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Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown

Whatever you do, don't refer to multi-instrumentalist Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown as a bluesman, although his imprimatur on the development of Texas blues is enormous. You're liable to get him riled. If you must pigeonhole the legend, just call him an eclectic Texas musical master whose interests encompass virtually every roots genre imaginable.

Brown learned the value of versatility while growing up in Orange, TX. His dad was a locally popular musician who specialized in country, Cajun, and bluegrass -- but not blues. Later, Gate was entranced by the big bands of Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, and Duke Ellington (a torrid arrangement of "Take the 'A' Train" remains a centerpiece of Brown's repertoire). 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. (His guitar-wielding brother, James "Widemouth" Brown, recorded "Boogie Woogie Nighthawk" for Jax in 1951.)

In 1947, Gate's impromptu fill-in for an ailing T-Bone Walker at Houston entrepreneur Don Robey's Bronze Peacock nightclub convinced Robey to assume control of Brown's career. After two singles for Aladdin stiffed, Robey inaugurated his own Peacock label in 1949 to showcase Brown's blistering riffs, which proved influential to a legion of Houston string-benders (Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Cal Green, and many more have pledged allegiance to Brown's riffs). Peacock and its sister label Duke prospered through the '50s and '60s.

Gate stayed with Peacock through 1960. The R&B charts didn't reflect Brown's importance (he hit only once nationwide with 1949's two-sided smash "Mary Is Fine"/"My Time Is Expensive"). But his blazing instrumentals ("Boogie Uproar," "Gate Walks to Board," 1954's seminal "Okie Dokie Stomp"), horn-enriched rockers ("She Walked Right In," "Rock My Blues Away"), and lowdown Lone Star blues ("Dirty Work at the Crossroads") are a major component of the rich Texas postwar blues legacy. Brown broke new ground often -- even in the '50s, he insisted on sawing his fiddle at live performances, although Robey wasn't interested in capturing Gate's violin talent until "Just Before Dawn" (his final Peacock platter in 1959).

The '60s weren't all that kind to Brown. His cover of Little Jimmy Dickens' country novelty "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose" for tiny Hermitage Records made a little noise in 1965 (and presaged things to come stylistically). But the decade was chiefly memorable for Brown's 1966 stint as house bandleader for The!!!!Beat, a groundbreaking syndicated R&B television program out of Dallas hosted by WLAC DJ Bill "Hoss" Allen.

When Gate began to rebuild his career in the '70s, he was determined to do things his way. Country, jazz, even calypso now played a prominent role in his concerts; he became as likely to launch into an old-time fiddle hoedown as a swinging guitar blues. He turned up on Hee Haw with pickin' and grinnin' pal Roy Clark after they cut a sizzling 1979 duet album for MCA, Makin' Music. Acclaimed discs for Rounder, Alligator, Verve, and Blue Thumb in the '80s, '90s, and 2000s have proven that Gatemouth Brown is a steadfastly unclassifiable American original. Gatemouth Brown passed away on September 10, 2005 in Orange, TX. ~ Bill Dahl, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

