BILLY BROWN (Irish musician)


William (Billy) Brown

Instruments: singer, saxophonist, and pianist

Date Born:1943

Larne, County Antrim in Northern Ireland.

Date Died:6 June 1999

Johnstown, County Kildare

Web Site:  The Billy Brown Room at irishshowbands.net

Other Links: See below:



William (Billy) Brown (1943 – 6 June 1999) was a musician and artist from Northern Ireland. He is best remembered as a singer, saxophonist, and pianist with The Freshmen, one of Ireland’s most popular showbands of the 1960s and 1970s.


Brown was born in Larne, County Antrim in Northern Ireland. While studying at the Belfast College of Art he joined Billy McFarland’s Showband. Later he formed The Freshmen with some friends. Through Brown’s skillful arrangements, the band were able to reproduce sophisticated vocal harmonies in their covers of songs such as “Papa Oom Mow Mow”, “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena”, and “Carpet Man”.

In a tribute to Brown following his death, Freshmen founder-member, Maurice Henry, described his late friend’s pivotal role in the band:

“You could say Billy was The Freshmen and without his talent and innovative musical skills we would certainly not have achieved as much, either as a showband or in our recordings.

Brown left The Freshmen in the mid 1970s to pursue other musical challenges, albeit with limited success. He later rejoined the band and, in 1977, they had one of their biggest hits with his composition, “Cinderella”. Following the breakup of The Freshmen, Brown had a minor solo hit in 1980 with his own song, “Look What Jerry Lee Did To Me”.

In his latter years, Brown developed his interest in wildlife, becoming a successful painter of nature scenes, as well as contributing his insights into the natural world on RTÉ 2fm’s children’s show, Poporama.

Billy Brown died of a stroke at his home in Johnstown, County Kildare. In its obituary, the Irish Independent referred to him as “one of the most gifted musicians of his generation”.


  1. Irish Independent, “Farewell to a dashing midnight matinee idol”, 10 June 1999
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b The News Letter, “Farewell to a star of the showband scene”, 8 June 1999
  3. Jump up ^ KildareNet News, “Friends mourn death of Billy Brown”, 17 June 1999 (retrieved 24 October 2007)