Blues singer Sweet Georgia Brown , also known as “The Last of the Red Hot Blues Mamas,” stole the show from B.B. King at the 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival,receiving multiple standing ovations, and was given the title “Queen of the Village!”
In March of 2003, when we met Sweet Georgia, she was homeless and sleeping in Penn Station with her twelve-year-old granddaughter. A fire in her building left them homeless and robbed them of all their belongings. Sweet Georgia was taking care of a granddaughter who was disabled and needed to attend a special education facility, and they were sleeping in Penn Station so she could get her to school each day.
“I never thought in a million years I would be singing with B.B. King. This is a dream come true for me,” said Brown before joining a host of stars in a late-night jam session at the end of King’s crowd-pleasing performance.
Because Sweet Georgia reached out to the Jazz Foundation in her time of need, we were able to get her an apartment in a low income housing complex. We got her all new clothing and money for food and some well-paid gigs around the city. Now, because of the Jazz Foundation, Sweet Georgia Brown made her first major international debut and is receiving worldwide press coverage for getting the night’s first standing ovation at Montreaux.
Her break came when the Jazz Foundation showcased her in New York to producer Quincy Jones and Montreux Jazz Festival organizer Claude Nobs.
Her rich history includes performances with Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Fathead Newman, KoKo Taylor and Stanley Turrentine. Every year Sweet Georgia closes out our biggest event – our “A Great Night in Harlem” benefit concert at the Apollo Theater.
“She’s well known in New York – she’s one of the last of the real Harlem diva blues queens,” Oxenhorn said of Brown, who has been singing and dancing since the age of three.
“Remember, I’m 62 years old and I started at three and God knows I prayed that something like this could happen,” says Brown. “I finally got the band I love after all these years. I mean everything is working in place.”