Tacoma blues promoter Ted Brown dead at 61

Staff writerOctober 10, 2013 

Long-time Tacoma blues patron and festival co-founder Ted Brown has died.

Brown, 61, died Sept. 25 from a heart attack.

“He’s the primary reason the blues have ended up as popular as they are (in Tacoma),” said Kathy Manke, owner of The Spar pub in Tacoma’s Old Town, where Brown was the booker for Sunday evening blues bands for more than 20 years. “Nobody did this before him.”

Robert Theodore Brown, born in Tacoma in 1952, grew up in the city, attending St. Patrick Catholic School and Stadium High School, where he graduated in 1971.

A beverage salesman with various companies for more than 40 years, his passion was the blues.

“He collected albums from the eighth grade,” said Brown’s son, Craig Brown.

Known for founding the annual Old Town Blues Festival (recently changed to the Old Town Rhythm and Blues Festival) 21 years ago, Brown also was a supporter of the Slavonian American Benevolent Society in Old Town’s Slavonian Hall, serving as its treasurer.

He regularly attended Old Town business meetings and helped with local events, Manke said.

“He really loved his community,” Craig Brown said.

Brown, who lived in Tacoma’s Proctor district, was a supporter of breast cancer research, having founded the blues festival as a fundraiser for the cause. His second wife, Janice, is a breast cancer survivor. In addition to his wife, Brown is survived by sons, Craig and Ryan; daughter, Dechelle Castro; sisters, Mindy Ormsbee and Barbara Conway; and four grandchildren.

The family is not related to the founders of Tacoma’s Ted Brown Music store.

Brown’s first love was music, and at a Blues Vespers memorial for Steve Miller Band guitarist James “Curley” Cooke in 2011, he told the Rev. Dave Brown of Immanuel Presbyterian Church that he’d want the same thing when he passed away.

“So that’s what we’re doing,” the pastor said

Among musicians who will pay tribute to Brown Sunday at the church are “Little” Bill Engelhardt, Jay Maybin, Rod Cooke, Mark Riley, Jon Bayless, Chris Stevens and Leanne Trevalyan.

“Ted was one of those people who had a passion for bringing people together to hear music,” Brown said. “He was big-hearted, generous of spirit, and had a real sense of place. He’ll be missed.”

“He was the most kind person you could ever know,” added Craig Brown. “He would give the shirt off his back for you. And he was very friendly — he could go up to total strangers and get them into a conversation about his favorite band.”

Rosemary Ponnekanti:253-597-8568


A memorial service for Ted Brown will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 901 N. I St., Tacoma, in the form of Blues Vespers, a monthly event at the church. Donations in Brown’s name can be made to the Northwest Breast Cancer Society or the Old Town Music Society.

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