“If not for Christmas … by New Year’s night”

Tony Russell “Charles” Brown grew up Galveston and taught chemistry at Carver High School in nearby Baytown, Texas, after receiving his degree from Prairie View A & M.  This was decades before integration and just as the U.S. went to World War II. Brown worked in a mustard gas plant in Arkansas and a Southern California shipyard before settling in Los Angeles. It was there Brown honed his skills as a pianist in blues bands and eventually recorded his music.

His Christmas blues standard “Please Come Home for Christmas” was a hit in 1960. It was popular enough through the various holidays that followed that it had sold 1 million records eight years later.

Brown was always more or less claimed as a “Southeast Texan.” Of course, he was Southeast Texan having grown up in Galveston but not “down home Southeast Texan” in the Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange “Golden Triangle” in which Janis Joplin was a native. He was more a native in the ZZ Top style. The three band members played many time in the Beaumont area, especially before they made it big. With the Frank, Dusty and Billy being mostly a Houston band, they too were co-opted by those of the Beaumont area.

Brown died in 1999 and was buried in California.

It really doesn’t matter who is from where though. During the number of years I lived outside of Southeast Texas, I never really felt at home in the area when I visited for the holidays until I heard James Brown’s “Please Come Home for Christmas.” And as much as I like the Eagles version of the song sung by northeast Texan Don Henley, sometimes there is nothing like the original.

May you all have a Happy Christmas wherever you are or whatever you are.




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