Kenny Brown has been a student of the Mississippi hill country blues for most of his life. Born in Selma, Alabama, in 1953, his family moved to Nesbit, Mississippi, when he was less than a year old. Kenny developed an interest in playing guitar at the age of ten and began teaching himself the basics. Two years later, the bluesman Joe Callicott moved in next door, and Kenny’s fate was sealed. This unlikely pair would spend hours together, whether in the morning before Kenny had to be at school or in the evening as soon as Kenny came home.
On some nights, Kenny would hear the music coming from Othar Turner’s place down the way. Growing up in this part of Mississippi, Kenny was surrounded by musicians: Junior Kimbrough, Fred McDowell, and R. L. Burnside. Their influence wasn’t wasted on this young white boy, and Kenny made sure to prove himself to them all.
By the age of eighteen, he was playing with Burnside’s band; over the next thirty or so years together, they would tour all over the world. Burnside often referred to Kenny as his “adopted son”. As R. L.’s health began to fade in recent years, Kenny began recording on his own. His debut album, Stingray, was released on Fat Possum Records in 2003. Brown is currently a member of the Arts Commission’s Artist Roster program. He also performed in and contributed music to the major motion picture, Black Snake Moan, released in early 2007.
Kenny has kept close to his roots; he still gives a nod to his old mentor, the late Joe Callicott, every time he performs. But Kenny has also managed to develop a style of his own. As he sees it, the music has to evolve because you have to keep learning. Learning that the ties to Mississippi hill country blues are definitely ties that bind.