Sweet Georgia Brown: from streets to Montreux star

Tue Jul 14, 2009 6:17am EDT
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By Jason Rhodes

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters Life!) - Blues singer Sweet Georgia Brown made her dream come true with an electrifying performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival six years after she was found sleeping rough on the streets of New York.

Brown, making her major international debut aged 62, won the night's first standing ovation that most expected would be granted to bluesman and headliner BB King.

"I never thought in a million years I would be singing with BB King. This is a dream come true for me," said Brown before joining a host of stars in a late-night jam session at the end of King's crowd-pleasing performance.

Her break came when the Jazz Foundation of America showcased her in New York to producer Quincy Jones and Montreux Jazz festival organizer Claude Nobs.

"Man, we kicked so much ass that night and Claude played the harmonica with me. It was unbelievable," Brown said in an interview after her set.

When the musicians' charity first heard of Brown, she was sleeping in New York's Penn Station after a fire had robbed her and her disabled granddaughter of their home.

"Georgia Brown has quite a story," said Wendy Oxenhorn, executive director of the Jazz Foundation of America, which helps musicians in distress. "She had a very challenging life. She's always struggled as all blues musicians do."

"She's well known in New York -- she's one of the last of the real Harlem diva blues queens," Oxenhorn said of Brown, who has been singing and dancing since the age of three.   Continued...