordings that also did very well on both the pop and country music charts.

Scarlet Ribbons

The Old Lamplighter

With an international following, The Browns toured Europe extensively and recorded further moderate successes on the country music charts.

In 1963, they became part of the Grand Ole Opry.

The Fleetwoods

(Gary Troxel, Gretchen Christopher and Barbara Ellis)

The Fleetwoods

Their Hits:
1.   Come Softly to Me/ Dolton 1/ 3/16/59/ # 1 (4) Billboard

2.   Graduation’s Here/ Dolton 3/ 6/22/59/ # 39 Billboard

3.   Mr. Blue/ Dolton 5/ 9/14/59/ # 1 Billboard

4.   Outside my Window/ Dolton 15/ 2/29/60/ # 28 Billboard

5.   Runaround/ Dolton 22/ 6/27/60/ # 23 Billboard

6.   Tragedy/ Dolton 40/ 5/8/61/ # 10 Billboard

7.   The Great Impostor/ Dolton 45/ 10/2/61/ # 30 Billboard

8.   Lovers by Night, Strangers by Day/ Dolton 62/ 11/24/62/ # 36 Billboard

9.   Goodnight my Love/ Dolton 75/ 7/13/63/ # 32 Billboard

Although the Fleetwoods’ sound was smooth, without many of the rougher edges of doo wop groups, they were one of the few white vocal groups of the late ’50s and early ’60s to enjoy success not only on the pop charts, but also the R&B charts.

Their forte was ballads — beginning with the 1959 debut single “Come Softly to Me,” they racked up a number of hits over the next three years, and nearly all of them were ballads.

Gretchen Christopher,Barbara Ellis, and Gary Troxell formed the Fleetwoods while attending high school in Olympia, WA. Originally, the group consisted only of Christopher and Ellis, but the duo soon asked Troxell to accompany them on trumpet. Shortly after his arrival in the group, Troxell abandoned the trumpet and concentrated on singing once the other two members heard a portion of a song he had written.

With some notable contributions from Christopher and  Ellis, the group wrote “Come Softly to Me” and began performing the song at various events around Olympia, eventually gaining the attention of Bob Reisdorff, who ran the Seattle-based label Dolphin Records.

Dolphin released “Come Softly to Me” early in 1959 and the song became an instant hit, climbing to number one on the pop charts and number five on the R&B charts; it also reached the Top Ten in U.K.

Come Softly To Me

The Fleetwoods weren’t able to immediately produce a follow-up single as successful as their debut, but their third single, “Mr. Blue,” was a number one pop and Top Five R&B hit in the U.S. in late 1959.

Mr Blue

By the time of its release, Dolphin had changed its name to Dolton. For the next three years, the Fleetwoods had a string of minor pop hits. The group wasn’t able to consistently place singles in the upper regions of the charts partially because Troxell was drafted into the Navy at the height of the group’s popularity at the end of 1959.

Troxell was replaced by Vic Dana, who would later have a string of his own hit singles in the early ’60s.

The Fleetwoods’ last Top Ten single arrived in the spring of 1961, when “Tragedy” climbed the U.S. charts.

The group disbanded two years later, after releasing its final single, a cover of  Jesse Belvin’s “Goodnight My Love“.

The Fleetwoods broke up in 1963, but their songs — particularly “Come Softly to Me” — became pop/rock classics of the pre-British Invasion era.


4 responses to “Pop Trios: The Browns; The Fleetwoods

  1. ” Come Softly to Me ” was used in that great movie all the boys who lived in small towns can relate to – ” Stand by Me “.


    • Hi Don I loved that movie “Stand By Me” and so did my daughter when she was around 12 yrs old. Hey, where do you live, Don? I am in Barrie. – Russ

  2. Hi Russ

    I am over near Ottawa.


  3. Re “Scarlett Ribbons”: Will someone explain to me why Dad couldn’t get some ribbons the next morning. His heart’s aching because the kid won’t wake up and find it there? I didn’t get the imptession the kid said: “And I want it to be RIGHT HERE WHEN I WAKE UP!” Sheez. And for the Fleetwoods : It”s your choice to be trested that way. “MR BLUE”, just admit you LIKE it.

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