Both birth and death dates are approximations, as it happens with many other musicians of his time and environment, there is no many details about his life. Also believed to be born in a rural area of northern Louisiana, or even in Mississippi, others say it was in New Orleans.
It was one of the musicians that preceded the development of acoustic blues during the 1920’s. Later would influence other musicians of the 60’s such as Bob Dylan and Roger McGuinn (The Birds), who both interpreted the song James Alley Blues.
They say it was one of the first musicians to use the famous 12 bar blues pattern.
Supposedly spent his youth in New Orleans until, between 1890 and 1900, he moved to the district of Battlefield (later home to Louis Armstrong), known to be a complicated area and high risk, dangerous, where the police sometimes refused to go in at night, if they had to put an end to any brawl, waiting for the rising sun to do so.
The “Rabbit” began by singing on street corners and in bars in the district. He also frequented the famous Mama Lou’s on Lake Pontchartrain, where he worked as a singing boatman in order to get some more money for the family.
Listening to his music we see an excellent command of the guitar, music that mixed blues, popular songs and topical ballads, with lyrics about own experiences and real cases, murders, occurred in the area, such as The Downfall of the Lion, on which he tells us about the murder of police chief on Basin Street, or Gyp the Blood, which talks about the murder of two bar owners in the district of Storyville, causing his closure and putting some musicians out of work. Although rumour has it that Brown put that title to the song as it was the nickname of a New York gangster, Harry Horowicz, who at the time of the Storyville killings was on trial for a horrible murder, which was being highly publicized and our man thought that like this, his song could have more impact. Neither of the songs were recorded and only snatches of the lyrics remain.
All recordings are from 1927, after which he disappeared and nothing was heard from him. As said at the beginning, there is only a little information about his life, and from 1930 is only known that he supposedly died in 1937 and presumably in New Orleans.
As legend, thanks to a an anthology collection of rural acoustic gospel music published in 2003, Goodbye, Babylon, which included one of the two known recordings by an undocumented singer named Blind Willie Harris, it is was found a striking similarity in both music and voice in the song Where He Leads Me I Will Follow, recorded in 1929, with the Brown Rabbit recordings of 1927, so it is said that it could be the same person and therefore his disappearance would be explained.
As in other cases, the mysteries of the blues are served.
James Alley Blues (Richard “Rabbit” Brown, 1927)
I’m Not Jealous (Richard “Rabbit” Brown, 1927)
Never Let the Same Bee Sting You Twice (Richard “Rabbit” Brown, 1927)
The Sinking of the Titanic (Richard “Rabbit” Brown, 1927)