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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown, 1924-2005

Clarence "Gatemouth" 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. He was 81.

Brown, who had been battling lung cancer and heart disease, was in ill health for the past year, said Rick Cady, his booking agent.

Cady said the musician was with his family at his brother's house when he died. Brown's home in Slidell, La., a bedroom community of New Orleans, was destroyed by Katrina, Cady said.

"He was completely devastated," Cady said. "I'm sure he was heartbroken, both literally and figuratively. He evacuated successfully before the hurricane hit, but I'm sure it weighed heavily on his soul."

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.

"I'm so unorthodox, a lot of people can't handle it," Brown said in a 2001 interview.
I think the dogs and I are going to take some time tonight to think of Gatemouth and the New Orleans that will never be again by listening to his music.