I just learned, from an obituary in The Boston Broadside, that Gordy Brown died on December 11th. On December 3rd I had gotten one of Gordy’s frequent mailings to his e-list, this one a forward of a link to videos of old Opry stars. The return address was “may be hospitalized awhile limiting access to mail.” Gordy had COPD and had been in the hospital not long before; last time I saw him, in the summer when he dropped by WHRB to leave off a few records, he was toting an oxygen tank.
On the 24th I dropped him a note saying I was using his old photo of the 1994 HAH Christmas Party and reminding him to tune in on Saturday for the rebroadcast of the 2012 Christmas Extravaganza. The email generated this response: “Gordy.s Auto Signature Block Am in Bedford VA Hospital Hospice unit, Bldg. 2, rm 303. No cell phone. Room Phone is 782-687-4110. NO physical visits. due to covid” As far as I knew he was still alive and maybe even reading his mail. Eerily, it now reminds me of the scene in the movie, On the Beach, after a world-ending atomic war, when a submarine crewman, searching for the source of a radio signal in dead San Francisco, finds only a Coke bottle bumping in the breeze against a telegraph key.
Gordy might have appreciated that irony. He was a friend, and a friend of the show for many decades. If he also earned the title of ‘Complainer in Chief’ on this blog, back in 2014, it was in jesting tribute to our long-standing differences of taste in country music, and it did not diminish the long years of his efforts on behalf of local country performers in New England. Gordy knew practically everyone who played ‘country and western’ in the region, and put that knowledge to the service of his own New England Country Music Historical Society and to Halls of Fame in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
Gordy collected records and memorabilia, and hoped to establish a site for the Society and his collections—at one point he had Georgia Mae’s famous white guitar, which he donated to the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The Society was a one-man operation, and eventually proved too ambitious. Gordy did succeed in creating an exhibit called Legends of Waltham Country Music at The Waltham Museum (25 Lexington St.). Here’s an email from Gordy about it:
Gordon Brown was born in New Bedford. He had worked as a part-time DJ on WNBH in New Bedford in the 1950s, and in engineering and production at Boston station WNAC (AM, FM, TV). He served in the Army and was active as a veteran in the American Legion and the VFW. He was also active in conservative politics, and helped distribute the fledgling Boston Broadside monthly, hence the prominent obituary there (next to the legendary Walter E. Williams). Gordy leaves a son, Barry, who I believe lives in Florida, and two grandchildren.
I can’t find a good photo of Gordy, but it would be fitting to treat readers to the volume of the old film series Gordy linked to in his final email, ‘Memories: Grand Ole Opry Stars of the Fifties’. This was the country music from the period that Gordy liked best, featuring acts like Carl Smith, Goldie Hill, Little Jimmy Dickens, Lonzo & Oscar, Minnie Pearl, and many others. This video contains several shows, and runs about an hour an a half. It’s lots of fun:
RIP Gordy. /CL