The Llano Country Opry will stage the Jim Ed Brown & Helen Cornelius Reunion Show on Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14, at the Lantex Theater in downtown Llano. There will be two shows with the afternoon matinee to begin at 2:30 p.m. and the evening show starting at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $15.00 per person and tickets are now on sale at the Llano Chamber of Commerce, Llano National Bank, Lively Computers in Kingsland or by calling (325) 247-5354.
Jim Ed Brown came to fame as a member of the ’50s vocal group the Browns where he was the band’s lead vocalist. In 1965, when the group was still together, he embarked on a solo career that would eventually eclipse the success of the Browns.
Brown and his older sister, Maxine, began performing while he was still in high school. In 1954, the duo signed a contract with Fabor, releasing five singles on the label. Later that year, their sister Bonnie joined the duo and they became the Browns. From 1956 until 1967, the Browns were signed to RCA Records, where they had a number of moderately successful hit singles, highlighted by the 1959 number one “The Three Bells.”
Brown began his solo career in 1965, two years before the Browns disbanded. Initially, he didn’t have much success and just scraped the bottom of the country Top 40. Once the Browns disbanded, Brown began to have more substantial hits, beginning with the number 18 single “You Can Have Her,” which was a cover of the Roy Hamilton hit. That was followed by the beer-drinking anthem “Pop a Top,” which climbed to number three. Although his next single, “Bottle, Bottle,” reached number 13, Brown didn’t have any major hits for the rest of the ’60s.
As his chart performance stagnated in 1968, he formed a backing group called the Gems and began a residency at the Sahara Tahoe’s Juniper Lounge. In 1969, he hosted the syndicated television show The Country Place, which ran until 1970.
As The Country Place was ending its run, Brown had his first major hit since “Pop a Top” with the number four single “Morning.” Again, he wasn’t able to immediately follow “Morning” with another Top Ten hit, but he began charting more frequently. In 1973, he had two Top Ten hits, “Southern Loving” and “Sometime Sunshine,” which were followed by the Top Ten “It’s That Time of Night” in early 1974.
Jim Ed Brown had his greatest success in the late ’70s, when he regularly performed duets with Helen Cornelius. They had six Top Ten hits between 1976 and 1980, including their debut single, “I Don’t Want to Have to Marry You,” which went to number one in 1976. They also recorded “Fools” “I’ll Never Be Free” “Saying Hello, Saying I Love You and Saying Goodbye” “I’m Leaving It Up To You” and “Lyin In Love With You.” During this time, Brown had some solo hits, but only two of them broke the Top 40. Brown and Cornelius ended their partnership in 1981, following the number 13 hit “Don’t Bother to Knock.”
After the breakup of his duo with Helen Cornelius, Jim Ed Brown pretty much retired from recording. Brown also hosted TV game shows and talent contests throughout the ’80s. Toward the end of the decade, he opened the Jim Ed Brown Theater near Opryland in Nashville, TN, where he performed regularly for a number of years. He is still a constant performer on the Grand Ole Opry and tours extensively.
After graduating from high school, Cornelius married and worked as a secretary. She returned to touring during the ’60s and became a songwriter, gaining recognition in 1970 when she was signed as a writer to Columbia/Screen Gems Music after submitting a demo tape. After the company folded, Cornelius sent a tape to Jerry Crutchfield and began working for MCA Music; he later helped her sign with Columbia Records. In 1973, she came to Nashville and recorded two unsuccessful singles, later signing to RCA. She released her first single for the label in 1975; neither it nor its follow-up charted.
In 1981, she released “Love Never Comes Easy,” which made it to the Top 50. Her next hit came in 1983, the year she also worked as a spokesperson for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In 1984, Cornelius changed directions and joined the road revival of Annie Get Your Gun, also touring with the Statler Brothers. She released a self-titled album in 1985 on MCA Dot Records.
Cornelius has most recently been a part of the very successful Grand Ladies of Country Music in Branson. She has recently moved back to Nashville and is once again working the road all over the country entertaining her many fans.
“We are so excited to present Grand Ole Opry stars Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius,” Opry MC Tracy Pitcox said. “These great acts have toured all over the world and we are excited that they agreed to this special reunion show at the Llano Country Opry.”
Other acts on the Llano Country Opry will include Rance Norton, Kimberly Murray, Bode Barker, Ben Watson, Sammy Geistweidt, Lonnie Atkinson, Benny Fred Kothmann and Bucille Snotgrass.
For more information about the Llano Country Opry, log on to www.heartoftexascountry.com.