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Cleo Brown

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Cleo Brown, later Cleo Patra Brown (Dec. 8, 1909 - Apr. 15, 1995) was an American blues and jazz vocalist and pianist.

Brown was born in Mississippi and sang in church as a child. In 1919 her family moved to Chicago and she began studying piano; in the 1920s she began taking gigs in clubs and broadcasted on radio. From the 1930s to the 1950s she toured the United States regularly, recording for Decca Records (among other labels) along the way and recording many humorous, ironic titles such as “Your Feet’s Too Big”, “Mama Don’t Want No Peas and Rice and Coconut Oil” and “The Stuff Is Here and it’s Mellow”. Her stride piano playing was often compared to Fats Waller.

In the 1940s Brown began to shy from singing bawdy blues songs because of deepening religious beliefs, and in 1953 she retired and became a nurse. She was rediscovered in the 1980s after being tracked down by Marian McPartland; she returned to record again and performed on National Public Radio. She died in 1995 in Denver, Colorado.

Some of Brown’s earliest recordings have been reissued by Document Records.

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