Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown


Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown is featured live at Montreux Jazz Festival 2000.

Born in Vinton, Louisiana, but raised in Orange, Texas Clarence Brown’s professional musical career began in 1945, playing drums in San Antonio. He was given the nickname “Gatemouth” by a high school teacher who accused Brown of having a “voice like a gate” which he used to his advantage throughout his career. His career was boosted when he filled in for an ill T-Bone Walker while attending a 1947 concert in Don Robey’s Bronze Peacock Houston nightclub.

During the 1960s Brown moved to Nashville, Tennessee to participate in a syndicated R&B television show, and while he was there recorded several country singles. He struck up a friendship with Roy Clark and made several appearances on the television show Hee Haw. In 1966, Brown was the musical director for the house band on the short-lived television program, “The !!!! Beat.”

In the 1980s, a series of releases on Rounder Records and Alligator Records revitalized his U.S. career, and he toured extensively and internationally, usually playing between 250 and 300 shows a year. He won a Grammy in 1983 for the album Alright Again! and was nominated for five more. “Alright Again!” is credited with putting Brown back on the musical map. He also won 8 WC Handy Awards. In 1999 Brown was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

In September 2004, Brown was diagnosed with lung cancer. Already suffering from emphysema and heart disease, he and his doctors decided to forgo treatment. This greatly affected his musical career. Later his home in Slidell, Louisiana was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and he was evacuated to his childhood home town of Orange, Texas, where he died on September 10, 2005 at the apartment of a niece, at the age of 81. Brown is buried in the Hollywood Cemetery in Orange, Texas.

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