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Nappy Brown Blues and R&b Singer Dies


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Nappy Brown, a blues and R&B singer whose playful songs of the mid-1950s filled with nonsense syllables, eccentric pronunciation and a heavy beat had touches of early rock n roll style.

Brown died on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., where he lived. He was 78. The cause was respiratory failure, said Scott Cable, his friend and producer. Mr. Cable said that Mr. Brown, who had returned to recording and touring in recent years, suffered from various ailments since he collapsed in June at a festival in New Jersey.

Born Napoleon Culp, he borrowed his fathers surname, Brown. He had a deep, raw voice and a powerful delivery derived from gospel. In songs like Dont Be Angry and Piddily Patter Patter (also known as Pitter Patter) he developed a driving but still light approach with a basic blues band and lots of wordplay.

In Well Well Well Baby-La, from 1955, his vocalizations seemed almost a kind of obscure pig Latin, as he added syllables in strategic spots to goose the rhythm: Well-a well-a well-a baby-la. He once said that he got the idea by listening to foreign-language radio stations.

While Mr. Browns songs enjoyed some success on the R&B charts, other, less idiosyncratic singers turned many of them into much bigger hits. Mr. Browns version of Dont Be Angry got only as far as No. 25 on the pop charts, while a version by the Crew Cuts, a well-scrubbed Canadian quartet, reached No. 14. Patti Page also recorded Piddily Patter Patter.

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