Our top 10 Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown songs list presents the music of a Grammy Award-winning singer/instrumentalist renowned for his musical versatility. Throughout his career, spanning over five decades, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown established himself as a multifaceted artist playing multiple instruments. Growing up in Orange, Texas, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown appreciated musical versatility from an early age.
The singer, born in 1924, took after his father, who was a local country, bluegrass, and Cajun musician. Gatemouth learned guitar and fiddle skills from his father while he was still young. By the time he was twenty, Gatemouth was an incredible musician playing multiple instruments, including the guitar, fiddle, viola, harmonica, drums, and mandolin. Gatemouth would soon establish his musical career, citing Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Lionel Hampton as his primary influence.
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s Career Beginnings and Breakthrough
In 1945, Gatemouth pursued a professional musical career, starting out as a drummer in San Antonio. However, his breakthrough moment would come almost accidentally in 1947 in a Houston nightclub. At this time, Gatemouth was part of the audience that had turned up to experience a taste of what the legendary guitarist T-Bone Walker had to give at the nightclub. Sadly, T-Bone Walker took ill and wouldn’t play anymore.
Gatemouth boldly hopped onto the stage, picked up T-Bone Walker’s guitar, and started playing “Gatemouth Boogie,” one of the multiple songs he had penned. The audience was amused by his mastery of the guitar, tipping him while still on stage. Surprisingly, the move prompted Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown to team up with a twenty-three-piece orchestra with which he played in different venues. Gatemouth would eventually make his first releases in 1947 through Alladin Records. “Gatemouth Boogie,” “After Sunset,” “Guitar in My Hand,” and “Without Me Baby” are some of the best Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown songs issued in 1947.
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s Releases over the Years
In 1949, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown left Alladin Records for the newly formed Peacock Records. Peacock Records had been established by his then-manager, Don Robey. The record label signed Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, building an impressive roster including Little Richard, Big Mama Thornton, Memphis Slim, Marie Adams, and James Booker. “Mercy On Me” and “Didn’t Reach My Goal” are some of the earliest releases by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown issued through Peacock Records.
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown went on to release multiple hits in the early ‘50s, including “Dirty Work At The Crossroads,” “Okie Dokie Stomp,” “Mary is Fine,” and “Dirty Work at the Crossroads.” Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown continued achieving notable commercial success in the ‘50s, thanks to the release of charming hits and instrumentals. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown felt it was time to move on, parting ways with Peacock Records after the release of the 1959 hit “Just Before Dawn.”
Eventually, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown relocated to Nashville, where he participated in The !!!! Beat, a 1966 R&B TV show. Other artists who appeared on this TV show include Otis Redding, Freddie King, Etta James, Robert Parker, Barbara Lynn, and Little Milton, among others. During this time, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown interacted and became friends with the legendary country artist Roy Clark. Following their friendship, Gatemouth would make a few appearances on Hee Haw, a TV variety show. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown also recorded a few country songs in the ’60s before quitting his professional music career shortly for a deputy sheriff job.
Amazingly, his passion for music saw him embark on his professional music career in the early ‘70s. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s comeback to the music scene was majorly influenced by the great reception of blues and other American roots subgenres. The singer/multi-instrumentalist went on a European tour in the early ‘70s, a move whose culmination was the recording of several European albums.
Gatemouth signed a recording contract with Black & Blue Records in the early ‘70s. Here, he released his debut studio album, The Blues Ain’t Nothing, in 1972. Other artists who have released music through Black & Blue Records include Earl Hines, A.C. Reed, Sammy Price, Cat Anderson, and Ray Bryant, to name a few. Gatemouth went on to release three albums the following year, including Sings Louis Jordan, Cold Strange, and Gate’s On the Heat. The same year, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown shared the stage with the American blues rock/boogie rock band Canned Heat.
In 1974, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown teamed up with Louisiana blues artist Professor Longhair for the release of Rock ‘n’ Roll Gumbo. Gatemouth has since collaborated with other artists on album releases, including Lloyd Glenn, Roy Clark, and Al Grey. The singer’s comeback into the music scene was massive and impactful, having him deliver more releases than he had issued before his brief hiatus.
