Bluegrass and country singer Frank Brown earned the nickname "Hylo" thanks to the considerable vocal range that became his trademark. Born in 1922 in Johnson County, KY -- later the birthplace of Loretta Lynn -- Brown had thoroughly absorbed the music indigenous to his Appalachian home before moving with his family to Ohio, where his career as a performer began to gather steam. There, he played on local radio broadcasts and began writing songs; one composition, a tribute to the Grand Ole Opry, was recorded by Jimmy Martin. In 1950, he sang harmony on a Bradley Kincaid session.
In 1954, a song titled "Lost to a Stranger" earned Brown a recording contract with Capitol Records; the subsequent single, along with follow-ups like "Lovesick and Sorrow" and "The Wrong Kind of Life," were minor hits. In 1957, Brown joined Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, becoming a featured vocalist with the duo's Foggy Mountain Boys. The group's increasing popularity prompted Flatt and Scruggs to form a second Foggy Mountain band, called the Timberliners, with Brown as the unit's frontman; the Timberliners were fleshed out by mandolin player Red Rector, fiddler Clarence "Tater" Tate, Jim Smoak on the banjo, and bassist Joe Phillips.
At their inception, the Timberliners performed on a circuit of television stations in Tennessee and Mississippi, later swapping schedules with Flatt & Scruggs in order to appear on West Virginia airwaves as well. In 1958, the group released Hylo Brown and the Timberliners, an LP that remains a traditional bluegrass classic. However, the advent of syndication and videotape allowed the original Flatt & Scruggs band to appear on any number of TV stations, effectively ending the Timberliners' career soon after, although Brown soldiered on for a time with a group including Norman Blake on Dobro and Billy Edwards on banjo. After the Timberliners' demise, Brown rejoined Flatt & Scruggs as a featured singer.
In the early '60s, Brown cut a handful of solo records, including 1961's Bluegrass Balladeer, 1962's Bluegrass Goes to College, and the next year's Hylo Brown Meets the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. Throughout the decade and into the first years of the '70s, he performed solo in clubs, releasing records infrequently on small labels. However, a gradual diminishment in his vocal range resulted in Brown's eventual retirement around the middle of the decade. Brown passed away January 17, 2003. ~ Jason Ankeny
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