Music has never made me cry. I have cried while listening to music, with something else on my mind. But music, by itself, while powerfully moving, has never brought me to tears. When others mention that a certain piece of music, or a specific musical performance, touches them so deeply that the tears flow from their eyes, I wonder what it is, exactly, that is happening. What are these people feeling? And why haven't I felt it?

Music has never made me cry. But this recording, Blackjack by Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, nearly did it for me.

I think it was a combination of the music itself, the passionate performance, and the exceptional recording quality (the music, the soul, and the sound) that elicited my response. I felt the tears forming, my eyes growing heavy.

This is another of those albums that I purchased from the Princeton Record Exchange almost simply for its brilliant album artwork. That, and I thought it would be some sort of straight-up blues, and I had wanted to augment the blues in my vinyl collection.

I was wrong about the music inside. While blues is involved, Blackjack holds much more. Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown plays guitar, violin, harmonica, mandolin, and the dude can sing, too. I don't know which he does best. He seems to be a master of them all. Meanwhile, his band burns. Bobby Campo plays flute, trumpet, and flugelhorn. David Peters rocks the drums. Leon Medica works the bass. Don Buzzard is on pedal steel guitar and electric dobro. Rod Roddy plays the piano. And Jeff Pollard takes the other guitar.

From the liner notes:

My wife Susan and I, along with our two sons Mike and Rick, have danced all night long to this man's music—over and over again and again—all over Louisiana and Texas. Susan sees "Gatemouth's" stuff as white-hot, red neck, bluegrass music from a red-hot, blue collar black man (from Orange, Texas) named Brown…

At last working man's music from both sides of the tracks has come together and has produced the most American artist yet—"Gatemouth" Brown.
—John D. Loudermilk

This album was released in 1977, the year I was born, and it plays as clean and as quiet as it might if it were new. Someone took very good care of it.

Thank you.

andy's picture
Stephen Mejias's picture

Thanks for posting this, Andy. My goodness, what a sad story.

Martin's picture

I got to see him at a Colorado music festival nearly 20 years ago. He had a big feather in his hat and was smoking a pipe and was very deliberately dressed, almost a dandy. He had the biggest shit eating grin the whole time he played. He was amazing...sigh...