Be it musical genius or divine intervention, Junior Brown’s imagination resulted in the creation of an instrument so unique there is literally nothing else like it. From humble beginnings to large crowds, Junior Brown and his famous Guit Steel Double Neck Guitars have been entertaining crowds for decades. The creation of his famed Old Yeller and Big Red gave him the sounds he needed when he needed it in one small package.
Old Yellar started with a dream. Junior Brown recalls, “I was playing both steel and guitar, switching back and forth a lot while I sang, and it was kinda awkward. But then I had this dream where they just kinda melted together. When I woke up, I thought ‘You know, this thing could work!’ They made double necked guitars and double necked steels, so why not one of each?”
Brown then called Michael Stevens and hired him to create the dreamy instrument. Using the neck and pickups from Brown’s previous guitar, a Fender Bullet, for the top neck and a full size lap steel guitar on the bottom, Old Yeller was born in 1985. The whole thing would rest on a podium on stage and Brown would play behind it switching between guitar and lap steel as he needed throughout his performances.
Big Red was created a few years later. The top neck was laser copied from the Bullet neck with electric guitar pickups. Both necks also featured identical Sho-Bud lap steel pickups as well. Both guitars were used for recording and live performances. Old Yeller was eventually retired and gifted to Brown’s agent Bobby Cudd, but was pulled from an exhibit at the Museum of Design in Atlanta when Big Red was reported stolen.
On Monday, October 7, 2019 Police Officers of North Attleboro, Texas were called for the theft of Junior Brown’s Big Red. The instrument, along with his wife’s rare Martin Shenandoah acoustic, was allegedly removed from the Browns’ rental vehicle outside a Holiday Inn Express sometime Sunday evening or early that Monday Morning. A $2,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the return of the instruments. As of November 2019, the instruments are still missing and plans were announced for the production of a new one.
Brown was born in Cottonwood, Arizona in 1952 but raised near Kirksville, Indiana. Born into a musical family Brown says “there was always music of some kind in the house when I was growing up. My dad was a piano player and so I started playing little melodies on the piano before I could talk.” Brown was often heard citing Earnest Tubb as his big influence.
Brown began to play the guitar after he found one in his grandparents’ attic. He eventually started performing, playing at parties, school functions, and a Boy Scout jamboree in front of five thousand scouts at Andrews Air Force Base. As a teenager he even had an opportunity to play with rock and roll legend, Bo Diddley. At seventeen Brown dropped out of high school and started playing at local honky tonk bars. “As a kid who dropped out of high school and didn’t’ have any skills at all, I got this job playing six nights in honky tonks when I was seventeen years old. I made $140 a week and thought I was rich.”
Later Brown and his wife and band mate Tanya Rae would move to Austin, Texas in the early 1990s. There the couple got a gig at the Continental Club. In 1993 Brown secured a seven record deal with Curb Records beginning with “Twelve Shades of Brown.” He’s also had numerous Grammy nods, a CMA award for “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead” and several appearances on television and movies. He has been featured on Saturday Night Live, Spongebob, Me, Myself, and Irene, and Better Call Saul. Brown has also made appearances on big name ad campaigns like The Gap and Lipton Tea.
Junior Brown has established himself as an accomplished singer, songwriter, and musician. After spending his younger years keeping his love of country music a secrete he is now fully dedicated to staying true to himself and keeping his music untouched by the trends of today’s music. You can still hear Brown play as he still tours regularly, despite the loss of Big Red. He will be performing live at The Grand Ol Opry in Nashville, Tennessee this Saturday and again in Atlanta at City Winery on Monday night. Check out his Facebook page to see all of his upcoming events.
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