Snapping back

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Ernie “Turtleman” Brown Jr. says his story isn’t over, it’s just getting started

By Emily LaForme

It’s been three years since his contract ended with Animal Planet, and a long road of recovery after several painful injuries, but Ernie “Turtleman” Brown Jr. is back, and possibly, better than ever.

“After I got done with Animal Planet, my contract ran out, and I broke my shoulder three times,” said Brown. “I’ve had to heal up for three years now, and that’s why I’ve been off the air. I broke my ribs, too, because I fell off a cliff and a little bull got a hold of me.”

He broke his shoulder again last year, and is finally recuperated.

“Now I’ve got to get back in shape,” Brown said.

Brown, who turns 53 on March 28, has a lot of projects up in the air right now, including a comic book featuring more wild adventures from Turtleman, a music album titled “Turtleman Strong” set to be released in the coming months, and possibly… a new show.

“I’ve been working on trying to get my show, and I’ve been talking to people,” said Brown. “I’ve been working on ‘Turtleman Strong,’ my new music CD. Steve Oliver of Nashville and Billy Berry have been helping me get this done, and James Breedwill has been helping with writing songs. I met him at the Country Music Awards about three and a half years ago. He wrote a song with Neal (James) about the story of my life, and I said why don’t we just make an album about my life.”

Brown said they completed his album on Feb. 2, and it should be released soon.

Collaborators on the album are said to include Lorrie Morgan, TG Shepherd, the Bellamy Brothers, Daily & Vincent, Moe Bandy, Jake Hooker, Jimmy Fortune and Darryl Worley. 

Brown also launched a new website and continues to upload to Facebook and YouTube. 

In the midst of making his comeback, fans might have noticed Turtleman appearing in the media a lot more lately, thanks to Layla Spring of Marion County, an American Idol contestant.

“I don’t know what Layla Spring did for me, but she caused a chain reaction,” said Brown. “I think God opened the door back up for me. Last week, we met Layla Spring, and we filmed a little commercial in Walgreens together, and we put it on her page. Then, WHAS11 News called us and we did Great Day Live together.” 

Since his appearances with Spring, Brown has been getting more calls from radio and television stations. 

“I’m just trying to get back out there and let everyone know I love all my fans,” said Brown. “I’m still doing fan mail. I have 900 pounds of mail to do, and I’m trying to see all my fans, too.”

Brown has also made sure to be a support figure for Layla Spring who is new to show business. 

“We did a photo shoot with Layla, and I’m going to help her with her business cards. I just want to donate my friendship to her. She’s from Lebanon, she’s moving on up and I’m just looking out for her. Layla had a talent and she went for it. Next thing you know she’s on American Idol, and I support her.” 

Brown continues to book appearances at shows, and never turns away from an opportunity to interact with his fans.

“We have a show coming up in Dayton, Ohio. They’re calling it Turtleman’s Army, and I guess they’re going to get the Army to come,” said Brown. “The way I see it, my fans got me to where I am today. I never turn away a fan, not ever. Even when I get done with a show, I walk the line to see everyone.”

Brown also continues to take animal rescue and removal jobs, especially during the summer time.

“We had people from Europe, Illinois, Canada, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Iowa, Australia, Russia and Italy come to us in the summer, and I took all of them turtle hunting,” said Brown. “I have a lot of doubters, but I have fans all over the world that know who I am.”

Brown also still grants Make-A-Wish requests for young children battling life-threatening and terminal diseases.

“That’s a big highlight,” he said. “I’m honored. Of everybody in the whole world, they picked me.” 

While some may say that Brown’s 15 minutes of fame have come and gone, Brown asserts that he isn’t finished, and he’s back and stronger than ever. 

“Turtleman is not done, that’s why I named my album ‘Turtleman Strong.’ I’m coming back stronger than I was,” said Brown. 

Despite appearances on The Tonight Show, awards shows, talk shows, and having fans around the world, Brown still hasn’t achieved his ultimate goal.

“I still haven’t gotten the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. That’s been my goal ever since I was four years old,” said Brown. “I saw it on the table at my grandma and grandpa’s house, and asked what it was, and they told me if I find my talent I can be on the cover, too. I tell everybody that if you got a talent, go out there and find it, get good at it, learn it, master it so that nobody else can do it with you, and learn it backwards and forwards.” 

Brown misses his show, and while he can’t reveal too much, he said he’s in talks with several producers about another one in the future. 

“I miss traveling around the woods, and the challenge of catching everything, and showing my fans that it can be done. I can catch any animal,” said Brown. “I did it from my heart, I did it with a team that I loved, and we did this for the fans. We showed the fans that you don’t have to have a nasty-talking show. You can have a pure-hearted show that brings in your family and your friends, and show’s everyone that you can be who you are. I’m not putting on an act, when you see me on the show, that’s how I am in everyday life.”