No Smoke, No Show
<< July, 2014 >>
Search Blog

100+1 Uses (1) RSS
Adam Davidson (10) RSS
admissions (1) RSS
Advertising (2) RSS
Alex Florov (5) RSS
Ardor (4) RSS
Art and Pipes (4) RSS
Ashton (1) RSS
Ashton (3) RSS
Behind-the-Scenes (11) RSS
blog (9) RSS
blog (40) RSS
bloopers (2) RSS
books (2) RSS
Brad Pohlmann (2) RSS
Brad Pohlmann (2) RSS
briar (8) RSS
Brick House Cigars (1) RSS
Brigham (2) RSS
Broken Pipe (2) RSS
Bruce Weaver (2) RSS
Capstan (6) RSS
Carlos Torano (1) RSS
Castello (6) RSS
Chacom (4) RSS
cigars (20) RSS
Claudio Albieri (1) RSS
Claudio Cavicchi (3) RSS
comic strips (2) RSS
Cornell & Diehl (10) RSS
Customer Service (6) RSS
Dunhill (12) RSS
Ernie Markle (1) RSS
Ernie Markle (2) RSS
Escudo (1) RSS
Esoterica (2) RSS
estate pipes (17) RSS
events (2) RSS
Famous Pipe Smokers (11) RSS
Fitness (1) RSS
Flor de Gonzalez (1) RSS
Food (12) RSS
Gabriele (1) RSS
Gamboni (2) RSS
Gawith Hoggarth & Co (1) RSS
gift cards (1) RSS
Giveaways (6) RSS
G. L. Pease (10) RSS
grain (1) RSS
Gran Habano (1) RSS
Grant Batson (1) RSS
Grechukhin (2) RSS
hemp wick (1) RSS
Hermit Tobacco (1) RSS
Hiroyuki Tokutomi (9) RSS
history (4) RSS
Humor (23) RSS
Ikebana (1) RSS
Il Duca (1) RSS
Interview (2) RSS
Italy (3) RSS
J.Alan (1) RSS
J. Alan (11) RSS
Japan (1) RSS
Jess Chonowitsch (1) RSS
J&J (3) RSS
Johs (2) RSS
Kaywoodie (1) RSS
Kei-ichi Gotoh (2) RSS
Kristoff (1) RSS
La Gloria Cubana (1) RSS
Lars Ivarsson (3) RSS
Lasse Skovgaard (4) RSS
Leo (1) RSS
Letter (1) RSS
lighters (1) RSS
Low Country Pipe and Cigar (3) RSS
Luciano (3) RSS
Mac Baren (17) RSS
Maigurs Knets (2) RSS
McClelland (6) RSS
Michael Lindner (2) RSS
Michael Parks (1) RSS
Michail Kyriazanos (1) RSS
Michal Novak (2) RSS
Mystery Tobacco (2) RSS
Nanna Ivarsson (2) RSS
nasal snuff (1) RSS
Nathan Armentrout (1) RSS
Neerup (1) RSS
Newminster (1) RSS
newsletter (266) RSS
Oliva (1) RSS
Orlik (5) RSS
Padron (1) RSS
People (22) RSS
Pesaro (1) RSS
Pete Prevost (1) RSS
Peter Heding (2) RSS
Peter Heeschen (2) RSS
Peterson (7) RSS
Peter Stokkebye (3) RSS
photography (18) RSS
pipe accessories (3) RSS
pipe basics (4) RSS
Pipe Clubs (2) RSS
Pipe Fiesta (1) RSS
pipe making (6) RSS
pipe making (55) RSS
pipes (44) RSS
pipes (8) RSS
Pipe Shows (23) RSS
Pipes in Film (4) RSS
pipe tobacco (81) RSS
poster (1) RSS
Press (7) RSS
Rad Davis (1) RSS
Radice (6) RSS
Ray Kurusu (1) RSS
Reiner (1) RSS
Reviews (4) RSS
Rocky Patel (1) RSS
Rocky Patel (2) RSS
Sales (3) RSS
Samuel Gawith (1) RSS
Samuel Gawith (2) RSS
Savinelli (3) RSS
scott thile (2) RSS
Sebastien Beo (4) RSS
Ser Jacopo (3) RSS
Simeon Turner (1) RSS
Sixten Ivarsson (2) RSS
Smio Satou (3) RSS (74) RSS
SPC Merchandise (1) RSS
SPC University (2) RSS
Stanwell (4) RSS
Storient (1) RSS
Summary (6) RSS
Takeo Arita (2) RSS
Tatuaje (2) RSS
technology (5) RSS
Thanksgiving (1) RSS
Three Nuns (4) RSS
tobacco (7) RSS
tobacco aging (1) RSS
tobacco blending (5) RSS
tobacco review (5) RSS
Tom Eltang (5) RSS
Tonni Nielsen (1) RSS
Torano (1) RSS
travel (70) RSS
Tsuge (3) RSS
Vauen (1) RSS
video (57) RSS
video (5) RSS
Viktor Yashtylov (1) RSS
virginia (1) RSS
YouTues (4) RSS
Photo Albums
florov (1)

