Clarence “Frogman” Henry

TrackSingle / Album
Ain't Got No HomeArgo 5259
Troubles, TroublesArgo 5259
But I DoArgo 5378
Just My Baby And MeArgo 5378
Lonely StreetArgo 5395
On Bended KneesArgo 5401
Looking BackArgo 5480
Steady DateYou Always Hurt The One You Love
This TimeDial 45-4057
We'll Take Our Last Walk TonightAmerican Pla-Boy AP-1986

Clarence Henry photo 1

 

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Clarence Henry playlist

 

DAVE STEPHENS’ NEW ORLEANS SCENES

#20 CLARENCE “FROGMAN” HENRY

 

Contributors: Dave Stephens … with assistance from Cal Taylor

While artists from New Orleans have often been lauded for the quality of the music they’ve brought to us, that recognition hasn’t always been accompanied by commercial success. Some were one hit wonders; some didn’t even achieve that with sales being purely local or with R&B Chart only showings. Fats Domino, of course, was the big exception. Clarence Henry would have loved to have emulated his hero in terms of sales and he did do better than most but, like the rest, he fell away when faced with the Brit invasion.

Clarence did better than Fats in one respect. He not only achieved a Top Ten R&B Chart hit with his debut record – it achieved a magnificent #3 – he also got noticed by the wider audience sampled by the Billboard Hot 100 with an even more remarkable #20.

That record, Ain’t Got No Home has several stories attached to its birth. The one below comes from a Ponderosa Stomp article on Clarence dated 5th June 2011. The article references a 1999 Times-Picayune profile by Bill Grady:

“Henry conceived the tune in a rare moment of annoyance while playing the Joy Lounge in Gretna in 1956. The bandleader, Eddie Smith, wouldn’t let the musicians quit until the place emptied of customers, and Clarence was bushed. “I was trying to tell the people to go home, so I hit a riff on the piano and I start singing, ‘Woo-woo-oo-oo-oo, ain’t got no home,’” Henry said.”

The customers liked the song so much that Clarence not only retained it in his set, he added verses sung by “other voices”. Firstly, a high-pitched female sound which he claimed was based on Shirley Goodman of the then popular New Orleans duo, Shirley and Lee, and secondly, a frog which came from impressions he used to entertain classmates with back in school days.

“I got my nickname from a disc jockey at WJMR, Poppa Stoppa. People were requesting the song. They’d say, ‘Play the frog song by the frog man!’ So Poppa Stoppa said, ‘From now on, you Frogman.”

The two, originally sequential quotes from Clarence skip over the fact that he included the song in his audition to local musician Paul Gayten who, at that stage in his career, was acting in a number of capacities for Chess Records of Chicago with one of those roles being talent scout. The audition resulted in Leonard Chess flying down to New Orleans where he saw Clarence and his band perform at the Brass Rail club. You can guess the rest. Ain’t Got No Home coupled with a Henry/Gayten composition, Troubles, Troubles was released on Chess subsidiary Argo in October 1956, having been cut under the watchful eye of Gayten in Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio in the preceding month. According to the liner notes to Ain’t Got No Home: The Best Of Clarence “Frogman” Henry written by Dave “Daddy Cool” Booth, although Ain’t Got No Home was officially the A-side, Leonard Chess got cold feet about issuing a novelty record and asked DJs to push the flip instead. However, the aforementioned Poppa Stoppa (actually Clarence Hayman, the “New Orleans kingpin DJ” according to Booth) decided to flip the record so was undoubtedly responsible for a share of the success as Ain’t Got No Home took off. That flip however, a more typical example of a New Orleans dance-oriented jumper with horn riffs to the fore, shouldn’t be ignored; due to reasons which will become clear later, Clarence wouldn’t go on to record all that many more tracks in that vein.

