Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman honors a man who helped inspire the creation of one of the state’s most popular record labels.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.
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Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown was born in Vinton, La., on April 18, 1924. When he was three weeks old, Brown’s family moved to Orange, Texas, where he absorbed the diverse musical influences found along the Texas-Louisiana border. By the 1940s, Brown was an accomplished singer, guitarist and fiddler who played blues, Cajun, country and R&B. Brown’s career received a boost when T-Bone Walker became too sick to perform at Houston’s Bronze Peacock club. Gatemouth Brown jumped on stage and improvised a blues song that soon had the audience cheering.
Gatemouth Brown’s impromptu performance impressed the owner of the Bronze Peacock, Don Robey, who began managing and recording him. Based largely on Brown’s popularity, Robey founded Peacock Records, which became one of the state’s most popular labels.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn about one of the oldest and most distinctive musical traditions in Texas.