15 February 2011

No Smoke, No Show
 On Clarence Gatemouth Brown

Blue and yellow lights penetrate drifting whorls of pipe smoke suspended in silence. I can feel the audience’s anticipation. A tall man takes the microphone and announces, "Memphis - the moment you have waited for - Clarence Gatemouth Brown." The band kicks off a swing tune and Gatemouth saunters onto the stage, smoking a pipe and wearing western garb. He's in his seventies, with his custom Gibson Firebird guitar hanging over his shoulder. He begins to play swing lines as a horn player would, but on his guitar. As the set continues, Gatemouth moves from Texas swing, to a bluegrass fiddle tune on the viola. I really enjoy an eclectic set list and Brown always delivers. A voice like gravel mixed with molasses comes from the lean old music veteran. It's more powerful live than any recording can capture.

Throughout his career, Clarence Brown cleared hurdles and broke the rules of the music business as a matter of course. Brown loved the blues and played them well. However, he did not like the classification of "blues musician", or even "bluesman". He preferred no label at all, stating that he plays, “American and world music, Texas style.” He was born in Louisiana and his family moved to Texas when he was young. Although T-Bone Walker influenced Gatemouth, his music was not limited to blues. It was eclectic mix of Cajun, blues, country, rhythm & blues, and jazz genres. He approached classical style as well as roots and contemporary music. Perhaps he would be better known if he had chosen a less diverse repertoire. However, his influence on music is evident, and his criticism on musicians is harsh. He spoke his mind. For instance, when critiquing blues musicians Gatemouth said, "They were just coppin’ off of [T-bone Walker]. Now, when I first started I played a couple of T-Bone’s licks…I got away from that and I developed my own style…I can play stuff now that there’s no way in the world that B.B. King or any of those other guys can play…they’re all friends of mine, and they’ll admit they can’t play it.” He commented on the music scene of New Orleans in the1970's stating, "Everybody’s trying to sound like each other and they’re doing a damn good job of it. But I don’t want to be associated with it.”

The Gatemouth brown Philosophy:

Gatemouth played numerous instruments, including the guitar, viola, mandolin, drums, and harmonica. He began playing drums in his teens, and learned to play the fiddle and mandolin by age ten. The swing music he played in his youth influenced the way he approached other instruments. This is around the time he received the moniker "Gatemouth". I have heard a few accounts that differ on who gave him the nickname. However, the reason for his nickname is the same in all accounts. Here is the story in Gatemouth's own words: When asked who gave him the nickname he said, "The kids, actually… we used to have to go in Chapel and sing these spiritual songs before we would go to class. The PA system went out and when it did, I kept singing over the chorus. I was the lead singer. And when we finished the teacher said, "Brown, you don't need no microphone, you've got a voice like a gate." And the kids started saying "Gatemouth" and, man, I got mad a while, but the hotter I got the more they would call me that. So I got stuck with it and just worked with it to my advantage."

In addition to his nickname and signature western clothing, Gatemouth was known to be a pipe smoker. Several of his album covers have pictures of him smoking a pipe. When I lived in Dallas, I had many talks with Sam Myers (blues singer and harmonica player). In one conversation, we discussed Brown's versatile style and the fact that he enjoyed to smoke a pipe. Sam recalled a story from the 1940’s wherein Gatemouth stole a T-bone Walker show. Walter was feeling ill and dropped his guitar by accident. Gatemouth took the opportunity to grab the guitar and play. Sam said, “The crowd loved it. They started throwing money at Gatemouth. T-bone was not happy about it at all!” Gatemouth would, as a rule, sit at shows smoking his pipe with his custom blended pipe tobacco. Sam also told me that if he could not smoke - he would not do the performance. Adam recalled one particular interview he had seen with Gatemouth. When asked about smoke-free venues, Gatemouth told them sternly if he could not enjoy his pipe, he would play elsewhere - no smoke, no show.

