April 18, 1924 – Sept 10, 2005 Orange, Texas
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown was born in Vinton, Louisiana, and raised in Orange, Texas. His father was a musician, and by the time he was five years old, Clarence had learned to play the fiddle; by ten, he was performing on guitar. As a teen, Brown played the drums in area swing bands where he was given the nickname “Gatemouth” because of his deep voice.
After serving in World War II, Gatemouth signed with Peacock Records. Owner Don Robey started Peacock Records to sign Gatemouth and take full advantage of his new talent. Brown’s first single with Peacock Records, “Mary is Fine,” hit Number 8 on the R&B charts in 1949. Soon afterward, Robey asked Brown to be the front man for a twenty-three-piece orchestra that toured the South. During his time with Peacock, Brown recorded several hits, including “Okie Dokie Stomp,” “Ain’t That Dandy,” “Boogie Rambler,” “Depression Blues,” and “Dirty Work at the Crossroads.”
The sixties were a difficult time, but in the seventies, Gatemouth was able to restart his career performing in the broad range of styles and instruments for which he would become famous.
Known for the wide array of instruments he had mastered, Gatemouth played guitar, violin, bass, electric fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, and viola. Brown toured not only throughout the United States but also in Europe and around the world. On several stints, he appeared as a music ambassador for the United States State Department. In 1982 Brown’s Alright Again received a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. Brown won eight W. C. Handy Awards. He also received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award in 1997 and was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1999. Other later recordings include "Pressure Cooker" (1986), and "Real Life" (1986).
Brown lived in Slidell but was displaced due to Hurricane Katrina to his former hometown of Orange, Tx. Sadly, he passed away in his brother’s home on September 10, 2005, and was interred at the Hollywood Cemetery in Orange, Tx. A historical marker was erected near his gravesite in 2012.
It reads as follows:
Well-known for his expertise on the guitar and his multi-genre music, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown had a recording career that spanned more than 50 years. Born in Vinton, Louisiana, he and his family moved to Orange when he was an infant. Here, Brown was shaped by a mix of Texan and Cajun cultures. He learned from his musician father and became known for his guitar and fiddle playing, as well as his deep singing voice; he also played the drums, violin, mandolin and harmonica. Brown's music reflected African-American folk traditions of the Southwest.
He is enshrined in the Museum of the Gulf Coast, Music Hall of Fame.