For whatever reason – maybe Leonard was busy with his illustrious Chicago-based artists – there were only three releases from Clarence from the rest of 1956 though to most of 1960. He did keep faith with Clarence as a composer though since his name appeared as either writer or co-writer on all bar one of the sides. Inevitably some of these tracks attempted to harness elements of that first single, from the animal noises on Country Boy to the out-and-out sequel of I Found A Home which recycled the frog impressions. Better than these were the slowies, Lonely Tramp and particularly, Baby, Baby Please on which the introspection of the former had turned into more of heartfelt plea to her not to leave even though he’d done her wrong. Both of these tracks bore a slight resemblance to swamp pop which was more of a Louisiana out-in-the-sticks phenomenon rather than something that was specifically New Orleans. The opening couplet of the middle eight of Baby, Baby Please, “I’m begging you / on bended knee” incorporates the title of the track that, more than any other, kicked off the whole swamp pop thing, via fellow Chess artist and cajun lad, Bobby Charles. Was it merely a coincidence that Clarence used the phrase or was it something in between a crib and a homage?

All my research hasn’t revealed the answer to that question. Nor has it revealed the answer to the question, how did the selection of the song But I Do come about?

The opening para on the song in Wikipedia reads: (I Don’t Know Why) But I Do is an R&B song written by Paul Gayten and Bobby Charles (as Robert Guidry), and performed by Clarence “Frogman” Henry” but adds nothing more about the song’s origins. They also get the title wrong. It was originally issued with the title I Don’t Know Why but Chess reissued it a few months later with the title we all know, But I Do. The reason for the retitling was in case there was any confusion between the first title and the standard, I Don’t Know Why I Love You Like I Do.

However, in an interview held with Clarence conducted by Gary James for ClassicBands.com (no date given), Clarence stated:

“Oh, yeah. Well, when you made a song, you had to get a back-up. “Ain’t Got No Home”, then “I Found A Home”, but they was very small. “I Found A Home” and different ones. Then in 1960, Leonard Chess came to New Orleans. I was playin’ in the French Quarter down on Bourbon Street and he told ’em to take me in the studio. So, Bobby Charles and Paul Gayten and I got together and we came out with “But I Do”, and it was a big hit.”

The tenor of which implies that this might have been last chance saloon for Clarence and one would imagine that Bobby Charles was present as a friend and music associate of Paul Gayten, and of course, as a recognised songwriter. One would guess, though I should emphasise that this is purely guesswork, that Charles played a few of his songs, and But I Do and its flip were the ones chosen to record. As to the involvement of Gayten in the writing of the songs, the statement by John Broven in “Rhythm And Blues In New Orleans”: “Charles would have similar grumbles against Paul Gayten over the split songwriting credits for But I Do”, strongly suggests that Gayten’s involvement was minimal, if any. But that’s what used to happen.

As to whether Clarence was acquainted with Bobby prior to the But I Do session, the only thing I could initially find was a rather vague statement, in the abstract of an interview in 1996 which is held by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation:

“08:14 Frogman talks about his love for Cajun music, and about Bobby Charles. He mentions See You Later Alligator and Walking to New Orleans.”

There is a statement in the liner notes to Ain’t Got No Home: The Best Of Clarence “Frogman” Henry: “The song “I Don’t Know Why” had originally been sketched out at Clarence’s ’56 session but not used.” Which sheds a different light on some of the above but I haven’t seen verification of this elsewhere.

Enough background, here’s the record:

Magnificent. For the first – and perhaps the only? – time, Clarence and his team had created a record that could sit alongside those from his idol, Fats Domino. The Charles song was a slow ballad but with an arrangement that just oozed the kind of bounce and spirit that Fats and his arranger Dave Bartholomew could produce like falling off a log. But there was a difference; alongside the predictable tripletting piano and horns, Edgar Myles was doing his thing on trombone and reminding us that New Orleans was the city that introduced Dixieland Jazz to the world. That difference – and it was only a smidgeon at this juncture – came via wonder boy arranger (and pianist) Allen Toussaint who had been appointed A&R Man and producer for up-and-coming Minit Records that same year but, if this record is anything to go by, with permission to roam.

The other thing that stood out about this record was that the song sounded like something that had been around for several decades, rather than one that had been put together relatively recently. In Domino terms think My Blue Heaven or Red Sails In The Sunset as oldie comparators.

