<>Boogie Uproar : Gatemouth Brown©2006JCMarion


Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown was born in Vinton, Louisiana, in April of 1924. His father was a musician in the local area and from that influence learned the guitar and violin. He had moved to Orange, Texas, at an early age and did a lot of work on the family farm when not pursuing his interests in music. He had a short stay with a touring show called Brown Skin Models (as a drummer) and then was with the Army Corps of Engineers during the years of World War II. During the post war years Brown was based in San Antonio and Houston with various territory bands such as that of Hart Hughes (again as a drummer). He had a long stay at Don Robey’s Bronze Peacock in Houston which began after he sat in for an ailing T-Bone Walker. In 1947 he made his first records for Aladdin Records in California with Maxwell Davis and Jack McVea. “Gatemouth Boogie” / “After Sunset” was released by Aladdin on # 198 and “Guitar In My Hands” / “Without Me Baby” on # 199 in August of 1947.

In January of 1949 Brown began a series of recordings for the Peacock label of Don Robey in Houston. In February of 1950 “Mercy On Me” and “Didn’t Reach My Goal” is released on Peacock # 1500. “Mary Is Fine” and “My Time’s Expensive” is issued on # 1504. In March in Houston, a battle of the bands at the City Auditorium between Brown and Goree Carter resulted in Gatemouth Brown being named “King of the Blues and Guitar” in that Texas city. In March Peacock releases “It Can Never Be That Way” / “I’ve Been Mistreated” on # 1508. In May “It Can Never Be That Way” shows up as one of the top selling R & B records in the Houston area. In July Brown appears with Tina Dixon for night club dates in Detroit and Chicago. That same month Peacock Records issues “Boogie Rambler” and “2 O’Clock In The Morning” on # 1505. “I’ve Been Mistreated” begins to make the sales charts in New Orleans, followed by “Boogie Rambler” in Chicago in September. In November Don Robey of Peacock Records sets up a tour of Texas and Louisiana called “Gatemouth vs. T-Bone” featuring Moore and Walker, two of the top blues performers of 1950. Out that month is Peacock # 1561 – “She Walks Right In” / “Win With Me Baby”.

“She Walks Right In” continues to sell for Peacock Records in the early months of 1951. In March Brown makes his first tour of the West Coast. In April “Justice Blues” on Peacock # 1568 starts out as a good seller in Chicago and Milwaukee (“I Live My Life” is the flip side). In June Gatemouth extends his tour of the West Coast. Featured in his band is pianist – vocalist Paul Monday who has a good selling hit with “If You Were Mine” on Peacock # 1570. The interesting “Pale Dry Boogie” parts one and two is released on # 1575. In August Peacock releases “She Winked Her Eye” and “Sad Hour” on # 1576. At year’s end “Too Late Baby” / “Taking My Chances” is out on Peacock #1586.
During the early spring of 1952 Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown does a number of personal appearances on the East Coast. “Too Late Baby” continues to be a good seller for Peacock through April. In May Brown starts a tour of Southern states along with Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons. In July “Baby Take It Easy” and “Just Got Lucky” is released on Peacock # 1600. In October Brown sets up a tour with trombonist Al Grey and his band. The band consists of Grey leader and trombone, Joe Scott on trumpet, Johnny Board – tenor sax, Bob Little on baritone sax, Paul Monday piano and vocals, Ray Johnson on bass, and drummer Ellis Bartee. In Houston Texas on Thanksgiving Night, Gatemouth and B.B. King stage a battle of the bands at the city’s Civic Center. In the early months of 1953 The Al Grey All Stars appear at a series of one nighters throughout the Southwest. Featured are Gatemouth Brown, Paul Monday, and Rosetta Perry carrying the vocal chores during the show.

“Dirty Work At The Crossroad” and “You Got Money” recorded with Jimmy McCracklin are released by Peacock on # 1607 as the latest by Brown during January. The Grey-Brown unit continues to tour through much of the year concentrating on the South and Southwest. “Boogie Uproar” and “Hurry Back Good News” is released by Peacock on # 1617. Late in the year Peacock issues “Gate Walks To Board” and “Please Tell Me Baby” on # 1619. At this time Gatemouth Brown forms a new band to take on the road. He retains the services of Al Grey as soloist and musical director, and Rosetta Perry on vocals. In February of 1954 Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown is billed as a solo performer and does a two week engagement at the New Era Club in Nashville, Tennessee. In May Brown criss crosses the state of Texas doing a series of one night appearances. During the summer “Okie Dokie Stomp” and “Depression Blues” recorded with Puma Davis are released by Peacock on # 1637. Late in the year Peacock Records releases “The Midnight Hour” and “For Now So Long” on # 1633. Gatemouth performs at the Sixth Annual Goodwill Revue in Memphis sponsored by radio station WDIA. The big event was held at Ellis Auditorium in mid December.