The ‘80s brought Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown to newfound fame after his songs started earning him recognition in the Grammy Awards ceremonies. Alright Again! marked Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s first album of the ‘80s. The album was issued through Rounder Records, home to other notable musical stars, including Alison Krauss, Woody Guthrie, Robert Plant, Mike Seeger, Cowboy Junkies, and John Mellencamp.
Alright Again! is home to some of the best Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown songs, including “Dollar Got the Blues” and “Frosty.” The album earned Gatemouth his first Grammy nomination and won at the twenty-fifth Annual Grammy Awards ceremony in 1983. Alright Again! scooped the Best Traditional Blues Recording accolade ahead of releases by Johnny Otis, Sippie Wallace, Hound Dog Taylor & the HouseRockers, and a collaborative effort by Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Roomful of Blues.
His next album, One More Mile, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1984. However, it lost to Blues ‘N’ Jazz by B.B. King. Gatemouth’s album Pressure Cooker earned a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album nomination in 1987. The award went ahead to be scooped by Showdown! a collaborative effort by guitarists Robert Cray, Albert Collins, and Johnny Copeland. Other albums that earned Gatemouth a Grammy Awards nomination include Standing My Ground, No Looking Back, The Man, and Long Way Home.
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s Legacy
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown has been lauded as one of the greatest influences in the development of Texas blues. However, Gatemouth had, throughout his lifetime, refused to limit himself as a bluesman alone. In addition to traditional blues, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown appreciated bluegrass, jazz, R&B, country, zydeco, and Texas blues.
The singer went on to influence many artists, including Cal Green, Albert Collins, Frank Zappa, Guitar Slim, and Roy Buchanan. Gatemouth paid homage to songs by other artists, including Casey Bill, Little Feet, Led Zeppelin, Jerry Reed, The Rolling Stones, Jim Mundy, and Eric Clapton. Here we present the ten best Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown songs of all time.
#10 – Boogie Rambler
Ushering us into the top 10 Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown songs list is the impressive hit “Boogie Rambler.” The song was issued by Gatemouth through Peacock Records in 1949 alongside “2 O’clock in the Morning.” “Boogie Rambler” proves Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown to be more than just a reputable Texas bluesman. The song brings the best of Gatemouth’s inspirational guitar skills.
“Boogie Rambler” went on to inspire several artists, including Guitar Slim. Guitar Slim adopted “Boogie Rambler” as his theme tune in 1949 when his career was at its initial stage. Slim went on to become an eclectic guitar player, issuing a Billboard R&B Chart-topping hit, “The Things That I Used to Do,” five years later.
#9 – I Hate These Doggone Blues
After a win and two nominations for a Grammy Awards in the Best Traditional Blues Album, Gatemouth was back again with his album Standing My Ground. Standing My Ground was home to musical gems such as “I Hate These Doggone Blues.” The album also went on to receive a nomination for a Grammy Award in the Best Traditional Blues Album category too, later in 1991. However, it lost to B.B. King’s album, Live at San Quentin. “I Hate These Doggone Blues” stands out thanks to Gatemouth’s magical performance spiced up with some humor.
#8 – Leftover Blues
Coming in at number eight of our top 10 Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown songs list is the fascinating hit “Leftover Blues.” While the ‘60s were a little passive musically for Gatemouth compared to the ‘50s, the singer managed to issue enchanting hits like “Leftover Blues.” The song was released in 1964, alongside “Summertime.”
This marked Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s first release through Cue Label, which was home to other artists, including Louise Hart, Sonny Land Trio, and The Saints. Gatemouth collaborated with Jimmy Duncan in penning the hit “Leftover Blues.” Jimmy Duncan is best known for his 1957 hit “My Special Angel.”
#7 – Mary is Fine
“Mary is Fine” takes us back to the commercially successful beginnings for Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. The song was issued through Peacock Records in 1949 alongside “My Time is Expensive.” “Mary is Fine” proved to be a successful hit having it peak at number ninety-nine on the Billboard R&B chart. However, keen/early rhythm and blues lovers have a story to tell about “Mary is Fine.”
