Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown (April 18, 1924 — September 10, 2005) was a Louisiana and Texan American musician. He is best known for his work as a blues musician, but embraced other styles of music, having "spent his career fighting purism by synthesizing old blues, country, jazz, Cajun music and R&B styles" (New York Times obituary).
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. He won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1982 for his album, Alright Again!
Born in Vinton, Louisiana, Brown was raised in Orange, Texas. His professional musical career began in 1945, playing drums in San Antonio, Texas. 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. His career was boosted while attending a 1947 concert by T-Bone Walker in Don Robey's Bronze Peacock Houston nightclub. When Walker became ill, Brown took up his guitar and played "Gatemouth Boogie," to the delight of the audience, and made a name for himself, becoming famous after impressing the audience.
In 1949 Robey founded Peacock Records in order to showcase Brown's virtuoso guitar work. Brown's "Mary Is Fine"/"My Time Is Expensive" was a hit for Peacock in 1949. A string of Peacock releases in the 1950s were less successful commercially, but were nonetheless pioneering musically. Particularly notable is the blistering 1954 instrumental "Okie Dokie Stomp", in which Brown solos continuously over a punchy horn section (other instrumentals from this period include "Boogie Uproar" and "Gate Walks to Board"). As for his gutsy violin playing, Robey allowed him to record "Just Before Dawn" as his final Peacock release in 1959.
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 aGrammy in 1982 for the album Alright Again! and was nominated for five more. He was also awarded eight W. C. Handy Awards and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Heroes Award. In 1997 he was honored by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, and in 1999 was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
In his last few years, he maintained a full touring schedule, including Australia, New Zealand, and countries with political conflicts in Central America, Africa, and the former Soviet Union. "People can't come to me, so I go to them," he explained.
In September 2004, Brown was diagnosed with lung cancer. Already suffering from emphysema and heart disease, he and his doctors decided to forgo treatment. His home in Slidell, Louisiana was destroyed byHurricane Katrina in 2005, and he was evacuated to his childhood home town of Orange, Texas, where he died on September 10 at the apartment of a niece, at the age of 81. Brown is buried in the Hollywood Cemetery in Orange, Texas. However, flooding caused by hurricane Ike in September, 2008, damaged his grave.
His final album was Timeless, released in late 2004.