Brownie McGhee

blues musician, Knoxville & Kingsport
National Heritage Fellowship (1982)

Brownie McGhee (1915-1996) was among the first group of artists to receive the National Heritage Fellowship. A blues guitarist and singer, McGhee lived in Oakland, California, at the time of his award, but was born in Knoxville and raised in Kingsport. He gained much of his early experience in Tennessee, street singing and performing in traveling shows. His brother, Sticks McGhee, is also a native Tennessee bluesman of note. Brownie began his long career as a recording artist in Chicago in the early 1940s. He is best known for his partnership with harmonica player Sonny Terry, and together they gained wide popularity during the folk revival of the 1960s.


More Information

  • Bastian, Bruce,  Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986).
  • Elmes, Barry, “Living Blues Interview: Brownie McGhee,” Living Blues 13 (Summer 1973): 18-23.
  • “Living Blues Interview: Brownie McGhee,” Living Blues 13 (Fall 1973): 14-18.
  • Govenar, Alan, Masters of Traditional Arts: A Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2001), pp. 409-12, 725.
  • Greenberg, Mark, “Brownie McGhee: Blues Legend Who Won’t Quit,” Frets 4 (July 1982): 30-33.
  • McGhee, Brownie, and Michael Brooks, “Brownie McGhee on Playing the Blues,” Guitar Player 7 (Oct 1975): 24-26.
  • Traum, Happy, ed., Guitar Styles of Brownie McGhee (New York: Oak Publications 1971).