James Brown performed on the Opry

Many James Brown fans might be surprised to know that he loved country music and that Little Jimmy Dickens was one of his favorite singers.


In 1979, Mr. Brown took the stage at the Grand Ole Opry as the guest of Opry star Porter Wagoner.

"I always have loved country music ever since I was a kid and listened to the radio in Augusta," Mr. Brown said. "Country music really is just the white man's blues."

Mr. Brown's country favorites also included Lefty Frizzell and Cowboy Copas.

"I love Minnie Pearl," he added. "We were on The Joey Bishop Show together. I also co-hosted The Mike Douglas Show one time when he had Johnny Cash as a guest."

Mr. Brown in the 1980s even recorded a disco version of the pop/country single Still, written by Bill Anderson, a fellow inductee with Mr. Brown in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

"One of my most prized possessions is the album containing James Brown's version of Still - all seven-minutes of it!!," Mr. Anderson e-mailed me this week. "The first time I heard him say, 'a good friend of mine, Brother Bill Anderson' on that record, I got goose bumps the size of a grapefruit."

There was little media notice when The Pointer Sisters sang on the Grand Ole Opry in the early '70s when their country-flavored single Fairy Tales was being played on rock and some country stations.

There was little notice, too, when Stevie Wonder performed on the Opry in late 1979.

When Mr. Brown appeared on the Opry, though, he became a magnet for criticism by several Opry old-timers and others who had no clue of his love of country music.

Nevertheless, Mr. Brown took the verbal slings in stride, just as he did a lot of other criticism.

"They treated me like I was a prodigal son," he later graciously said of his acceptance in Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House.

Mr. Brown was impressed with Mr. Wagoner's poor upbringing in Missouri and his determination to succeed in the music business.

"Porter used to walk behind the mules plowing up the fields and singing to himself," Mr. Brown said. "A guy heard Porter announcing himself like he was on the Grand Ole Opry and told him, 'That's the closest to the Opry, you'll ever get.'

"I can relate to that," Mr. Brown continued. "My own daddy told me that I'd never make it by singing. My own daddy told me that."

Mr. Brown summarized his Opry appearance by saying, "I thought it was one of the best things I have ever done in my life. It was definitely a high point."

Don Rhodes has written about country music for 36 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at don.rhodes@morris.com.