Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown Dies at 81

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown (1924-2005)

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown was one of a kind. A Texas bluesman raised near the Louisiana border, he fully believed there was only two kinds of music: good and bad. He played music with equal doses of blues, Cajun, country, western swing, big band, and whatever else took his fancy. He could play guitar, fiddle, and pretty much anything else with strings on it, and was gleefully knocking down musical divisions long before the term "roots music" ever left anyone's lips.

I had the great fortune of spending an afternoon with Brown, talking about his early days playing around the South, the musicians he loved and those he couldn't stand (I made the mistake of mentioning Rufus Thomas, who I'd only recently heard for the first time) and his love of making music of any kind. Brown had a hit out of the gate on Peacock Records with Okie Dokie Stomp, but never rose to the same ranks as the likes of Muddy Waters or B.B. King, maybe because his sound was never regarded as being as "pure" as some blues legends, but by the same token, his records never got boring. Track down his shared LP with Roy Clark (it's called, simply, Makin' Music) for an example of his open mind and open heart. Years later I talked to Clark and he said it was the most fun he ever had in a studio.

Sadly, Brown's death came in the wake of his house's destruction by Hurricane Katrina, you can read more in this BBC obituary, but maybe news of his passing will lead more to the music of this wiry, wily master musician.

1 comment:

slyboots2 said...

He was such a joy. I saw him live almost 20 years ago in Missoula, Montana. What a wonderful musician. I'll miss him. Thanks for mentioning him on your blog.