clarence gatemouth brown
Jan 1995 File photo of
Blues & zydeco musician Clarence Gatemouth Brown, in concert at Cafe Campus in Montreal, Canada, January 1995
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.
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.
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.
(Photo by Pierre Roussel /images Distribution)