Many in Fremont, Nebraska did not know the quiet retired man they would see occasionally play the trombone with local combo's, was actually one of the best jazz trombonists of the "Big Band" era.
Lauren Brown, who was born in 1915 and passed away in 1994, made Fremont his longtime home. His musical ability and both his artistry on the trombone and as a composer is carried on by both his son, Dave Brown (another 2001 Hall of Fame Inductee) and his two grandsons, who are truly musical prodigies.
Lauren graduated from Fremont Senior High School and married Lena Mae Richardson. They had two children, Dave and Jenette. He became interested in music by listening to jazz records working in Elmer Ludvigson's shoe store in downtown Fremont. Starting on violin, he switched to trombone under the direction of Walter R. Olsen and won a first-place rating in the state music contest. In the 1930's - there were only 3 places given in the state - similar to "Gold-Silver-Bronze" in the Olympics. (Today - ratings are given to all participants). Then, you either received one of the top prizes or not.
Brown won the "gold" over all the other trombonists in the state. While in High School he started working in jazz combos and territory orchestras - one of which was led by Fremont's own "The Saxophone Twins", Ray and Roy Bowers.
After High School, Brown joined the WNAX Staff Band in Yankton, South Dakota - some 2 hours north of Fremont. During this time, he met and became friends with his future employer - Lawrence Welk. Shortly thereafter, Brown received a phone call from famous bandleader Art Castle, who was working in Chicago. He accepted an offer to tour with Castle. After hearing of this, Welk also offered Brown the position of trombonist in his touring band and Brown accepted.
Brown, known by both "Brownie" and "Snuffy" remained with Lawrence Welk and His Champagne Music for over 3 years as featured soloist on records in California and on national radio broadcasts. They played all the top ballrooms in the country, including the legendary Elitch Gardens in Denver (pictured on this site).
Another Fremonter, Jack Nolan (Noolan) was also a featured vocalist with the band at this time (mid-1940's). Also with the band, was future movie star and then vocalist Doris Day. Brown became friends of Ms. Day. She considered him to be the best trombonist in the country and always requested him to back her on featured numbers
. Health problems forced him to leave the road and return to Fremont for a short while. He then went on the road again, playing the East Coast with The Leo Peeper (Pieper) Orchestra.
After this second time on the road, he grew tired of the demands of the road and returned to Fremont. He joined Hormel Meat Packing Co., where he remained 30 years till his retirement. During this period he still remained active in the music business, performing with several local groups. These included the "KORN KINGS", which performed every lunch hour (from the basement of The Pathfinder Hotel in Fremont) over Radio-KORN. Sponsored by Earl Conrad (Seed Company) they became regional favorites. A very young Bob Olsen played trumpet in the group frequently, running the 3 blocks from Fremont Jr. High School to the Pathfinder Hotel to play the ½ hour gig - then back to school for the afternoon.
KORN Radio later became KFGT and is now KHUB (1340 AM) and KFMY (105.5 FM) in Fremont, NE.
Several other groups followed: The Mort Wells Dixieland Band & The 12th Street Ramblers (Bob Olsen, Iris Siemsen and Rich Sperling). The quiet and unassuming Brown rarely talked about his rich musical past or of the accomplishments of his children and grandchildren to anyone other than his fellow bandmates. It is now time for The Nebraska Music Hall of Fame to honor this great musician and tell the world of his abilities, talents and rich musical past. We welcome "Brownie" to The Nebraska Music Hall of Fame.