Boogie Uproar: The Complete Aladdin/Peacock Singles A’s
& B’s 1947 – 1961
I first heard Clarence
“Gatemouth” Brown on an episode of Hee Haw,
where he teamed up with Roy Clark for a couple
of numbers. I can’t remember the exact year, but
I’m pretty sure that it was before I started
listening to the blues on a regular basis.
At any rate, I was pretty amazed at Brown’s
dexterity on guitar and fiddle. I didn’t discover until a few
years later that he was considered a blues artists when I saw
one of his albums in the blues section of a record store.
I bought a few of his albums over the years, but
to these ears he played blues, country, jazz, and a lot of other
styles. I also learned that he bristled at being designated as a
“blues man,” which was understandable. Growing up in Orange,
Texas, he watched his musician father perform in a variety of
styles that did not include blues, specifically country, Cajun,
and bluegrass. He also listened to the big bands of Count Basie
and Duke Ellington.
When he first came onto the scene in the mid
’40s, he, like many other Texas guitarists at the time, was
heavily influenced by T-Bone Walker, but those other influences
he grew up with worked their way into his music.
Brown’s initial recordings were with Aladdin
Records in Los Angeles. Don Robey, who had signed Brown to a
management contract after he successfully filled in for an
ailing Walker at Robey’s Bronze Peacock nightclub, sensed the
young guitarist was a star in the making. Those initial
recordings didn’t make much of an impact, but Robey was
convinced enough to found Peacock Records to record Brown’s
Jasmine Records has collected Brown’s four
Aladdin sides and the subsequent 41 tracks recorded for Peacock
on the two-disc compilation, Boogie Uproar: The Complete
Aladdin/Peacock Singles A’s & B’s 1947 – 1961.
The tracks are arranged in chronological order,
with the four Aladdin sides opening the collection. These tracks
are very good, reflective of the blues/R&B sides of the day. The
young Brown was trying to find his voice as a singer, but his
guitar work was already well on the way.
Though the Aladdin sides didn’t sell
particularly well, Brown came roaring back a couple of years
later with Peacock, his storming instrumental “Atomic Energy”
setting the pace nicely for the coming years, followed by a
couple of splendid slow blues (“Mercy On Me” and “My Time’s
Expensive,” his highest charting release, #8 R&B).
Many of these songs stayed in Brown’s repertoire
for the rest of his career, remaining a part of his live set and
being re-recorded on numerous albums. Not just by him, but also
by numerous other blues artists. Of course, the legendary “Okie
Dokie Stomp” is here, as well as the dazzling “Gate Walks To
Board,” “Boogie Rambler,” “She Winked Her Eye,” the powerful
“Dirty Work At The Crossroads,” the title track (a raucous
instrumental), “Hurry Back Good News,” and “That’s Your Daddy-Yaddy-Yo.”
On a couple of sides, “Gate’s Salty Blues” and
“Ain’t That Dandy”, Brown also incorporated harmonica into the
mix on a couple of his recordings. He also breaks out the fiddle
for three later sides from 1959 and 1961. “Just Before Dawn”
finds him really stretching out over a rumbling rhythm, while
“Slop Time” has more of a lively pop feel, mixing his fiddle
with flute, and “Gate’s Tune,” his last side for Peacock, is
mellow and jazzy. Another interesting side is Brown’s
instrumental version of the pop standard, “September Song,”
which the guitarist does a fine job of interpreting.
Boogie Uproar gives us the earliest
recordings of one of the most creative and versatile musicians
of the 20th Century, an artist who refused to be pigeon-holed
into one particular musical genre. This release shows that
Gatemouth Brown pretty much followed his own muse from the
beginning, and music fans are the better for it.
--- Graham Clarke