Ligonier Township man loved to play bluegrass at home, festivals

August 6, 2018


Herb Brown picked out tunes on his mandolin for the joy of making music, whether he shared his talent with family and friends in his own kitchen or with a larger audience at a bluegrass festival.

“We had a jam session at our house for years,” said his wife, Nancy. “People used to come from all over.”

Mr. Brown, who also could play guitar, knew hundreds of songs, but he didn’t need to use sheet music as a guide.

“He could hear a song and he could play it all by memory,” his wife said.

“He liked the old-timey tunes. He liked them all,” she said of her husband’s repertoire, which included gospel songs. Among his favorite numbers were “When It’s Lamplighting Time in the Valley” and “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again.”

Beginning in about 1985, Mr. Brown, his wife and two other musicians formed a bluegrass band called Mountain View. He sometimes contributed tenor vocals when the group appeared at weekend festivals in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland.

“People liked him, and they liked to hear him,” his wife said. “He was outgoing, friendly and nice to talk to.”

Walter H. “Herb” Brown, 80, of Ligonier Township, died Tuesday, July 31, 2018, in Excela Health Latrobe Hospital.

He was born Dec. 5, 1937, in Greensburg, a son of the late Robert Addison and Laura Marie Brown.

Mr. Brown, who enjoyed being outdoors, worked at a Greensburg area nursery when he was young.

In the 1960s, he moved his family to California, where he created billboards for Pacific Outdoor Advertising. When he returned to Pennsylvania, he set up his own roofing and painting business, which he operated until his retirement in 1999.

Mr. Brown came by his musical ability naturally. His father, who played the fiddle and harmonica, performed on a local radio show.

He and his wife were inspired to delve into bluegrass music when they saw the genre’s founding father, Bill Monroe, perform in California.

“We loved it right from the very beginning,” his wife said.

At many bluegrass festivals, Mr. Brown was able to combine his love of camping with his love of music. After listening to others perform, his wife explained, “You would go back to your camper and play.”

In between festivals, Mr. Brown and his group sometimes would play at area churches and a local coffeehouse.

“We met a lot of people through playing music,” Mrs. Brown said. “It’s been a lifetime of music and fine friends.”

In addition to his parents, Mr. Brown was preceded in death by five siblings. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Nancy; two sons, David W. and his wife, Betsy, and Douglas R.; a granddaughter, Jennifer A. Brown; and several nieces and nephews.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Snyder Funeral Home, 402 E. Church St., Ligonier, where a funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday. Interment will follow in West Fairfield Cemetery, New Florence.

Memorial contributions may be made to New Beginnings Church, 1668 Route 30, Ligonier, PA 15658.

Update hourly