Gillette Brothers, Crockett: All Sorts of Music
Guy and Pipp Gillette, who run Camp Street Café in Crockett, are NEA American Masters and have won numerous awards.
The revitalization of cowboy music and poetry in recent years has allowed the brothers to combine their lifelong interest in the history of the West and its music with their musical experience. They have released six albums of traditional cowboy music interspersed with a few originals while also exploring Celtic, country blues, minstrel, and medicine show songs, and have performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and The National Arboretum in Washington DC; The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada; The Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival in California; The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming,; The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City; and many other venues.
Guy and Pipp grew up near the Greenwich Village coffeehouses in New York as teenagers, soaking up music and more.
“There were a lot of wonderful listening rooms like Café a Go Go, the Bitter End, the Gaslight – all these different places,” Pipp said. “They didn’t sell alcohol. We could see Muddy Waters or Sonny Terry or Richie Havens and Tim Hardin – oh, gosh, on and on – Richard Pryor, the Paul Butterfield blues band, tons of wonderful music in small, intimate kinda rooms. We saw the Grateful Dead in a room like that, and Jimi Hendrix before he became Jimi Hendrix; he was Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.”
Eventually they settled in Crockett, where they found more musical history.
“Lightnin’ Hopkins and Frankie Lee Sims and other blues musicians played here for tips during the 1940s,” Pipp said. “That was just a real thrill; finding out Hopkins had done so much playing up and down the street. B.B. King, Gatemouth Brown, Amos Milburn, Big Mama Thornton – all these people played in Crockett.
“This whole section of East Texas – that’s one of things that drives us kinda crazy. Texas has, unfortunately to us, never really made its claim to so much of the music history like the Mississippi delta region has, and like parts of Tennessee and Virginia. Texas has more music and more varieties of music, and so many of the early pioneers like Blind Lemon Jefferson. The cotton culture created the blues.”
“We appreciate almost every form of roots music, music that comes out of a culture, a lifestyle,” Pipp said. “We’ve tried to reflect that in what we present. To me, it’s strange if people like only one thing.”
Pipp appreciates the culture wherever he and Guy have traveled and, for that matter, wherever they haven’t traveled.
“The bigger ramification than just singing a kind of music is that it becomes this historical, cultural thing,” he said. “You just get this whole context which makes life richer. You don’t need to think, gee, if I just lived in Paris I could be a great painter. You can be a great painter anywhere. Wherever you are in America, this is America. It’s as good as it gets. There’s history in Crockett just like there’s history in Greenwich Village.”