Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

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"That Gate can do more with a guitar than a monkey with a peanut!" — Lonnie Brooks.

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown (April 18, 1924 — September 10, 2005) was an American blues musician, whose work also embraced other styles like country, jazz, Cajun music and R&B styles. He was an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, who played an array of musical instruments such as guitar, fiddle, mandolin, viola as well as harmonica and drums. The "High Priest Of Texas Swing", was name-checked on the cover of "Freak Out!" (1966) under the heading "These People Have Contributed Materially In Many Ways To Make Our Music What It Is. Please Do Not Hold It Against Them".

Tagged with the "Gatemouth" handle by a high school instructor who accused Brown of having a "voice like a gate", Brown has used it to his advantage throughout his illustrious career. Brown established himself as a legendary performer of breathtaking diversity and virtuosity. At home on vocals, guitar, harmonica, mandolin, and fiddle, or with composer's pen in hand, he has demonstrated his mastery of blues, jazz, cajun, country, and swing. After he gained early experience with vaudeville and swing revues, pioneer electric blues guitarist T-Bone Walker helped him get some early breaks.

He began his recording career in 1947 in a jump band setting with a session for the Aladdin label. Into the 1960s, he released gems of strikingly powerful, clever blues and jazz on the Houston-based Peacock label. Gatemouth became a major influence on blues guitar stars Albert Collins, Guitar Slim, and Johnny "Guitar" Watson; all three were also name-checked on the cover of "Freak Out!". So many years after he recorded it for Peacock, his classic instrumental hit "Okie Dokie Stomp" (1954, Peacock 1637) is still required learning for aspiring blues guitar players, and one of FZ's favorite songs.

He has received seven Grammy nominations, multiple W.C. Handy Awards, and a prestigious Pioneer Award from the R&B Foundation. In 1999, Brown was inducted into the Blues Foundation Blues Hall of Fame. In 2000, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Orleans’ Big Easy Awards.

He is also mentioned in "The Real Frank Zappa Book" (1989): "Don was also an R&B fiend, so I'd bring my 45s over and we'd listen for hours on end to obscure hits by the Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Guitar Slim, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Don & Dewey, the Spaniels, the Nutmegs, the Paragons, the Orchids, the etc., etc., etc."

Clarence died in Texas on September 12th 2005 after leaving New Orleans to avoid the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. Brown was 81 and by then suffered from lung cancer.

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