Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown: Wikis


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Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown at the Long Beach Blues Festival, 1996
Background information
Birth name Clarence Brown
Also known as Gatemouth, Gate
Born April 18, 1924(1924-04-18)
Vinton, Louisiana, United States
Died September 10, 2005 (aged 81)
Orange, Texas, United States
Genres Blues, swing, country, cajun
Occupations Musician
Instruments vocals, guitar, violin, viola, mandolin, drums, harmonica, piano
Years active 1947-2005
Labels Aladdin Records
Peacock Records
Cindrella Records
Black and Blue Records
Barclay Records
Music Is Medicine
Rounder Records
Alligator Records
Verve Records
Associated acts Gate's Express (Harold Floyd, David Peters, Joe Krown, Eric Demmer)

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown (April 18, 1924 — September 10, 2005[1]) was a Louisiana and Texan American musician. He is best known for his work as a blues musician, but embraced other styles of music, having "spent his career fighting purism by synthesizing old blues, country, jazz, Cajun music and R&B styles" (New York Times obituary).[2]

He was an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, who played an array of musical instruments such as guitar, fiddle, mandolin, viola as well as harmonica and drums. He won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1982 for his album, Alright Again![3]




1940s and 1950s

Born in Vinton, Louisiana, Brown was raised in Orange, Texas. His professional musical career began in 1945, playing drums in San Antonio, Texas.[4] Tagged with the "Gatemouth" handle by a high school instructor who accused Brown of having a "voice like a gate," Brown has used it to his advantage throughout his illustrious career.[1] His career was boosted while attending a 1947 concert by T-Bone Walker in Don Robey's Bronze Peacock Houston nightclub.[1] When Walker became ill, Brown took up his guitar and played "Gatemouth Boogie," to the delight of the audience, and made a name for himself, becoming famous after impressing the audience.

In 1949 Robey founded Peacock Records in order to showcase Brown's virtuoso guitar work.[1] Brown's "Mary Is Fine"/"My Time Is Expensive" was a hit for Peacock in 1949. A string of Peacock releases in the 1950s were less successful commercially, but were nonetheless pioneering musically. Particularly notable is the blistering 1954 instrumental "Okie Dokie Stomp", in which Brown solos continuously over a punchy horn section (other instrumentals from this period include "Boogie Uproar" and "Gate Walks to Board").[1] As for his gutsy violin playing, Robey allowed him to record "Just Before Dawn" as his final Peacock release in 1959.

1960s and 1970s

In the 1960s Brown moved to Nashville, Tennessee to participate in a syndicated R&B television show, and while he was there recorded several country singles.[4] He struck up a friendship with Roy Clark and made several appearances on the television show Hee Haw.[1] By the late 1960s he had decided to leave the music industry and he moved to New Mexico and became a deputy sheriff.

However, in the early 1970s several countries in Europe had developed an appreciation for American roots music, especially the blues, and Brown was a popular and well-respected artist there.[4] He toured Europe twelve times, beginning in 1971 and continuing throughout the 1970s. He also became an official ambassador for American music, and participated in several tours sponsored by the U.S. State Department, including an extensive tour of Eastern Africa. Brown appeared at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival.[4] In 1974, he recorded as a sideman with the New Orleans pianist Professor Longhair on his album, Rock 'N' Roll Gumbo (originally a Blue Star Records release). He moved to New Orleans in the late 1970s.

Later years

In the 1980s, a series of releases on Rounder Records and Alligator Records revitalized his U.S. career,[4] and he toured extensively and internationally, usually playing between 250 and 300 shows a year. He won a Grammy in 1982 for the album Alright Again! and was nominated for five more. He was also awarded eight W. C. Handy Awards and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Heroes Award.[5] In 1997 he was honored by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, and in 1999 was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.[5]

In his last few years, he maintained a full touring schedule, including Australia, New Zealand, and countries with political conflicts in Central America, Africa, and the former Soviet Union. "People can't come to me, so I go to them," he explained.