nice
Spent some time with Gate in N.O. 77-78-79 attitude RIP Rich/Tips
Never Ending Song of Love for You...nice song better by Delaney & Bonnie
Gate didn't play the violin. He played a viola. Something he was quick to correct. He would say that they were all violas, but fiddle player's heads are so big it looked like a violin. That being aside, thank you for helping to remember my Other Grandpappy
The Gate takes blues back to its roots
i saw him in 1967 playing a ford car dealership in farmington nm. i drove by could not believe my young ears, made a U-turn into the lot. i then proceeded to have a one man concert all afternoon as the rednecks going in and out of the place had no idea that they were listening to a one of a kind talent.. one the of the best memories of a 15 year-old boy stuck in redneck hell untl my release upon graduation. a magical moment for me. he played like stanley jordan before there was a stanley jordan
Versatility personified
He and ray charles defy definition
I never met him (that he'd have remembered) but I saw him in a small bar in Colombus, and he freaking brought the place down. Daaamn!!!
Met Gate many a time in Nashville.
Total Rock Star! I loved the vintage
bus.
The days down by de Mississippi River w/ your family u were the best string player in this universe
geraldhogan6 2
I can't believe if never heard of Gate ! wow this is awesom music
How can ya not love his nickname? Fantastic!
brians1111
Saw Gatemouth many times... one night he was playing at Wolf Trap in Va. and I called up the venue to invite him to dinner at my small club. He picked up the phone, said maybe, and a couple hours later the tour bus pulled up. The rest of the band was tired, but Gate and the bus driver came in, had dinner, talked with me like we were old friends, and did a couple of songs with the very talented blues band I had playing at the club that night. He did proceed to pull out his pipe and smoke what
Hey, how come the above bio didn't mention his birth in Vinton, LA and his move back to Louisiana in the late 70's living just outside New Orleans in Slidell, LA, till he lost his house in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He evacuated to live with relatives in Orange, Tx where he died shortly after. Reviewer must be a Texas native...LOL
wegoweko
Only got to see him once, warming up for Clapton in Chicago but he was a real original. Nice that Clapton wasn't intimidated by him. What a show.
Always loved the Gate, saw him in a concert and just to break everyone up he did a POLKA. A musicians musician. R.I.P Gate.
I saw him in Oshkosh WI.Almost literally bummed into him.All I could say was WOW.He was walkin down the steps, I was walkin up.He was dressed the part.All decked out in black,leathe r pants & his black cowboy hat.He spoke to me sayinYour a young one.I was in my twenties.I replied,Well , I guess I am.It was funny because I had to take a pottie break.My boyfriend @ the time totally missed him.Then I was surprised tht u had to pay for an autograph.So , n a t u r a l l y I spoke up abt it.He graciouly gave me an
martinmand1r
I first saw Gatemouth in Newport,KY. My friend bought my ticket because I had no money. During set break he sat at the table with Cd's laying there. He was autographing them, God I wanted one but no. So asked him to sign my shirt, he nodded at the Cd's and said I don't sign textiles So I told him my story and asked him if I could just shake his hand. So..I shook Gatemouth's hand. Worth more than any autograph!!
gate mouth brown what can Isay the man was ahead of his time.
jamesrandall 5 4 2 3
I first saw GateMouth In Elko, NV in 1973/74 during the first Cowboy Poetsconvent i o n , I think it was at the Stockmans Hotel/Casino . It was very impressive, and I have followed him since. Love his style and music.
sat 6 hours at the front row table @ Buddy Guy's to see him....the best the best
bigdogbluesm a n
All I can say is yes,yes,yes.
WOW... Just heard him for the very first time and he is awesome, I love Pandora you can find many new/old artists that you would have never found, without random plays and related artists :)
therakes
I met gate several times, one time we got high in his truck and he showed off his Sherrif's badge from Louisiana and his road pistol.....w e laughed our asses off, gate later did a tune with a hankerchief woven between the strings to dampen the strings....m a n that was wild.. I miss ya gate and hope God is keeping you close
OMG this guy like the other plays with his soul, damn!
This guy was a great artist and is missed. Your bio of him is missing the fact that he was nominated twice for Grammy's and received a Grammy in the 80's. That is worth mentioning I think.
Love this music!
Mmmmm...good !
Loved Gate. Saw him several times in several cities. My favorite show was in an underground club in E. Lansing, MI. I think it was Rick’s American Café. He started the show by loudly announcing, “I want everybody to shut up and sit down. I already been paid. I can walk out of here right now. Sit down and shut up and you’re gonna hear a show like you never heard before.” The bar got very quiet and everybody did as they were instructed. He proceeded to put on a hell of a show-
aardvark29
Gatemouth is a legend. Legends never die. His licks live on in so many other musicians including myself.
gotta love him. so free, so creative. I've met him a couple times, a real character, always on, playin to win, expecting life to be great. hip, honest, hot , its Gate ! now he's gone, that's ok. dyin ain't bad, wastin time is bad, and this man used what God gave him so generously.
His music was sweet to the soul, brought his bayou lifestyle to us all who live miles away - thank you " Gatemouth ".
What a great loss. It's a shame when we lose someone like Clarence.
Superb!
fatherthing
Love "The Drifter"...
sounds of New Orleans come thru as well.
magruver
awesome,,,,, , , Love it.
great at everything he does
sounds like blues..
Hey Rob, If you are going to refer to someone as a fool, make sure you spell Louisiana correctly. Just some friendly advice
I don't understand why this fool resented being called a 'blues' musician - it sure as hell ain't country and western that he sings and it most certainly is NOT Cajun! I guess being from Orange, Texas is too close to Lusiana for comfort...

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