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Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

The destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina will be with us for years to come. This program is dedicated to the musicians of the area, who will again find a way to play, and to one we lost, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown.

We're in Memphis, Tennessee, the "Home of the Blues" and host Dee Dee Bridgewater's birthplace. The occasion is the Public Radio Program Directors conference, the setting is B.B. King's Blues Club on Beale Street. For party music, these PDs know whom to call. He's a working musician for nearly 60 years, a guitarist, fiddler, vocalist and Grammy winner: Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown.

Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown with guitar

Songwriter J.D. Loudermilk (who wrote "Tobacco Road") described Gate's music as "white-hot red-neck bluegrass music from a red-hot, blue-collar black man from Orange, Texas, named Brown." Gatemouth was far more concise. He called it "American music, Texas style."

His music is the product of the Gulf Coast as a crossroads of culture, swirling zydeco, country, R&B and big bands together. Gatemouth spent a lifetime performing and managed to remain original.

He only started to slow down toward the end. By 2005 he was battling lung cancer and heart disease. He spent more time at home on a canal near Lake Ponchartrain north of New Orleans. He enjoyed fishing off his deck and spoke of mooring his boats in a special dock below. The house was built right out over the water. As Katrina stormed in, Gatemouth got out. He evacuated to his brother's home in Orange, Texas, where they grew up. Gatemouth's dream house was destroyed. Only a few weeks later, the man himself passed away.

"Dragnet Theme" "Slow Blues" "I Got My Mojo Workin'"

Three from Count Basie Writers
"Front Burner" by Sammy Nestico "Honky Tonk" by Bill Doggett "Honey Boy" by Bill Doggett

Two from Ellington and one from Jay McShann
"I'm Beginning to See the Light"
"Hootie Blues" (by Jay McShann)
"C Jam Blues"

Eric Demmer, saxophone
Joe Krown, keyboards
Harold Floyd, bass
David Peters, drums

Our writer is Brian Sanders, with thanks to Bob Seymour.
Duke Markos is our location engineer, with help from Sounds Unreel Studios in Memphis.
Our archivist is Yujin Cha, supported by a preservation grant from the GRAMMY Foundation.
Additional recording by Ginger Bruner at KUNV Las Vegas.
Special thanks to Murray Horwitz and Bettina Owens who threw the party.
JazzSet is produced by Becca Pulliam with Executive Producer Thurston Briscoe III of Jazz 88, WBGO in Newark, New Jersey.

Copyright 2007 NPR