Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown

Another great one, gone.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Clarence Brown, the singer and guitarist who built a 50-year career playing blues, country, jazz and Cajun music, died Saturday in his hometown of Orange, Texas, where he had gone to escape Hurricane Katrina, his agent said. He was 81.

Known as “Gatemouth” Brown, he had been battling lung cancer and heart disease and was in ill health for the past year.

Although his career first took off in the 1940s with blues hits “Okie Dokie Stomp” and “Ain’t That Dandy,” Brown bristled when he was labeled a bluesman.

In the second half of his career, he became known as a musical jack-of-all-trades who played a half-dozen instruments and culled from jazz, country, Texas blues, and the zydeco and Cajun music of his native Louisiana.

By the end of his career, Brown had more than 30 recordings and won a Grammy award in 1982.

In his teens, Brown toured as a drummer with swing bands and was nicknamed “Gatemouth” for his deep voice. After a brief stint in the Army, he returned in 1945 to Texas, where he was inspired by blues guitarist T-Bone Walker.

Brown’s career took off in 1947 when Walker became ill and had to leave the stage at a Houston nightclub. The club owner invited Brown to sing, but Brown grabbed Walker’s guitar and thrilled the crowd by tearing through “Gatemouth Boogie” – a song he claimed to have made up on the spot.

Brown – who performed in cowboy boots, cowboy hat and Western-style shirts – lived in Nashville in the early 1960s, hosting an R&B television show and recording country singles.

In 1979, he and country guitarist Roy Clark recorded “Makin’ Music,” an album that included blues and country songs and a cover of the Billy Strayhorn-Duke Ellington classic “Take the A-Train.” He also recorded with Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt and others.

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