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Fri, 04.18.1924

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Musician born

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown was born on this date in 1924. He was a Black musician.

Born in Vinton, Louisiana, and raised in Orange, Texas, Brown learned the value of musical versatility.  He played many instruments, such as guitar, fiddle, mandolin, viola, harmonica, and drums.  His dad was a popular musician specializing in country, Cajun, and bluegrass. Later, young Brown was influenced by the big bands' Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, and Duke Ellington.

Given the "Gatemouth" nickname by a high school instructor who accused Brown of having a "voice like a gate," Brown used it throughout his well-known career. In 1947, Brown'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 created his Peacock label in 1949.

Brown's style proved influential to a legion of Houston musicians; Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Cal Green, and many more. 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 instrumentals ("Boogie Uproar," "Gate Walks to Board," 1954's "Okie Dokie Stomp"), "She Walked Right In," "Rock My Blues Away," and "Dirty Work at the Crossroads" are a major part of the Texas postwar blues legacy.

The '60s weren't all that kind to Brown. But the decade was chiefly memorable for his 1966 work as house band leader for The Beat, a groundbreaking syndicated R&B television program out of Dallas. When Brown began to rebuild his career in the '70s, he was determined to do things his way. Country, jazz, and 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 was featured on the TV show Hee Haw with pal Roy Clark after they cut a 1979 duet album for MCA, Makin' Music.  During his career, Brown recorded 30 records. He won a Grammy Award for Traditional Blues in 1983 for his album, Alright Again. Gatemouth Brown passed away on September 10, 2005, in Orange, TX.

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