'GATEMOUTH' BROWN WITH GATE'S EXPRESS
Brown - guitar, fiddle
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown's music doesn't elude categories. It embraces them. "Jazz, blues, bluegrass, zydeco, cajun and calypso all fit into his panoramic worldview." Gate is a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, violin, harmonica, piano, mandolin, viola and drums), but perhaps the most impressive aspect of his music is its variety.
Brown started crossing boundaries -- both musical and geographical -- at a very young age. He was born in 1924 in Vinton, Louisiana and raised in Orange, Texas. He learned guitar and fiddle from his father, a strong multiinstru- mentalist who taught his son to play Texas fiddle music, traditional French tunes and even polkas. Gate began his professional career at the age of 21 as a drummer in San Antonio.
In 1947, Gate was in the audience at the Golden Peacock nightclub in Houston, when famed guitarist T-Bone Walker took sick and dropped his guitar onto the stage in the middle of a number. Gate leaped to the stage, picked up Walker's axe and laid into one of his own tunes, "Gatemouth Boogie." T-Bone was not amused by the young upstart, but the crowd went wild, tossing $600 at Brown's feet in fifteen minutes.
That stunt also got the attention of the club's owner, a Houston businessman named Don Robey. Robey hired Gate to play the club and eventually became his manager. He teamed Gate with a swinging 23-piece orchestra and booked him into venues across the South and Southwest. Gate made his first records for Hollywood's Alladin Records in 1947. When Alladin's promotion and release schedules didn't live up to expectations, Robey founded Peacock Records as an outlet for Gate's music. Dozens of Brown's records, including "Okie Dokie Stomp," "Boogie Rambler," "Just Before Dawn" and "Dirty Work At The Crossroads," became big hits. Beginning with Gate's hits, in a few years Peacock grew to become a major independent r&b record label, with an artist roster that included stars like Bobby "Blue" Bland, Junior Parker and Joe Hinton.
In the '60s, Gate moved to Nashville. There he recorded a series of country singles. In the late sixties, Gate moved to New Mexico and became a deputy sheriff. It wasn't long, however, before he was drawn to Europe by a newly developing blues audience there. In 1971, he travelled to France for his debut tour of that country. During the '70s he toured Europe nearly a dozen times and recorded a total of nine European albums. The best cuts from three of those albums were later released in the U.S. by Alligator Records as PRESSURE COOKER, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Blues Recording in 1986.
In the mid-'70s, Gate became a spokesperson for American music, participating in a U.S. State Department sponsored tour of Eastern Africa, which included dates in Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia, Tanzania, Madagascar, Kenya, Sudan and Egypt. He became a fixture at the Montreux Jazz Festival in the late '70s, and in 1979 he toured the Soviet Union.
Back in the States, he moved to New Orleans in the late '70s and signed a contract with Jim Bateman's Real Records of Bogalusa, Louisiana, which resulted in the 1978 release of his first American album, BLACKJACK, on the Music Is Medicine label. An appearance on the PBS-TV series "Austin City Limits" soon followed. In 1979, he teamed up with country music star Roy Clark for an MCA album, MAKIN' MUSIC, which led to an appearance on the syndicated television program, "Hee Haw," and another appearance on "Austin City Limits." More albums and television appearances followed, as well as a "Best Blues Recording" followed, in 1982 for ALRIGHT AGAIN! Gate also won his first W.C. Handy Award in 1982 for "Instrumetalist of the Year." He came away from the '86 Handy's with his thrid award, "Instrumentalist of the Year." Also in 1986, Alligator released their first LP of Gate, the Grammy.
In 1981, Real Records took a Gatemouth Brown master tape to Rounder Records, who released the recording as ALRIGHT AGAIN!. That album won the Grammy for "Best Blues Recording of 1982" and was named "Album of the Year" by the German Record Critic's Poll. Gate also won his first W.C. Handy Award in '82 for "Instrumentalist of the Year." A second Rounder Records release, ONE MORE MILE, and a re-issue of THE ORIGINAL PEACOCK RECORDINGS followed in 1983. That same year he won another Handy Award when he was voted "Entertainer of the Year." Gate had two releases in 1986, Rounder's REAL LIFE and Alligator's Grammy-nominated PRESSURE COOKER. He came away from the '86 Handys with his third award, "Instrumentalist of the Year."
In the last few years, Gate has continued his hectic touring schedule with performances across the U.S. as well as debut appearances in New Zealand and Australia. Although the last American Ambassador was expelled from Nicaragua in 1988, Gate decided to proceed with a visit to that country and Honduras on a tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department. When asked by a New York Times reporter to explain his tours to such politically tense areas as Central America, Africa and the Soviet Union, Brown replied, "People can't come to me, so I go to them."
knack for blending the various American music forms -- jazz, blues, bluegrass,
country, swing, funk and zydeco -- coupled with his determination to bring
his music to audiences around the world have brought him praise from fans
and the international media alike. Newsweek called him "a virtuoso
talent." He is singularly qualified as a spokesperson for American
music. After all, his performances -- whether live or recorded -- are,
as The Washington Post put it, "as rich
from ALLIGATOR RECORDS)
here for all