In took me a long time to appreciate what Jim Ed Brown did for country music. In the interest of honesty, I guess you could say I came to the Jim Ed Brown party late. Real late.

I was familiar with the song 'The Three Bells' as a kid. I was too young to appreciate it when it topped both the country and pop music charts in 1959, but I had heard it over the ensuing years and even at a young age I recognized beautiful harmonies when I heard them. Jim Ed and his sisters became known worldwide with that great hit.

via Tom Page YouTube

The Browns joined the Opry in 1963 and Jim Ed had his first huge solo hit in 1967, a song that would become something of a 'signature' song for Jim Ed (and a song that many years later country star Alan Jackson would bring to the top), 'Pop A Top'.

But I was still too young in 1967 to appreciate the gigantic talent that was Jim Ed Brown. To be honest, I was into the Monkees, Paul Revere and the Raiders and whoever else was populating the pop music chart. I still, to this day, enjoy listening to those Top Forty pop hits (now called 'oldies', just like me!), but I'm old enough to admit I missed a lot of the great career of Jim Ed Brown.

No, it wasn't until the 1970's that I 'discovered' this great and now legendary artist. I had begun working in this great radio profession and I was doing on-air work at KWYR in Winner, South Dakota when, in 1976, an RCA single came across my desk called 'I Don't Want To Have To Marry You' by Jim Ed and Helen Cornelius. I figured this was going to be one whale of a cheating song, with some of that great honky-tonk illicit sex thrown in!  Crank it up!

Well, I did crank it up and listened to one of the most beautiful songs in country music history. This was such a great song, so beautifully harmonized, that I'd turn it up and wouldn't sing along (why ruin a great song).

Ladies and Gentlemen, this truly is what country music sounded like, and should again.

And so all these decades later, I admit it: I came waaay late to the Jim Ed Brown party. But I've tried to catch up in the years since, listening to and playing hours of Jim Ed classics on my show and at home. With the help of friends like Joe Morrison, Mark Tassler and Jerry Dahmen, Jim Ed Brown almost feels like a friend. And in fact, he was.

Jim Ed made several trips to our area, singing annually with other Grand Ole Opry stars in Parker, S.D. And he'd stop by the station to visit. I can honestly tell you, it was like sitting down and visiting with an old friend. Modest, unpretentious, common. In addition to that beautiful voice, that was a large part of the genius of Jim Ed Brown. Thank goodness Jim Ed was still with us when he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame just this past year.

He's gone now, passed away at the age of 81. But you know what? I think I'm going to 'Pop-A-Top', raise it high and crank up some great Jim Ed music. That will never go away.