The Army, 1949-1953
Even in New York, Brown maintained close ties to his family down south, and in particular Atlanta. Reporting in the Atlanta Daily World from 1952 leads us to several of the details of Brown’s service. He joined the U.S. Army in December of 1949 and by October of 1952 was playing clarinet in the 1st Cavalry Division Band currently stationed on the northern island of Hokkaido in Japan. Interestingly the article lists Brown next of kin as his mother, Marie Brown, who by that time had apparently moved back to Atlanta and had taken up residence at 46 Anderson Avenue, a bit west of where Brown remembered growing up.
During his three years of military service in the Army band, Brown spent eighteen months on Hokkaido. Musically, he not only gained proficiency on clarinet, but also baritone saxophone and alto saxophone. This is the first mention of Brown’s involvement with the latter instrument, which would go on to become his primary voice.
Upon his discharge sometime in 1953, Brown returned to Atlanta.