While the song has been dubbed an original track by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, its lyrics and tune feel quite similar to Dave Bartholomew’s first recording through De Luxe Records, “She’s Got Great Big Eyes.” Dave Bartholomew and his band failed to achieve success with the 1947 hit. However, the song “Country Boy,” issued in 1950, brought newfound fame to the singer. While “Mary Is Fine” seems to have borrowed a lot from “She’s Got Great Big Eyes,” the song stands feels a little unique and more glamorous, thanks to Gatemouth’s touch of excellence and perfection.
#6 – Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens
Number six on our top 10 Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown songs list is “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens.” The song finds Gatemouth paying homage to the musical excellence of the boogie-woogie/R&B/swing/jump blues artist Louis Jordan. “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens” was initially issued by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five.
Gatemouth also paid homage to another Louis Jordan hit, “Ain’t That Just Like a Woman.” He would later issue the two songs on his album, Pressure Cooker. Thanks to the magical instrumentation and delivery of songs “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens” and the album title track instrumental that Pressure Cooker earned a Grammy Award in 1987.
#5 – Dollar Got the Blues
Alright Again! ushered in Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown to higher status in the music scene after it gifted the musician his first Grammy Award in 1983. “Dollar Got the Blues” is among the musical gems that helped Gatemouth earn the Best Traditional Blues Recording accolade in the twenty-fifth Grammy Awards ceremony. The song had been recorded earlier in the ‘70s during Gatemouth’s strong comeback to the music scene.
“Dollar Got the Blues” is an infusion of magical instrumentation led by Gatemouth’s amazing guitar skills. Gatemouth was also joined by pianist Larry Sieberth and trumpeter Stanton Davis in the recording of this hit. Stanton Davis later worked with other reputable artists, including Lester Bowie, Ray Anderson, George Russell, and Bob Stewart.
#4 – Honky Tonk
Throughout his career, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown played prodigious songs, some of which were instrumentals. “Honky Tonk” brings us to one of his fan-favorite instrumentals. Originally, “Honky Tonk” was an instrumental rhythm and blues hit originally released in 1956 by the jazz/rhythm and blues singer Bill Doggett. The song had been penned by Bill Doggett, Clifford Scott, Shep Shepherd, and Billy Butler. Other artists who covered this instrumental hit include Tommy Oliver and His Orchestra, Roy Clark, The Beach Boys, Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band, and James Brown.
#3 – Born in Louisiana
East or west, nowhere ever matches home, especially when you have great memories about the place. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown has something to say about his home city in the beautiful song “Born in Louisiana.” Surprisingly, the story alludes to Gatemouth’s past life with a lover in the city.
The singer confesses that despite traveling far and wide, he is yet to meet a girl that matches his desires as the Louisiana girl did! Notable elements of the song include an interesting rhythm, a thrilling instrumentation, and highly relatable lyrics. “Born in Louisiana” remains a fan-favorite gem among the best Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown songs.
#2 – Okie Dokie Stomp
Texas blues don’t get any better than with hits like “Okie Dokie Stomp.” Despite being an instrumental, “Okie Dokie Stomp” remains one of the best Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown compositions ever. The song was issued in 1954 through Peacock Records alongside “Depression Blues.”
The song’s groove is too catchy and melodic to just pass by! “Okie Dokie Stomp” features a hard-hitting horn section that adds glamour to its melody. Other magnificent instrumental hits of the ‘50s by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown include “Gate Walks to Board” and “Boogie Uproar.” Cornell Dupree covered the song in 1974, with Johnny Winter and Brian Setzer delivering their rendition of the song in 2014.
#1 – Got My Mojo Working
Number one on our top 10 Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown songs list is the alluring hit “Got My Mojo Working.” The song is featured on Gatemouth’s Grammy Award-nominated album, Standing My Ground. “Got My Mojo Working” was originally penned by Preston “Red” Foster and brought to fame by Ann Cole and The Suburbans.
A Muddy Waters’ version of the song was quite popular, thanks to its energetic rhythm. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown put his hands and vocals on this song in the late ‘80s, and his rendition automatically became a hit! Other artists who have covered this hit include Louis Jordan, Conway Twitty, The Zombies, Big Mama Thornton, and Elvis Presley.
Feature Photo: Kåre Eide, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
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