Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Movin’ Melvin Brown: A Man, A Magic, A Music

Melvin Brown

Genre: Live Music

Venue: Pleasance at EICC


Low Down

Movin’ Melvin moves the story, the audience, and the music in a joyous show.


Melvin Brown is a legend in the entertainment world. He’s seen it all – racism, inner demons, relationship challenges, road trips and more. At age 76, he still has the optimism and determination of his youth. The show paints a vivid picture of his journey, through singing, tap dancing, and storytelling.

Born in 1945 as one of 12 children, Brown was raised in a traditional church-going family. From an early age, he knew he wanted to dance.  But there was not an easy path to accede to a professional level and be accepted as a Black entertainer. He was inspired by the great Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and others.  In an era of segregation, TV host Dick Clark took the bold step of programming a Black man on television. That singer was Chubby Checker with “The Twist”.  Clark opened the door for others like Chuck Berry, who had the hit song “Johnny B Good”.  Brown started his own doo-wop group. There was no money for instruments so they made rhythms with their hands and feet and got the audiences moving.

In 1963 Brown and friends joined the army to work as musicians.  However, the army had other plans for them. There they experienced discrimination because of their colour.  There were incidents of his being refused meals or excluded from opportunities because he is Black.  He talks of the 1964 race riots in Watts, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Cleveland.  Yet he turned obstacles into opportunities with his eternal optimism and resourcefulness.

Brown tackled many kinds of entertainment in order to stay in music world.  Tap dance had a resurgence of public interest in the 60’s and 70’s with the popularity of actor/choreographer/dancer Gregory Hines, so Brown taught himself to tap dance in just six months. He toured in Canada in the U. S. with his showband, Movin’ Soothin’ & Stone Funk Band, which had a soul hit on the charts. In Alabama, their opening act was a new artist, Lionel Richie & The Commodores. Brown used his comedic talent to join a travelling comedy troupe.  He even did a seven-year stint in a male dance show.  He moved to Austin, Texas and opened a singing telegram business. Over his very rich career, he shared stages with many celebrities, including Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, James Brown, The Isley Brothers, BB King, and more. His early hits are even back on radio now, with “Send Me Some Love” and “Loves Stormy Weather.”

One would think that Brown could rest on his laurels and relax, but he is not ready to stop entertaining. He exudes sheer joy in the telling of the stories, even laughing at his own jokes, which is charming.  Throughout the show, Brown delivers the hits of the day, channeling and styling Louis Armstrong to Michael Jackson – moon walking at his age is quite impressive.  Within minutes of the start of the performance, the audience is singing and dancing along to favourite hits like “My Girl” from The Temptations, Jackie Wilson’s “Higher”, “Midnight Hour” from Wilson Pickett and more.  He even takes everyone to his church with a rousing “Amen” and “When the Saints Go Marching In”.  The show is very well paced and total fun.  By the end of the performance, everyone is on their feet moving to Movin’ Melvin Brown.

Now 76, Brown has a new passion: Change the World, an on-going project to help homeless people in Austin.  He’s giving back to community and nightly, giving to his audience.  He is an inspiration to those who face discrimination. He never gave in to the negativity but found a way to have the upper hand with grace.  His stories are not only engaging but also serve as a lesson in courage and conviction.