Pueblo County, Colorado
Contributed by Jean, Gracie, Phyllis and Karen.
Colorado Springs Gazette 11-6-2006 - Bown for Glory - Pueblo Man Once Played With Hall of Fame Inductee - Lin Bown frowns under the brim of his black cowboy hat when he speaks about modern country music. It's too poppy, he says. It's not the country and western music he remembers. There was a time when Bown, of Pueblo, sang backup for the most famous country singer of his day, the classy crooner Sonny James, otherwise known as The Southern Gentleman. James will soon enter the Country Music Hall of Fame. The formal announcement of his induction is today at the Country Music Association Awards. "Sonny should have gone in a long time ago," Bown says. He and the other men who once played in James' backup band, The Southern Gentlemen, plan to meet at the formal induction ceremony in Nashville in May. The old gang holds reunions every five years, to celebrate the old days. James scored a big No. 1 hit in the '50s with "Young Love," and dominated the country charts from the mid-'60s to the late '70s, totaling 72 hits. In the early '60s, Bown was singing with the Chordsmen. The group did well, performing on the Grand Ole Opry frequently. James, who had already experienced some success on the pop and country charts, was planning a country-music comeback. He heard the Chordsmen, liked them, hired them as his backup group, and rechristened them The Southern Gentlemen. For a few years the group toured the country crammed into a Cadillac. "Sonny is like 6-foot-4 and had to sit in the front most of the time, so we crowded in the back," Bown says. They eventually bought a bus. The group played about 180 shows a year. Bown and the band wore matching sequined vests and sang well-rehearsed sets with comedy skits. A devoted Christian, James didn't drink, and he refused to play in nightclubs where alcohol was served. The Gentlemen often played 30-minute sets as part of package performances. Bown always hoped they'd play the first set, so he could sell records and merchandise during the second set and make a commission. "We would make as much money selling records and pictures as we made salary," Bown remembers. James was more of a self-made star than modern country singers. Bown says James kept a book of phone numbers for local DJs in cities across the nation. When the band arrived to play a show, James would stop at a pay phone, call the local DJ and give a personal interview. The DJs loved it, and it was a great way to sell concert tickets. Bown left the Southern Gentlemen in the late '60s. He grew weary of the road and he missed his family. His last tour took him through Colorado, and he fell in love with the state. Eventually, he moved here and started his own real estate appraisal business. But the music bug never left Bown, and 16 years ago he formed a gospel duo with his wife called The New Hope Singers. The two now travel nationwide performing in churches. For a while, Bown says, he wished he'd stayed with James and the band. "For several years, any time a bus would go by and I'd smell diesel smoke, I'd have a yearning to be on the road," he says. "Now I don't regret anything."
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