April 25, 1916, Chicago, IL – August 21, 2009, Chicago, IL
Brownie grew up in Chicago, and he and his longtime partner, Charles “Cookie” Cook, started dancing as pickaninnies in an act called “Mammy and Her Picks.” During the 1930s and 40s, “Cook and Brown” was a celebrated vaudeville duo that featured a combination of flash and knock-about comedy. They headlined such famous theaters and nightclubs as the Roxy, the Radio City Music Hall, the Cotton Club in New York, Palladium in London, and Latin Casino in Paris with the orchestras of Count Basie and Duke Ellington etc.. In 1952 the duo was featured in the Broadway musical “Kiss Me Kate.” In the late 1960s, Cook and Brown toured Africa as part of the cultural exchange sponsored by the State Department, which included a command performance of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. Brownie appeared in films such as “Toot That Trumpet” (1943), “Chatter” (1943), and later the PBS documentary “JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance” (2001). He taught at Chicago’s “Human Rhythm Project,” New York’s “Tap City,” among other festivals.