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By DEB RICHARDSON PICKENS — Browning Bryant can’t understand why people assume his singing career is over. To him, it’s just halted long enough to get a college education squeezed in. Lots of people thought the 11-year-old crooner who captured the country's imagination back in 1968 simply lost his popularity in direct Proportion to his voice’s march down the teen- age scale. But that wasn’t it. z “About the time | turned 15, | just realized | hadn't been in school in a long time,” laughs the young man. “I had visions of myself growing up illiterate.” So he came back to Pickens, threw himself into studies at Pickens High School — taking time out only to play defensive end and offensive tackle for a losing season's varsity squad, head- mits wryly — and then entered Anderson Col- lege. After graduating from the two-year college, he tried a semester at the “Page 16 es but was anxious to get back to the Piedmont, Consequently, his junior year was spent at Clem: son, and he will begin his senior year there within weeks, majoring in political science and minoring in economics. After that, it’s back to recording — primarily all the music he's been writing during his six- year hiatus. The Browning Bryant of today bears little re- semblance to the chubby child star of numeraus “Kraft Music Halls” in the late ‘60s. Strikingly handsome at 21, he's 6-foot-5, broad-shoul- dered, a darker brunet, deeply tanned. Only the freckles and quick grin recall the boy of 10 years ago. His speaking voice is deep, even husky, an as- surance that comparisons to singer Wayne New- ton are long buried. He’s open about his past, but finger-snapping interruptions about the se- quence of events make:it obvious he doesn’t... TV Spot dwell on it. Extremely well-mannered, outgoing but not over- powering, Bryant possesses an age-belying mixture of self- assurance and modesty. “if there's one thing I've always detested in anybody, it's arrogance or conceit,” Bryant Says carefully. "I saw enough of it when | was traveling around to know | never wanted to be like that.” Asa result, his return to Pickens as a celebrity wasn’t diffi- cult, he remembers. there were a few people who made some noise about it. But it was never really an issue.” And he hasn't thought much about it in recent years. “{ know it sounds stupid, but | bet | couldn't go in my house and find a copy of one of my albums.” Then witha grin, © he adds: “Now, my mother has them. She listens to them all the time.” He and his parents stil live in the ranch-style home they always owned a few miles northwest of Pickens. The money ‘rom tis albums, numerous TV appearances and Las Veges Shows have been invested in stocks and property. “As far as conspicuous spending, | don't believe-in that. If U hove a guitar aida place to write and-peoale-around to help me and good friends around, then I'm happy.” 7, music began at 3 Bryant's affair with ™strem2t3 him a Mexican guitar. “| couldn't play it but! always remember holding it,” he an Tost of the family was musically inclined, so Browning began guitar lessons at 7. A friend of the family heard him playing and singing to himself one night and suggested he en tertain as a novelty for a local civic club. That led to more of- fers and soo he was entertaining at functions all over Green- , vile, Easley and Pickens. When he was 10, he appeared at the Easley Football Jam- boree where Ty Boyd, a personality on WBTV in Charlotte, saw. him. Boyd invited him to appear on his noon show. The day Browning made his WBTV debut, a representative of the William Morris Coa talent agency in New York, hap- pened to be in Charlotte and saw the show from his motel foom. He contacted the Bryants and invited Browning to New York for an audition. Simultaneously, Browning was asked to petform on Arthur Godfrey's CBS radio show in the city. Browning had no dreams of huge homes, swimming pools, fancy cars or exotic vacations, he recalls with a laugh. ("I just remember thinking, Hey, | get out of school for a day" provided Browning with a personal manager who took him to various network and-recording studios to ascertain what venues were open to him. The most promising offer came from NBC, which ultimately signed him for 10 of its popular “Kraft Music Halls.” His first show was with singer Eddie Arnold, the second with his sound-alike, Wayne Newton. Newton was so im- pressed with Browning that he invited the boy to join him in his upcoming Las Vegas stint. The same thing happened after his "Music Hall” appearance with comedian Alan King, so Browning ended up with quite extensive Vegas bookin During the next four years, he toured the country giving concerts; performed in Vegas; acted in summer stock; did six Godfrey shows, the 10 Kraft shows, “The Merv Gfiffin Shaw,” os a Douglas Shows,”” and was Douglas's co-host for a ly after an appearance on Johnny €arson’s “The To- night Show,” Browning turned 15. His ping smoothly-but gradually sin ‘change might damage: his vocal chords. Augie 13 iogutt 19° ews ‘Atany rate, the Morris people liked what they heard and “Everything worked hand in hand to help me make the de cision to quit for awhile,” he says. "There was no prompting from my parents or anyone else.” a exile from music has been The self-imposed snything but complete, however. Bryant turned to intensive writing — something he had little time for previously. “It's sort of like a painter,” he shrugs. “If he has to work for a graphics firm, he doesn't have time to develop his own ideas.” Thus, his childhood albums — “Patches” and "One Time ina Million — were new releases of old songs. The Warner Reprieves album he released at 16, titled “Browning Bryant,” contained mostly original material. “It did pretty good, but not as well as it should've done, | think,” Bryant frowns. The limited success of the third album didn’t 't discourage him: He's got material ready to cut a fourth right now, and he's maintained his contacts within the industry. But he can't do that and finish at Clemson simultaneously, so he's waiting until next spring to line up production of another album. The wait isa little hard, he acknowledges. “I'm content in a way because | know I need to get an education,” he muses. “But I’m really just waiting out the time until | can get back into music full time, “So you ask if I'm content: I'm really not. I'm just waiting.” The album he'll record at 22 will be considerably different than. ‘the one he released at 16, he.continues. “My head has changed a lot about writing. At 16, | was just hopping around. Now | think I'm settling into a continuum, a style,"* He hesitates to describe that style, saying only.that his favorite artists are Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell. He also sees value in the time he’s spent out of the industry: Mainly, there’s more of it. “Back then (when performing), | never had time to think about lyrics or a lick on a guitar. Now | have time to think bese those things. I'm more able to direct my creative talents,” i 1 the rest of the Meanwhile, Bryant has (es'¢i"s, his father finish building a new sportings goods store in Pickens. And then there's time to be spent at Leke Hartwell, And then his final year of college. The concept that, financially speaking, he never has to work again doesn’t even register. “I don't even think about that,” he says in some surprise, “1 think that’s awful — people who just say, ‘Oh, I'm inde- pendently wealthy,’ There are too many things | have to get done. | can't just take off a couple of years.” Neither is the concept of stardom very deeply ingrained. “I never considered myself a star,” he explains, shrugging. * slightly. “I just never did. What other people considered me was never here nor there. | just considered myself then as a kid and now as a.. He strugeles over the word “adult,” discards it “|..aSa guy.” He laughs self-consciously. “That sounds so pretentious,” he says, then lowering his vice Ted Baxterstyle, “Hi, I'm an adult.” Then, more seriously, he adds, “I just feel there are some things | fave to do now that wll pay off later. I guess you could mac or ess say fm in a stage of preparation. He smiles ruefully, !» Hopefully, people ding things in the future” we the name, | hope ‘ be