A Cup Of Coffee With T. Graham Brown (Interview)

By Dave Parsons


He has recorded 13 studio albums, had more than 20 singles on the charts, with three of them going to #1.  reached Number One, and eight more made Top Ten.  He sang jingles for television commercials for companies like McDonald’s, Coors, Coca-Cola, and was the singing narrator in the Taco Bell Run For the Border television spots. 

In 2024, after more than 300 appearances as a guest, he was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

I sat down with T. Graham Brown at Nashville Coffees on Music Valley Drive in Nashville recently to delve more into his long and remarkable career.

Me:  First of all, congratulations on the Opry. 

T. Graham Brown: Thanks, man. Thank you, Father. 

Me:   I watched that video four or five different times and you just went to pieces. 

T. Graham Brown:  Oh, man. It was just totally out of the blue. I think a lot of that emotion was just pent up, ready to come out. Just wanting it that bad. I’ve been going out there for 40 years, man. And I’ve always had faith, you know, that maybe someday. I know with all the events leading up to it,  I should have known. 

I have this show on Sirius XM that I’ve been doing almost six years now. And so they called the New York people, and the New York people called me, asked me if I wanted to do an interview with Vince Gill, and I said, yeah, of course. 

And Sirius has just opened up a new studio in the Batman building. They moved from Bridgestone Rent into the Batman building, and they got all these studios, and then they built like a live music venue in there.  It will hold like 75 people, and then there’s the stage so a band can play in there. They told me I had 30 minutes to interview Vince, and he had to be somewhere. 

He had his entourage with him and it was great. We were sitting there talking and then I looked at the clock and we were three minutes over, and I started to wind the interview up, and that’s when he surprised me, and it was great. 

I thought he was kidding, and I said, bull, because we’ve been buddies for years now, and goof around all the time, and I thought he was goofing. But then the Opry folks started walked out, we knew it was real. 

Me:  I saw you at the Opry this past Saturday night, even though you weren’t on the show, you came out and sang at the beginning and the end, didn’t you? 

T. Graham Brown: Yeah. I was there singing. They let me sing a couple of verses of Wabash Cannonball. They didn’t have room for everybody to go out and have a segment, but yeah, it was great to be invited. That was a members -only thing, and they had a real nice dinner for everybody out in the back room back there.

That new sound system they have now, I haven’t been out front to hear the new sound system yet but everybody says it’s killer. And the video is so much production they’ve got that huge LED screen. They can change the whole thing and make it do anything you can imagine.  That’s something that is a good thing in the world and how everything’s evolving. I mean it’s the Opry was kind of the old-school country and now it’s not so much.  Things change you know. When I first came out, my stuff it’s always been kind of R &B ish, and I’m sure people looked at me and thought, who’s this guy?  I think things just evolved.  I gotta be honest I don’t really pay that much attention to what’s going on now. I listen to R &B, and to Sirius XM,  and I used to listen to the old R&B channels, the old country channels, and the classic rock channels. 

I grew up in the 60s and I had a little transistor radio and I listened to them. There was a little station that played the 5000 watt AM station that I could pick up really well and they didn’t have a format, they might play the Rolling Stones and then Jerry Lee Lewis and then Paul Revere and the Raiders and then Aretha Franklin and Johnny Cash. 

It was all over the place so I listened to everything. I lived in this little town in South Georgia that had 300 people in it and there was a railroad track and all the black people lived on one side and all the white people lived on the other side. And our house backed up to the railroad track. And we didn’t have air conditioning, so I would raise this window up. It was right next to my bed, and I’d flip my head around and sleep at the bottom of the foot of the bed. 

And the first band I ever heard with drums and guitars was the black church right across the tracks. I could hear it clear as day. So that’s the first band I ever heard was the black church. And so I’ve always loved Otis Redding. He was from Macon, like 70 miles up the road. 

Me: Where exactly were you living then?

T. Graham Brown: South Georgia.  I’m from Athens. But my father moved us down to South Georgia, and he built a grain elevator.  It was all agriculture. Both sides of my family are farmers. We still got a farm that’s 20 miles outside of Athens that’s been in our family for seven generations. So, I grew up around agriculture my whole life.  I spent nine years in that little town. My boyhood years, I basically grew up down there. I moved back to Athens when I was in 10th grade, and then went to high school there, and then I went to the University of Georgia, which is in Athens. 

And that’s where I met Sheila. I started out in 1973, I was going to Georgia. I was doing five nights a week at the Holiday Inn, which is right across the street from campus.  I had a buddy, and we were singing for the kids. We had a student following, and we had a big follow. We were real popular with the students, and we just played beach music. 

And that’s all we played was beach music for three years. And then I came home one day, I bought my first house when I was 19, and we called it, it was on King Avenue, 560 King Avenue, and we called it the 560 Fun Club, and it was basically a fraternity house. 

My roommates were fraternity guys, and I came home from class one day. We would sing at the Holiday Inn at night for, make our tuition money, get up and go to class in the morning, and then sing at night and get up. That was our routine. And I came home from school one day. I turned the TV on, the local PBS station was the University of Georgia station and it was channel 8 and I turned it on and dang, they were showing a documentary on David Alan Coe. 

I’d never heard of him and he was driving and apparently, they were sitting in the passenger seat shooting him and he was driving and talking about how he’d been in prison to kill these guys and blah blah and all this. So I went out and bought his records and I said I’m going to be that guy. So I quit singing beach music and grew my hair out long and put together this country rock band for three years and we were really good and we were really popular in Atlanta and Athens.  

