Brown brings island 'Riddim' to Yacht Club

Band will feature reggae, ska, jazz and funk all-stars

By Jim Musser
Music beat

To say that Tony Brown has a colorful history is something of an understatement. A teammate of the great Jerry Moses on Waterloo East's powerhouse football teams of the late '60s, Brown attended UNI, where he played in director James Coffin's award winning jazz band.

Brown found his way to Iowa City, becoming one of the mainstays of the area's soul and R&B scene in the '70s before falling head over heels for reggae in the late-'70s/early-'80s.

During those years, the Tony Brown Band was one of Eastern Iowa's biggest, most dependable club acts (along with Bo Ramsey & the Sliders and Rob Gal's punk/New Wavers, The Ones), and this was at a time when those bands would work a local club (usually Gabe's or the Crow's Nest) two or three nights in a row, play three long sets each night without an opening act, and still pack the venue every show.

Those were different times, indeed.

As the club scene tapered off (due in part to drunk-driving crackdowns in the mid-'80s), Brown relocated with his family to Madison, where he continued as a solo musician while fostering that city's vibrant reggae/roots scene in a variety of capacities with various area combos.

Tony recently returned to our area after spending six years as a performer and manager at Fido's Courtyard in San Pedro, Belize. He continues to find time to play music, including assorted gigs with his son-in-law, Kevin "B.F." Burt, but he also works with at-risk students in Waterloo and has begun teaching at Johnson School of the Arts in Cedar Rapids.

Brown, who's always been known for the strength of his convictions, boundless energy, commitment to a better world and an unsinkable disposition, will be making a rare full-band appearance Saturday at the Yacht Club (13 S. Linn St.); there will be a $7 cover for the 9 p.m. show.

Billed as Tony Brown & the 608 Riddim Section, the band will feature Madison-area reggae, ska, jazz and funk all-stars from Natty Nation, The Landing Crew and Tony Castenada's Latin Jazz Band.