Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown (Born 18/04/1924, Died 10/09/2005)
|One of the great guitar players but often underrated and sometimes criminally ignored, 'Gatemouth' was originally influenced by jazz players, which lead to a fluidity of style seldom found in other blues players. He is also a renowned multi-instrumentalist and plays harmonica, banjo, drums and, particularly, the fiddle.
His music reflects an eclectic upbringing, where he was exposed to country, cajun and jazz as well as the blues. Gatemouth's father was a musician and taught his son to play both guitar and fiddle and during his early years he heard the music of Tampa Red, Bob Willis and Count Basie amongst others. He toured with a travelling show (as a drummer!) before being drafted and, on his discharge, he worked as a musician in San Antonio, Texas. Gatemouth impressed enough to attract the interest of Don Robey, who offered him a spot in his club and subsequently recorded him on the Aladdin label before he set up his own Peacock label.
Brown's early recordings for the Peacock label are available on a number of collections but "The Original Peacock Recordings" (re-released on Rounder Records) is as good an introduction as any (including such Brown favourites as 'Gate's Salty Blues', 'Dirty Work At The Crossroads' and 'Just Before Dawn'). He continued to record for Peacock until 1961, and many of these records are classics of Texas blues, incredibly influential at the time.
He continued to record throughout the 60s and 70s, with very little success, although albums made in Europe such as "Gate's On The Heat" were of an extremely high standard. In the 60s he also fronted the house band on a variety television show that broadcast from Nashville, as well as spending time playing in Colorado and New Mexico
He still recorded well into the 90s and beyond and the album "The Man", released in 1994 on Verve 523 761-2 is a fine example of his skills - straight blues, cajun, jazz, soul and innovative instrumentals (including a remarkable version of 'Unchained Melody') all proved he was still in fine fettle at the ripe old age of 71. "Long Way Home", is also worth hearing and is available on Verve 529465-2.
Gatemouth was a supremely gifted singer and instrumentalist, no matter what genre of music he chose to play. His final album, "Timeless" is a fitting testament to a criminally undervalued talent.
""If I can make my guitar sound like my father's fiddle, then I know I've got it right" - "Gatemouth" Brown