When ‘Hylo’ Brown died a decade ago his name was not a familiar one to most, but he had gained the respect of knowledgeable fans. A bluegrass pioneer who had paved the way for countless performers, his talents included a singing voice with wide range — the inspiration for his nickname.
Born and raised in the same part of Kentucky that would later produce Loretta Lynn, Frank Brown Jr. was just a teenager when he began his career as a radio performer in the late 1930s. Starting on local radio, he gradually worked his way up the ladder of fame over the next decade by moving to bigger stations in Southwestern Ohio (where he picked up his nickname from another performer).
By the early 1950s he was pretty well-established as a performer and had also hit the recording studio occasionally as a part of various groups. He was a good songwriter too, and when he offered a new one to record company officials, he was hoping they’d get Kitty Wells to do it. Instead, they suggested Brown try a solo on it himself, and “Lost To a Stranger” was a solid hit, eventually becoming his signature song.
It was the beginning of what would be his peak years. He formed a group he called the Buckskin Boys (later renaming them the Timberliners) and began showing up in a lot of high profile spots, like alongside Flatt & Scruggs on the Martha White Mills radio show. He also made a lot of good records, including a series of solo platters billed as the Bluegrass Balladeer, and continued to find success for many years. But things eventually slowed down and time caught up with him. He was virtually retired for his last decade of life, and was 80 when he died in 2003.