- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2005

From combined dispatches

Grammy-winning blues singer-guitarist Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown died Saturday in Orange, Texas, where he had gone to escape Hurricane Katrina. He was 81.

A versatile musician who also played fiddle, mandolin, viola, harmonica and drums, Mr. Brown built a career that spanned more than 60 years playing blues, country, jazz and zydeco music.

New Orleans musician Joe Krown, who played with Mr. Brown for 15 years, said he died Saturday after evacuating to his brother’s Texas home just before Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29.

Mr. Brown was diagnosed with lung cancer last year and was in poor health, but news that Katrina had ruined New Orleans and destroyed his home in nearby Slidell, La., was the final blow, Mr. Krown said.

“It was just devastating. There was nothing to go back to,” Mr. Krown said. “He lost the will to live.”

The destruction of Mr. Brown’s home was so complete that virtually all of his career memorabilia were lost. “The only [thing] they saved was his legendary Firebird guitar,” said Mr. Krown.

Mr. Brown was born in 1924 in Vinton, La., but raised in nearby Orange. He came from a musical family and learned to play several instruments. He got his nickname from a teacher, who said his deep voice sounded like a swinging gate.

In his teens, Mr. Brown toured as a drummer with swing bands, then served in the Army during World War II. Returning to Texas, he became a drummer for blues guitarist T-Bone Walker.

When Mr. Walker fell ill at a 1947 performance at a Houston nightclub, Mr. Brown picked up the guitar and led the band in a crowd-pleasing performance that prompted club owner Don Robey to sign him to a recording contract.

In the 1940s, Mr. Brown’s blues hits included “Okie Dokie Stomp” and “Ain’t That Dandy.”

In the 1960s, he moved to Nashville, where he hosted a local television show. In 1979, he collaborated with Roy Clark on “Makin’ Music,” an album that included blues and country songs. He also recorded with Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

He won a blues Grammy in 1982 for his comeback album, “Alright Again!”

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