Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
born on 18/4/1924 in Vinton, LA, United States
died on 12/9/2005 in Austin, TX, United States
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
|Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown|
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown (April 18, 1924 - September 10, 2005) was an American musician from Louisiana and Texas. 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" His work also encompasses rock and roll, rock music, folk, electric blues, and Texas blues.
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 1983 for his album, Alright Again! He is regarded as one of the most influential exponents of blues fiddle and has had enormous influence in American fiddle circles.
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. He was given the nickname "Gatemouth" by a high school teacher who said he had "voice like a gate". His career was boosted while attending a 1947 concert by T-Bone Walker in Don Robey's Bronze Peacock Houston nightclub. When Walker became ill, Brown took up his guitar and quickly wrote and played "Gatemouth Boogie," to the delight of the audience right on the spot.
In 1949 Robey founded Peacock Records in order to showcase Brown's virtuoso guitar work. 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 was the 1951 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"). Okie Dokie Stomp was also recorded by Cornell Dupree in the 1970s and he had success with it as well. As for his gutsy violin playing, Robey allowed him to record "Just Before Dawn", his final release on the Peacock label, 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. He struck up a friendship with Roy Clark and made several appearances on the television show Hee Haw. In 1966, Brown was the musical director for the house band on the short-lived television program, The !!!! Beat.
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. 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, where he jammed with American blues rock band Canned Heat. 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. In 1979, through his manager at the time, Jim Halsey, Brown embarked on a 6-week, 44 concert tour of the Soviet Union. This was an historic event as it marked the first time the Soviet Union made a contract with a U.S. private citizen (Jim Halsey) as regards a musical tour. All previous tours were under the auspices of the U.S. State Department. To date, this was by far the most extensive tour an American band had taken in the USSR.
In the 1980s, a series of releases on Rounder Records and Alligator Records revitalized his U.S. career, and he toured extensively and internationally, usually playing between 250 and 300 shows a year. He won a Grammy in 1983 for the album Alright Again! and was nominated for five more. Alright Again! is credited with putting Brown back on the musical map. He also won 8 WC Handy Awards. In 1999 Brown was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
In his last few years, he maintained a full touring schedule, including Australia, New Zealand, South America, Africa and Eastern Europe. His final record "Timeless" was released in 2004.
In September 2004, Brown was diagnosed with lung cancer. Already suffering from emphysema and heart disease, he and his doctors decided to forgo treatment. This greatly affected his musical career. Later 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, 2005 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. His grave has since been refurbished and through donations a very impressive headstone has been erected in his honor.
- 1972 The Blues Ain't Nothin' (Black and Blue)
- 1973 Cold Storage (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 Country (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) previously 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
- 2003 Johnny's Blues: A Tribute To Johnny Cash (Northern Blues)
- List of blues musicians
- List of fiddlers
- List of Gibson players
- Music of Texas
- 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 [Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown at All Music Guide Allmusic biography]
- Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, New York Times
- Past Grammy Winners on Official Grammy Award website
- Blues Fiddle|Julie Libermnan|Mel Bay?|Citation verification needed
- 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, 1st, Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing.
- 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray, p. 9596, Dubai: Carlton Books Limited.
- 7.0 7.1 Allaboutjazz.com website biography
- Brown sings the 1956 Johnny Cash rockabilly song, "Get Rhythm", with Benjy Davis.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
- Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown Obituary New York Times.
- W.C. Handy Blues Awards. National Public Radio Talk of the Nation.
- 'Gatemouth' Brown Plays Through Cancer, Years. National Public Radio All Things Considered.
- Remembrances: 'Gatemouth' Brown's Blues Voice Goes Quiet. National Public Radio All Things Considered.
- Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown Discography
- Video Interview with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown Loyola University, New Orleans.