Departed

Grand Ole Opry member Jim Ed Brown dies at 81

March 25, 2015:  Jim Ed Brown speaks during the presentation of the Country Music Hall of Fame inductees in Nashville, Tenn.

March 25, 2015: Jim Ed Brown speaks during the presentation of the Country Music Hall of Fame inductees in Nashville, Tenn.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

Longtime Grand Ole Opry member Jim Ed Brown died Thursday. He was 81.

Brown died of cancer at Williamson Medical Center in Franklin, Tennessee, according to a news release from Webster Public Relations. He will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this year.

In the mid-1950s, Brown and his two sisters, Bonnie and Maxie, formed the trio known as The Browns, and had the No. 1 hit "The Three Bells" on both the pop and country charts in 1959. The three recorded for RCA Records from 1954 to 1967.

Bonnie and Maxine left the group in the mid-1960s to raise their families. Jim Ed Brown then had a solo career, beginning with the hit "Pop-A-Top Again" in 1967. Others were "Morning" in 1970 and "Southern Living" in 1973. His last chart record as a solo was in 1979.

Also in the 1970s, he teamed up with Helen Cornelius on hits including "I Don't Want to Have to Marry You," ''Saying Hello, Saying I Love You, Saying Goodbye" (both in 1976); "Lying in Love With You" (1979); "Fools" (1979); and "Don't Bother to Knock" (1981).

They were voted the Country Music Association's duo of the year in 1977.

Brown also was a prominent figure on country music television shows in the 1970s and 1980s. Beginning in 1975, he began a six-season run as co-host, with Jerry Clower, of the syndicated weekly TV show "Nashville on the Road."

And Brown hosted "You Can Be a Star" on the old Nashville Network cable channel for six years beginning in 1983.

He sang regularly on the Grand Ole Opry, a live radio show, beginning in 1963.

Brown, a native of Sparkman, Arkansas, lived in his early years on a farm, without electricity or running water, according to his public relations firm. The family would use a battery-operated radio to tune in to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights, and he began to mimic the vocal styles of its stars, the publicist said.

In 1986, Brown reflected on the years when he sang with his sisters.

"We lived way back in the sticks of Arkansas," he said in an Associated Press interview. "For three kids who lived so far back to be able to get on the Grand Ole Opry, it was a dream of thousands of people. America has always been open to someone new."

He said "The Three Bells" gave listeners something different during the early days of rock 'n' roll.

"Jerry Lee Lewis and Fabian were strong then and so were all the teen idols. 'The Three Bells' was a break from that. It was the synopsis of a man's life. People still enjoy hearing it and cry when they listen to it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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