CATALINA OLAVARRIA PHOTO

MEL BROWN STATUE FINDS HOME IN DOWNTOWN KITCHENER

Queen St. S. between King St. and Charles St. is now home to a life-size bronze statue of Mel Brown, the legendary Blues musician. A real size statue, of a guitar player sitting on a bench, next to the building where the nightclub Pop The Gator stood from 1989 to 1994.  

Brown and his band, the Homewreckers, played at nightclub, which was vital in the Kitchener music scene from 1989 to 1994.] the statue invites you to connect with the history of Kitchener and Blues music in North America.  

Brown is Blues legend who toured with B.B. King, Etta James, T-Bone Walker and John Lee Hooker. He was a renowned guitarist that released over twenty albums between 1967 and 2006. Mel Brown was born on October 7th, 1939, in Jackson, Mississippi.  He learned his love of music from his father and grandfather as a young man. He moved to Kitchener in 1989 invited by the entrepreneur Glenn Smith to anchor the house band at Pop The Gator, a blues nightclub on Queen Street South that closed in 1994. 

The sculpture of Mel Brown is a permanent legacy of the Rolling Stone’s exhibition Unzipped exhibited at THEMUSEUM in 2020-2021.  

“Kitchener has this wonderful heritage of Mel Brown, a world-renowned musician who was an incredible Blues guitarist that played with many famous people,.” David Marskell, THEMUSEUM’s chief executive officer, said.  

“Mel Brown´s statue acknowledges his contribution to Canadian Blues and reminds everyone, of the importance of Black musicians to popular music,” he said. 

Brown lived in the city during the last 20 years of his life continued playing and mentoring new musicians from this region and Canada. some of his students are leading blues artists in the country today, including Shawn Kellerman, Julian Fauth and Steve Strongman, among others.  

In 2000 Brown recorded with Electro-Fi Records in Toronto, and in 2001, won the W.C. Handy Award for his album “Neckbones & Caviar”. 

Marskell highlighted the connection between Brown and Mick Jagger, and the influence of Black artists on music. 

“They knew one another—, they met in Los Angeles as the Stones were doing the final mix of ‘Exile on Main Street’. The Rolling Stones were very much influenced by Black musicians and the name of the band, Rolling Stones, comes from a Muddy Water’s song, a Black musician”, said Marskell. 

 The statue invites viewers to sit next to it, create new memories or connect to old ones. It was financed by the Mel Brown Legacy project, an initiative spearheaded by Marskell, that raised over a hundred thousand dollars. 

Idowu, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria and lives and works in Brampton, Ontario. Idowu is a full-time painter and sculptor. He was selected by Mel Brown’s wife, Miss Angel to create the sculpture. Mel Brown statue is beside the building where “Pop The Gator” nightclub was located, and the place where Mel played in Kitchener with his band, The Homewreckers. 

Marskell said it is important to important to celebrate the musical heritage in Kitchener, especially that of local Black artists.  

“All great cities need street art, not just for the people that live here, but for the people that visit the Region of Waterloo and the City of Kitchener, because there is a rich history http://here…it is a wonderful art scene,”, Marskell said.