Then, Urban Cowboy came out and ruined it for me. Everybody and his brother put together a country band, and I went to a straight soul band that I named the Rack of Spam and I did that for three years and then Sheila came home, we were living on the farm and Sheila came home one day and she finished up her master’s award and came home and said we need to move to Nashville and I was scared man.  

I was safe in Athens.  This friend of mine Randall Bramlett, I don’t know if you ever heard of him, he’s a pretty famous guy from Athens and I asked him what should I do. He said man you need to get your ass out of Athens, Georgia and move to New York, LA or Nashville. Sheila said, if we don’t go, you’re gonna second -guess yourself the rest of your life. 

So, we came and just basically started all over. Sheila was admitted to vet school. She was gonna go to vet school and do a veterinarian. And I said, what about vet school? And she said, well, we can always come back if we have to, and I can go to vet school. 

And she took a job working in a department store during the daytime and waiting on tables at night and I went over to the music row and started singing on people’s demos, songwriter demos. And my voice got passed around music row and those pitch tapes. 

And the guys at Capitol Records heard my voice and that’s what led to that record deal. And then when we put out I tell it like it used to be, and it was a big hit.  Since it was on a Nashville label, therefore I was country.  Country radio started playing. I tell it like he used to be has a horn section. Actually, I cut my first two albums, most of my hits and with the Muscle Scholls rhythm section played on my hits and so I’ve always been Kind of a R &B country soul guy. The good thing is we’ve persevered and we’re still 40 years I got my record deal in 84 so 40 years later. We’re still doing shows…got a band and a bus and all that hillbilly stuff. I’ve got my radio show and I get to get in movies a couple times a year. So I could do what I’m going to do. I ain’t got nothing left to prove Nobody’s telling me what I got to do If a show comes in if we want to do it, we do it if not, we pass on it I don’t have to work as hard as I used to travel as much

Me:  I remember you came out there and it was a very unique sound you had. You mentioned you got a new album you are working on.

T. Graham Brown:  I wanted to make a record of old 60s soul songs. So I went down to Muscle Shoals and I got the Fame gang, that’s what they call themselves now, the Fame Studios house band. David Hood is the only living member of the original muscle shows rhythm section and he played on my record. So, I got him and we cut 14 old 1960 soul songs that were originally either cut in Memphis or Muscle Shoals. And we’re calling the record from Memphis to Muscle Shoals. 

It’ll be out in May or June. They are releasing tracks from it here in a couple of weeks. See, I don’t know how they do things these days. They changed it all.  You used to get a 12-week run, to get all the way up and all the way down. Now, it can take a year, with all the streaming services people listen to what they want to listen to these days. They don’t buy albums anymore. 

They download the tracks or listen to the tracks that they want to hear. There is no money for songwriters to write, and get an album cut. People just don’t buy albums anymore. I guess they just have a way to measure all this. I see people getting platinum singles now and I don’t really know where that come from. I guess the streams you get or something. So anyway, we cut all these songs and I was talking to Dwight Yoakum, a bunch of us came out basically the same year or two together, Steve Earle and Keith Whitley and Randy Travis and Marty Stewart and Patty Loveless and Dwight Yoakum and me and we’ve all stayed in contact with each other. 

We’ve all remained friends and so I talked to Dwight three or four times a year. He lives out in Hollywood and so I don’t see him a lot but I was talking to him and he asked me what I’ve been up to and I told him about this record and he asked me if I cut this old song, I’m Your Puppet and I said, as a matter of fact I did!

He said, can I sing on it? So, he went in the studio out there and sang. He went to a lot of trouble. We sang harmony on everything, then I got to thinking, man, why don’t I sound good on this Al Green song?  So I called him and he said yes and then I called Tanya and she said yes, and I called Sammy Hagar and we did Walking the Dog together. 

There’s this lady named Betty LaVette, she’s probably 75 years old and she came up with Aretha Franklin. She’s from Detroit originally, but she lives in New York City. And she’s singing on Do Right Woman, Do Right Man, really great version of that. Zach Williams is a Christian artist, and we did When A Man Loves a Woman. 

Oh yeah, and then I call Sam Moore up, he’s a great friend of mine.  He’s 87, and he sang on this old song, Who’s Making Love to Your Old Lady.  He sounds like he’s 20. 

Oh and then I called up Eddie Floyd.  He was a Memphis writer, he was on Stax Records. He wrote and sang the original Knock on Wood. So we had cut that and called him.  He’s 84 now and he came down to watch some shows. sang great. Then I called up Delbert McClinton. He’s been a hero forever and I’ve known him forever and he’s 82 and he’s singing Mustang Sally with me. And, Little Anthony, I called him up I went down to Boca Raton where he lives and to a place called the Power Station down there. He sang You Better Move On with me. So, it’s a really cool record and like I said they’re gonna start releasing tracks on it and then it’ll come out later this year. 

It was just something I wanted to do, at least something new and new old songs but you know they’re going to get more attention probably from radio or whatever because people know the songs. And I’m fixing to do a gospel album, and I then I’m going to do a country album like this soul album. I want to do like a 60s country hits. Then, would like to do another regular T. Graham feeling record with all original stuff on it.

Me:  The fact that you have all these things going, you’re still touring, you’re still doing the things where you want to do it at this stage of your career, is incredible.

T. Graham Brown:  I’m having more fun now than I’ve ever had, and you know the crazy part about it is I’m singing probably better I’ve ever sang.  We did this country music cruise a month ago, and there was a bunch of us on there and we were doing a show out outside on the ship.  Jimmy Fortune who I dearly love and respect, came up and said Brown you’re at the top of your game, and it made me feel so good.

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