Sure, you’ll find his name in the blues section of record stores, his early albums of 1950’s were blues based, and there’s plenty of blues on recent albums. But Gatemouth was all about variety, as he told me back in 1993 during a tour stop in Sacramento.
[What kind of styles do you incorporate in your sound?]
“All of ‘em”
“Cajun, country, bluegrass, jazz, blues, Calypso, bossa nova, semi-classical, Celt music.”
[Is it due to the places you’ve visited and lived that you’ve added as you’ve grown musically? Or did you start out just wanting to be as eclectic as possible?]
“Correct that last statement very correct. I remember starting trying to strum a guitar behind my father at 5 year old. And I knew nothing about music except that I love music but I don’t like to hear the same sound.”
There’s even more variety in the instruments Gatemouth played: guitar, fiddle, viola, mandolin, drums, harmonica. He favored big bands and backbeats, andhe played songs ranging from Satin Doll to Unchained Melody to Got My Mojo Workin’.
[You don’t have any limits to your repertoire do you?]
No, I have no set lists. I’ve seen a lot of musicians got these tunes written down on paper on the floor, I don’t need to do that. Because I don’t work to satisfy me, I work to satisfy my audience. And if I’ve got them I’m automatically satisfied.
Keeping audiences satisfied came naturally to Gatemouth Brown, who sought to energize listeners with music that inspires. That’s another reason why he didn’t like being associated with certain types of “blues,” what he described to me as “negative blues.”
“It was depressing to me. It’s “self-help” “help me” “I’m the one that needs the help,” could care less about the people who, well we have children to raise. And why not put out positive music so the kids can latch on to role models, as they do, and they would have something to be proud of and not go out and wreck their lives.”
Gatemouth has been an ambassador of American music throughout the world… both on behalf of the US State Department and on his own.
"In 1955 I was in Bogota, Colombia. About three years ago I was in Istanbul,Turkey. Last year or so I was in Hong Kong. Austria. New Zealand. Helsinki, Finland. Iceland. It might be a language barrier, but music is universal. So I have no problem making people understand what my music’s all about. "
The words and music of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown from our 1993 interview at the KXJZ studios.