Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, April 18th, 1924 – September 10, 2005. An American Multi-instrumentalist best known for his work as a blues musician. Brown played guitar, fiddle, mandolin, viola as well as harmonica and drums. He won a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1982.
Brown was born and raised in Orange, Texas. The name Gatemouth was given to him by a high school instructor who accused Brown as having a “voice like a gate”. Initially learning the drums in 1945. Brown’s career effectively began when he took to the stage to play T-Bone Walkers guitar when Walker became ill. To the delight of the audience he played “Gatemouth Boogie” a track he improvised on the spot.
Brown signed to Peacock Records in 1949, a recording label setup to showcase Browns virtuoso guitar work. Brown released a series of successful recordings throughout the 50s. In the 1970s Brown moved to Nashville, Tennessee to work on a syndicated R&B TV show. And during the same period he started touring in Europe.
The later years of Brown’s career were revitalised with a series of releases and off the back of this renewed popularity Brown would tour extensively throughout the 80s, performing between 250-300 shows a year.
In his final years Brown maintained a full touring schedule, but in September 2004 was diagnosed with lung cancer. His home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, so he moved back to his childhood home in Orange, Texas. Brown died September 10th, 2005 aged 81.
The aptly named youtube video below, “A Master Class with Clarence Gatemouth Brown” really shows his virtuoso style. A true master.