Throughout his career, Gatemouth continued to redefine himself. For instance, while in Nashville in the early 1960's he made several appearances on the TV program Hee Haw, and recorded a series of country singles. He also hosted an R&B television show in Nashville called The Beat. In 1979, he and country guitarist Roy Clark recorded "Makin' Music," an album of blues and country songs that includes a cover of the Duke Ellington classic "Take the A-Train." In the late 1960's Mr. Brown was a Sheriff in New Mexico. Talk about breaking barriers!

His discography is too large to list in this forum, but here are a few of my favorite Gatemouth albums:

Alright Again, 1982. Grammy Award/ Best Traditional Blues Album

Pressure Cooker, 1986. Grammy nomination for Best Blues Recording (my favorite blues label- Alligator Records)

Gate Swings, 1997, Produced by Jim Bateman and John Snyder.

He played fiddle and guitar on Professor Longhair’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Gumbo album. (1974)

In addition to countless recordings, other credits include eight W.C. Handy Awards, and induction into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1999. Gatemouth influenced numerous guitar players such as Albert Collins, J.J Cale, Guitar Slim, Roy Buchanan, Johnny Copeland, and countless others. Frank Zappa named him his all-time favorite guitarist and it has been suggested that "Okie Dokie Stomp" should be the new Texas National Anthem.

Here is a video of Gatemouth Brown and Roy Clark on the TV show Austin City Limits. They are doing a cover of a Louis Jordan - Fleecie Moore song called "Caldonia":

Have a listen, and a bowl in honor of Clarence Gatemouth Brown… and pack a custom blend.

Posted by sid at 5:00 PM | Link | 6 comments

Re: No Smoke, No Show
Don't forget about Donald "Duck" Dunn. One of the great bassist's, although I'm not sure if he still smokes a pipe.

Posted by Ted Bihlmaier on February 15, 2011 at 8:04 PM

Re: No Smoke, No Show
Wonderful Blog.
A true musician who transcended musical stereotypes and broke musical barriers. A great and courageous man in every sense of the word.

Posted by squirenorm on February 16, 2011 at 12:11 AM

Re: No Smoke, No Show
What a wonderfully written piece! Thank you.

Posted by Celeste on February 16, 2011 at 4:46 PM

Re: No Smoke, No Show
Great article and an interesting, multi tallented musician...(With pipe & axe!)

Gatemouth Brown, Albert King, (and even B.B. King - (see '70's dvd footage of B.B. King-Live In Africa - with a pipe - back stage - - the list goes on...
As well, don't know if B.B. still smokes a pipe.

Thanks for a nice post!

Posted by TXLOVAT on February 17, 2011 at 2:52 PM

Re: No Smoke, No Show
At the end of the 1990s, I was working at Elliston Place Pipe & Tobacco in Nashville. At the time, Elliston was Gatemouth Brown's tobacconist. We supplied him with his custom blend, which was also what he sold (or gave away, I'm not sure) at shows. Along with the professors at Vandy and the state politicians and bureaucrats at the capital, it was pretty cool to have someone like Gatemouth as a customer then. Unfortunately, I wasn't ever in the store when he came in (we mostly shipped him stuff), but it was kind of cool to have that connection.

Posted by sykes on February 18, 2011 at 5:31 PM

Re: No Smoke, No Show
I had the pleasure of hearing Gatemouth "live" in Olympia WA. many years ago. He smoked his pipe on stage. He was told he could not and he said sorry no show.... quess who won? IT was a great show.

Posted by Craig Watness on February 19, 2011 at 1:12 AM

Name:   Required
Email:   Required your email address will not be publicly displayed.

Want to receive notifications when new comments are added? Login/Register for an account.

Anti-spam key

Type in the text that you see in the above image:

Your comment:

Sorry, no HTML allowed!

Subscription Options

You are not logged in, so your subscription status for this entry is unknown. You can login or register here.



New Pipes

Fresh Items



Click to verify BBB accreditation and to see a BBB report for

View in English View in Japanese