The Virgin Islands is mourning the loss of iconic St. Thomas radio host and musician Irvin “Brownie’ Brown Sr., who died Friday at the age of 83.
“Brownie leaves an indelible mark on this community and his six children, including musician Pressure Busspipe, who continue to walk in his footsteps,” said Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp in a Government House statement noting Brown’s passing.
Earlier this year, the Legislature honored Brown, renaming the portion of General Gade, which runs from the intersection of Veterans Drive up to the intersection of Silke Gade: “The Irvin “Brownie” Brown, Sr. Street.”
Born on St. Thomas on June 2, 1935, to Eunah and James Brown, Brownie grew up on Lefkoi Strade in Savan. In 1950, at age 15, he relocated to Miami with his uncle Alwyn “Lad” Richards and pursued a successful career as a professional musician. He played the
drums and sang calypso in many famous hotels, such as the Malayan Lounge, the Fountain Blue, the Eden Rock Saxony, the Sans Souci and the Americana Hotel, according to a recent legislative commemoration of his achievements.
Brownie performed his music in Las Vegas and Boston, among other places, before moving back to the territory in 1963, when he began playing with Milo and the Kings.
In 1965, he became the radio personality of “Brownie’s Calypso Bacchanal” on WSTA Radio, providing comic relief. Over the years he perfected a high-spirited comedy routine, doing it with and without his alter ego – Walter.
All his life he continued to promote and encourage band performers to keep up the carnival spirit and to practice what he preached by their continued participation in carnival.
Brownie’s first contribution to the Virgin Islands Carnival was when he co-hosted the prince and princess competition in 1965 with Carl McClevity. He also served as master of ceremony at innumerable carnival events on St. Thomas.
For more than 35 Christmases, he dressed as Santa Claus for the children of the community.
Brownie was father of six: Irvin Brown, Jr., Symra Brown, Synette Brown Morgan, Delyno “Pressure” Brown, Sonii Brown Koetter and Delahn Brown. He has seven grandchildren: L’Dante Brown, Brianna Brown, Chantell Brown, Delyno Brown, Jr., Jasmine Koetter and Jade Koetter.
Grandson Delyno “Pressure” Brown is a well-known St. Thomas musician in his own-right.
Up until the last year of life Brownie still worked as a radio personality at WSTA.
“I met Brownie during my earliest days in politics. At times, we would speak about some of the issues affecting our people and community. Some of my fondness memories of Brownie were times spent with him on the radio and at cultural events. He was truly a Virgin Islands icon and I admired and held him in the highest esteem,” Mapp said.
Incoming Gov. Albert Bryan also remembered him, saying “Brownie touched the hearts and minds of many in our community through his great contributions as a radio personality, emcee, musician and more. He left an indelible mark on our annual Virgin Islands Carnival and our children’s Christmases as Santa. We will always remember his talents and his kindness.”