Gatemouth Brown's Grave Intact... Sort Of
The Gulf of Mexico had other plans.
Later that year, just ahead of the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, Brown, then dying of emphysema, was forced to evacuate his home in Slidell, Louisiana. He fled to his childhood home of Orange, Texas, where he ran smack into Hurricane Rita and died of natural causes just before landfall.
Brown died the week before Rita tore through Orange, taking with it the temporary marker that had been placed on his grave. As of a few weeks ago, Brown’s grave in Orange’s Hollywood Cemetery – appropriately located one mile south of the very first exit inside Texas on I-10 - was still unmarked.
Robert Finch, an educator in the school system of nearby Little Cypress-Mauriceville and a church music director, was campaigning toward getting a permanent marker placed on Brown’s grave… when along came Hurricane Ike.
Which is where things go from mystical to damn near freaky. A few days ago, the AP put out this report: The 1982 Grammy winner's casket was one of dozens belched up when Gulf and rain waters from Hurricane Ike flooded Hollywood Cemetery, an all-black burial ground on Orange's west side. Two days after the storm’s landfall, water gurgled and bubbled ominously from submerged graves, and an invisible cloud of formaldehyde stung the eyes and throat. The only water left was filling now empty graves and vaults.
Had the Gulf of Mexico, Brown’s muse for seven decades, surged forth to reclaim its honored bard?
Not quite. I called Finch yesterday. Yes, he said, Brown’s vault did open, and Brown’s casket did pop out. It did not, however, float off in the receding waters. Instead, it came to rest against the cemetery’s fence-line.
“He continues to be as erratic and all-over-the-place in death as he was in life,” Finch notes. “Somebody I talked to who knew him told me he would probably think this was not without humor.”
Finch has now resumed his campaign to place a permanent headstone on Brown’s grave as well as lead other efforts – a statue, perhaps a plaque -- to memorialize Brown in Orange.
“A lot of music lovers travel between Louisiana and Texas,” he says. “How cool would it be for them to be welcomed to Texas by memorials to Gatemouth Brown?”
Indeed. Let’s just hope Brown’s beloved Gulf doesn’t try to kidnap him again. – John Nova Lomax