A Product Of Two Cities, 'Gatemouth' Brown Was A Wonderful Gumbo
"Gatemouth" Brown was born in Vinton, western Louisiana, and raised in Orange which is in eastern Texas. I've been told that those two areas compete in culture and nearly every other way. But Brown was born on one side and raised on the other. Maybe that's what made him such an amazing and eclectic talent.
He played guitar, violin, viola, mandolin, drums, harmonica and piano. He was also a wonderful vocalist. Most artists are known for one or two genres. "Gatemouth" made a name for himself in Blues, Swing, Country, Cajun, R&B, Rock, Folk, Electric Blues, Louisiana Blues and Texas Blues. His Classical violin playing was good enough to hold down a seat with any major orchestra.
Amazing, and anyone who heard him is likely to have said amazing, too.
"Gatemouth" Brown started his career in 1945, playing drums in San Antonio and then took off as a guitarist when, in 1947, at a "T-Bone" Walker concert, he jumped up to replace "T-Bone" when Walker fell ill. The audience was delighted. Frankly, I can't imagine anyone who saw Brown not being delighted.
"Gatemouth" started recording with the Peacock label in 1949, which was created by Don Robey, owner of the Bronze Peacock Nightclub in Houston. Robey actually started the label specifically to record Brown, who stayed with the label for ten years.
Then it was off to Nashville where Brown recorded, what else, a couple of Country hits, while also appearing regularly on an R&B TV show. It was in Europe that "Gatemouth" really got started in American Roots music and the Blues. That was in the early 1970s when those styles were sweeping the continent.
The 1980s and 90s were very fruitful with many successful albums…in a variety of styles, of course, and lots of tours and ever increasing international recognition. His career came to a close in 2005 after he developed a heart condition and emphysema, which took his life not long after Hurricane Katrina.
He won a Grammy, eight W. C. Handy awards and was inducted into several different Halls of Fame. In one "Gatemouth" original, he sang "I was born in Louisiana and raised on the Texas side." In the end no two states could ever encompass the gumbo that was "Gatemouth" Brown.