Hurricane Katrina chased bluesman Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown from his adopted home in New Orleans to his hometown here on the Texas Gulf Coast, where he died in exile. Now, another hurricane has disturbed his rest.
The 1982 Grammy Award winner's casket was one of dozens belched up by the ground when gulf and rain waters from Hurricane Ike flooded Hollywood Cemetery, an all-black burial ground on the west side of this city on the Sabine River.
“If my mother came down, we'd probably have to bury her right here,” said Ronald Jenkins, who visited the place Monday to survey the graves of his grandparents and uncle. “She heard about it in Dallas and she was crying and having a fit out there.”
Two days after Ike'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.
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Debris from the storm littered the ground, mingled with “graveware” trinkets left behind by mourners – a toy car, a plaster angel, a black doll lying on its back, its eyes staring blankly heavenward.
The top of Brown's vault had popped off, and his bronze casket had floated away.
But three jars of Bama grape jelly remained by his aluminum marker, no doubt left by a fan of his instrumental classic “Grape Jelly.”
Brown was born in Vinton, La., but grew up here. The 81-year-old musician was living in the New Orleans suburb of Slidell when Hurricane Katrina inundated that city. Dying of lung cancer, he evacuated to Texas and never got back.
He died on Sept. 10, 2005, not two weeks after the storm.