In August of 1955. “Gates Salty Blues” and “Rock My Blues Away” are issued on # 1653. On this release Brown is featured on the “Mississippi Saxophone” (harmonica), and his performance is well received as the rock ‘n roll revolution is beginning to gather strength. His newest band is led by Puma Davis on trombone, along with Henry Boozer on trumpet, Bill Harvey and Allen Clark on saxes, Carl Owens on piano, Nat Douglas on guitar, Carl Lott on bass, and Emile Russell is the drummer. Gatemouth is set to play in Chicago for a big show produced by Sam Evans of the “Jam With Sam” revues. In 1956 Brown changes gears again as he records “September Song” which gets off to a good start with sales and airplay especially in New Orleans. The flip side is “Ain’t That Dandy” and is on Peacock # 1662.
In November of 1959, the recording agreement between Brown and Peacock Records enters its tenth year with the label re-issuing # 1637 – “Okie Dokie Stomp” and “Depression Blues”. At the dawn of a new decade Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown is still recording with “Just Before Dawn” and “Swinging The Gate” on # 1692 and “Slop Time” and “Gates Tune” on # 1696 for Peacock. “Dawn” and “Slop Time” feature Brown on the violin and are both included on the great compilation LP of Duke-Peacock hits called “Like “Er Red Hot” which gives the music of Gatemouth Brown a shot at a whole new listening audience. Later in the nineteen sixties with the end of Peacock Records, Brown recorded for some small independent labels such as Cue and Heritage.

Later Brown moved to Nashville and soon had his own television show called “The Beat” and added country music to his performances. He recorded with country music star Roy Clark and appeared with him on “Hee-Haw” and “Austin City Limits”. He also toured Europe and Russia and became a foremost exponent of American blues. In 1982 his album “Alright Again” won a Grammy award. He has recently recorded for Verve, Rounder, Alligator, Blackjack, Barclay, and Blue Thumb Records. He continued to record and appear in person from time to time in recent years even after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. In August of 2005 he left his home in Slidell, Louisiana, near New Orleans to escape the effects of hurricane Katrina (his home was destroyed by the storms). He returned to his boyhood home of Orange, Texas, to stay with relatives. Almost immediately he needed medical attention at nearby Port Arthur, but he succumbed and passed away in early September at the age of eighty one.

Luckily for all lovers of American music, especially the blues, Gatemouth Brown is represented by a great amount of recorded legacy. The historic years from the post war forties to the mid fifties are covered in two cds from Jazz Classics of France. "1947-1952" and "1952-1954" cover the top sellers mostly for Peacock Records. Rounder has a 1992 cd called "Original Peacock Recordings" with 12 tracks, and there is a cd called "Boogie Uproar : Texas Blues and R & B 1947-1954"  with 103 tracks including 38 by Gatemouth Brown on JSP and other tracks by Goree Carter and Lester Williams. In later years there are a number of interesting cds that chronicle the evolving music of Gatemouth. Two live cds are "Live 1980" from Charly, and "Real Life Live" from Rounder of a live set in Fort Worth, Texas in the mid eighties. The Grammy winning "Alright Again" is on Rounder from '92, "Pressure Cooker" from Alligator is a reissue of French sessions for Barclay in the seventies. Others of note are "Gate Swings" from Polygram with a thirteen piece horn section augmenting the usual quartet, "Timeless" from Hightone in '04 which featured mostly instrumental tracks, and "Long Way Home" which features Brown in the company of modern musicians such as Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Leon Russell, John D. Loudermilk, and Maria Muldaur. Three last cds are "Standing My Ground" for Alligator in 1990, "Blackjack" for Sugar Hill in 1999, and 2001's  "Back To Bogalusa" on Verve.

That is the story of Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, an American original  and master of many musical forms, instruments,  and styles. He is an essential part of the  Rhythm & Blues history of this  country and of the world.

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