May 1, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
This photo of B.B. King and Clarence Gatemouth Brown was taken at the 2005 New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival. It's from "Last Days of Fame," a powerful piece of photojournalism by Jennifer Zdon.
Gatemouth and I shared a birthday, though we were separated by half a century. I first met him at WWOZ in New Orleans. He sat in our tiny on-air studio, his head buried beneath a black Stetson, his hands wrapped around a small pipe. The occasional waft of an illicit substance. This must explain the fact that, as Michael Bourne once discovered, Gatemouth Brown loves to eat grape jelly on everything...including steak. Strange things happen.
In 1999, I attended the Public Radio Program Directors conference in Memphis, Tennessee. The Peabody Hotel, as I recall, where mallard ducks marched through the hotel hallway (led by a man in a tuxedo, suggesting penguin not duck) and climbed a flight of custom-made steps into the lobby fountain. This was part of the hotel's daily schedule. Strange things happen.
I went to BB King's Blues Club on Beale street one night. Gatemouth Brown was performing live. WBGO and JazzSet were broadcasting the show. NPR's Bettina Owens threw a huge party to celebrate the fact that this concert was NPR's first live webstream! I had no relationship whatsoever with any of this, other than kid spectator. One year later, however, I was working on an NPR show. And the next year, I started working at WBGO. Strange things happen.
© 2008 WBGO