Although born in New York City, Paul Brown developed his love of traditional Southern music from exposure to it by his mother, who was from an old Virginia family. He taught himself to play the banjo and received a National Endowment of the Arts grant to study banjo with one of North Carolina's great banjo players. In 1980, he moved to Mt. Airy permanently. He worked on the local radio station and at NPR in Washington, D.C. Both places gave him a platform from which to share his love of traditional music and the people who perform it. Brown received a 2005 Brown-Hudson Award for a lifetime of devotion to the people who create and keep alive Southern string-band music.