Editor's Note: Following the publication of this article, Browne's scheduled show at the Lumberyard Pub on Friday evening has been canceled.
Wilton resident Robert “Chance” Browne is a multi-faceted artist. While he draws the beloved cartoon strip Hi & Lois and paints masterpieces, his connection to the arts also extends through his family, his friends and his ever-improving guitar chops.
Browne was born in New York City and raised in Wilton. As a member of the Browne cartoon dynasty, Chance is the eldest son of Dik Browne and brother of Chris Browne, who draws Hagar the Horrible. Chance attended The New York School of Visual Arts and Park College in Missouri where he studied painting. He worked as a musician, illustrator and art director before eventually going to work for his father.
A self-taught guitarist, Chance admits to carrying around an unstrung acoustic guitar during his early teens. At home, he listened intently to his musical heroes- blues players Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Leadbelly- learning how to re-create their sounds. He formed several bands with fellow Wilton High School musicians, including now-legendary jazz guitarist John Scofield.
Browne’s musicianship was already well known in this area when his band The Twinkies was born in 1973. Obsessed fans followed the Twinkies, flocking every weekend to the Bachelors II in Redding (which was on the same soil as the Redding Roadhouse is today) or the Country Club House in Ridgefield, to dance to the Twinkie mix of rockabilly and Delta blues.
Moving first to Cambridge then to Burlington, Vermont in the late 1970s, Browne
broadened his artistic scope as a graphic illustrator, ad-agency jingle writer/musician and studio player. He is the only person ever to serve as both art director and musician for the (now-defunct) folk music label Philo Records.
Eventually, “living out of a van wasn’t what it once was,” said Browne, who in 1979 accepted his father’s offer to join the family business. Browne realized that having such a highly regarded father was “kind of like being Picasso’s son. Why not study with the best! He was my hero,” he said. By the early 80’s, Chance was illustrating Hi & Lois full-time.
In 1984 Chance married his wife Debra; the couple has three daughters. The eldest, Rachel Browne, is herself a singer/songwriter and musician. Her band “Field Mouse” is enjoying critical acclaim. Robin Browne, a writer and singer, resides in New York City. Zoe Browne is currently a college student at SUNY Purchase.
Folksinger Ramblin’ Jack Elliott began staying with the Brownes in 1994 when Chance produced a local concert, "Legends of Folk Music," which Elliott headlined. When Elliott won the National Medal of Arts, Chance was at the White House to cheer. When Aiyana Elliott began making her first feature film, The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack, the Browne home was a place to reminisce and rejuvenate.
Browne’s passion for making music is greater than ever. Thirty-one years after officially becoming Hi & Lois’ illustrator, he continues to “draw round noses.” But there’s always time for a guitar.
Although The Twinkies still play an occasion benefit or event, Chance has been playing recently under the name Chance Browne and Friends. They will appear live this Friday night, February 18 at The Lumberyard Pub in Georgetown, CT at 9 p.m.
Browne will be joined by Tim DeHuff on guitar, Kenny Owens on bass and Joe Herman on drums.