In September 2004, Brown was diagnosed with lung cancer. Already suffering from emphysema and heart disease, he and his doctors decided to forgo treatment.[5] His home in Slidell, Louisiana was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and he was evacuated to his childhood home town of Orange, Texas, where he died on September 10 at the apartment of a niece, at the age of 81. Brown is buried in the Hollywood Cemetery in Orange, Texas. However, flooding caused by hurricane Ike in September, 2008, damaged his grave.[6]

His final album was Timeless, released in late 2004.

Technique and influence

During his career, he played a wide variety of guitars, including Gibson L-5s and Fender Telecasters, but his trademark guitar was a mid 1960s 'non-reverse' Gibson Firebird, customized with an embossed-leather cover featuring a rose and "Gatemouth," amongst other designs. His guitar style influenced many other blues guitarists such as Albert Collins, Guitar Slim, J.J. Cale, and Johnny "Guitar" Watson. Frank Zappa named Brown as his all-time favorite guitarist. , August 2009   He is also considered as one of the first guitarists to use a capo in his guitar technique. Although well-known in the American South and Southwest, Brown had trouble reaching a national audience, and recorded for several different small record labels in the early part of his career.


Original albums

  • 1972 The Blues Ain't Nothin' (Black and Blue)
  • 1973 Cold Strange (Black and Blue)
  • 1973 Sings Louis Jordan (Black and Blue)
  • 1973 Drifter Rides Again (Barclay)
  • 1974 Gate's on the Heat (Barclay)
  • 1974 Down South in Bayou County (Barclay)
  • 1975 Bogalusa Boogie Man (Barclay)
  • 1976 Blackjack (Music Is Medicine)
  • 1977 Heatwave (with Lloyd Glenn) (Black and Blue)
  • 1979 Makin' Music (with Roy Clark) (One Way)
  • 1981 Alright Again! (Rounder)
  • 1982 One More Mile (Rounder)
  • 1986 Real Life (Rounder)
  • 1989 Standing My Ground (Alligator)
  • 1992 No Looking Back (Alligator)
  • 1994 The Man (Verve/Gitanes)
  • 1996 Long Way Home (Verve/Gitanes)
  • 1997 Gate Swings (Verve/Gitanes)
  • 1999 American Music, Texas Style (Verve/Blue Thumb)
  • 2001 Back to Bogalusa (Verve/Gitanes)
  • 2004 Timeless (Hightone)

Compilations and bootlegs

  • 1974 San Antonio Ballbuster (Red Lightnin') Peacock recordings
  • 1983 Atomic Energy (Blues Boy) Peacock recordings
  • 1985 Pressure Cooker (Alligator) Black and Blue recordings
  • 1985 More Stuff (Black and Blue) Black and Blue recordings
  • 1987 Texas Swing (Rounder) Rounder recordings
  • 1989 Hot Times Tonight (P-Vine)various recordings of the 1960-70s
  • 1990 The Original Peacock Recordings (Rounder) Peacock recordings
  • 1993 Just Got Lucky (Evidence Music) Black and Blue recordings
  • 1994 Live (Charly) unreleased live recording
  • 1995 The Best of Clarence Gatemouth Brown, A Blues Legend (Verve) Barclay recordings
  • 1999 Okie Dokie Stomp (Bullseye Blues & Jazz) Rounder recordings
  • 1999 Guitar in My Hand (Catfish) Aladdin & Peacock recordings
  • 1999 Hot Club Drive (P-Vine) Black and Blue recordings
  • 1999 The Blues Ain't Nothing (P-Vine) Black and Blue recordings
  • 2000 Okie Dokie (AIM)various recordings of the 1960s
  • 2002 "Gatemouth" Brown: 1947-1951 (Classics) Aladdin & Peacock recordings
  • 2003 Clarence Gatemouth Brown: In Concert (DVD)
  • 2005 "Gatemouth" Brown: 1952-1954 (Classics) Peacock recordings

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Allmusic biography
  2. ^ New York Times obituary of Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
  3. ^ Past Grammy Winners on Official Grammy Award website
  4. ^ a b c d e Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. pp. 95–96. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.  
  5. ^ a b c website biography
  6. ^

External links


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