Acrobat Music

Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown, blues multi-instrumentalist and singer, died on 10th Sept. 2005

Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown, blues multi-instrumentalist and singer, died on 10th Sept. 2005
Apologies, but we are a few days late with this reference due to a pile-up of anniversaries this month. Clarence Brown was born in Vinton, Louisiana on April 18th 1924, and raised in Orange, Texas. He got the "Gatemouth" nickname when a teacher said he had a "voice like a gate". He started as a drummer in San Antonio in Texas in 1945, but in 1947 was at a T-Bone Walker gig at Don Robey's Peacock Club in Houston when Walker was taken ill. Brown took over on guitar and wowed the audience, and his career received a major boost as a result. Robey formed Peacock Records in 1949 primarily to showcase Brown's guitar virtuosity, and his recordings over the next few years, while not bringing huge commercial success, were landmark examples of blues guitar, especially 1954's "Okie Dokie Stomp". He was a hugely versatile musician, playing violin, mandolin and harmonica as well as guitar and drums, and he also eschewed the blues purists, straying into country, jazz and other styles with equal aplomb. He moved to Nashville in the 60s and made some country records, and did some TV work, before giving up the business to go to New Mexico to become a deputy sheriff. He was tempted back in the early '70s, however, when he was invited to Europe, where his work had attracted considerable interest, and he went on to tour Europe a dozen times during that decade, becoming an official ambassador for American music and appearing at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Having recorded with professor Longhair, he moved to new Orleans in the late 70s. Re-issues of his work revitalised his US career in the 80s and he became a regular touring attraction, winning a Grammy in 1982, and expanding his horizons to far-flung parts of the world. Already suffering from emphysema, heart disease and lung cancer, his home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and he evacuated to his childhood home town of Orange, Texas, where he died later that year at the age of 81. He influenced many guitarists of the rock era, including J.J. Cale and Johnny Guitar Watson, and was cited by Frank Zappa as his favourite guitarist. Acrobat has on catalogue an album of his recordings from 1949-54 - for details click here.
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