It was probably the oldie aspect that persuaded Leonard Chess to go with You Always Hurt The One You Love as follow-up. The song was originally cut by the Mills Brothers in 1944 and had already inspired several versions with differing stylistic variations notably a country take from Eddy Arnold (The Tennessee Plowboy – sic) in 1953 and one from Connie Francis in her polite rockaballad (and selling like hotcakes) style. There’s no need to ask what style the Clarence Henry version was in: But I Do Part 2 is one way of putting it, and that’s why it doesn’t appear in the Ten. But it doesn’t alter my respect for those taking part. They were there to earn their bread and butter. If they happened to make a record that people would treasure that was a bonus.

Leaving aside any quibbles over that particular record – and yes, I know there are people who love it – the bulk of the tracks cut by Clarence over the next few years were authored (or co-authored) by Bobby Charles, some of which had already seen the light of day via release from the author and others, like But I Do, which hadn’t. Both that record and its follow-up were blessed with Charles songs on their flip sides.

Just My Baby And Me (which backed But I Do) was another ballad but of the gentle sentimental kind rather than power ballad variety which, I guess is how we’d describe the A-side these days. While it’s in the category of not having been recorded already by Charles (and not even later unlike But I Do), if you can mentally strip away the heavy horns-provided punctuation, I’d guess that most true Bobby Charles fans would identify the song as in his style. In spite of the high level of saccharine it contains, I’d go along with them. To use one of Bobby’s own words, it’s a charmer.

Just my baby and me
We’re so glad to be
In each other’s arms
Sharing each other’s charms

For completeness I should mention Little Suzy which was the B-side to You Always Hurt The One You Love and sounds like a minor Domino jumper. (A difference from Domino records is the inclusion of a guitar break which would have been mighty unusual for Fats). It too has never been recorded by Charles himself and I would hazard guess it came from Bobby’s early period when he was attempting to write in the style of his hero Fats but the song didn’t make it when it came to song selection in the studio on his own sessions.

A Charles song which has been mentioned already and which definitely had been waxed by the man himself appeared as a Henry A-side a few releases further down the line. On Bended Knees (the ‘s’ was missing on the ‘Knee’ on the original), had appeared on the B-side of Later Alligator, and in the eyes of swamp pop aficionados was more important than the A-side in that it could well be the first outright swamp pop disc ever recorded. For reference this is the Charles original and below you’ll find the Clarence Henry version. A significant difference between the versions is that the Charles original – his debut disc – was cut with his own band from Abbeville, Louisiana in support even though the session was held in the Cosimo Matassa New Orleans studio. As such it has the sound of later swamp pop discs, bearing in mind that the genre belonged to South West Louisiana not to New Orleans and overlap was relatively slight. The Henry disc sounds much more like a New Orleans record:

I couldn’t help adding the “much more” to that last sentence. Unusually, On Bended Knees wasn’t cut in New Orleans. It came from a session which was held in Memphis in July 1961 (and produced a mammoth 9 tracks). Bill Justis, famed for Raunchy and his work as producer/arranger at Sun/Phillips International, was in charge and the support team included Floyd Cramer on piano and Boots Randolph on Sax (or so it says in the discography in Ain’t Got No Home: The Best Of Clarence “Frogman” Henry). In my opinion, the Memphis produced On Bended Knees was cleaner than a typical New Orleans take but it got close.

I’d add that On Bended Knee was (predictably) a selection in my Bobby Charles Toppermost but I have no qualms for making the Frogman’s On Bended Knees a selection in this Topper. There’s room for both.

My final selection from the songs associated with Bobby Charles is Lonely Street which was released in Summer, ’61. There’s some confusion related to the composer. While the image of the disc as shown in 45cat has J. Bisco as songwriter, my otherwise trustworthy Best-Of CD shows Carl Belew, W.S. Stevenson, Kenny Sowder as writers. The latter grouping is incorrect. Someone has tried to be too clever by half and mistakenly ‘identified’ the song as one which was originally released on record by Carl Belew in 1956 and was subsequently covered by country royalty including Kitty Wells, Don Gibson, Patsy Cline, Ray Price, George Jones and Tammy Wynette (separately), and Andy Williams took it into the pop charts. The J. Bisco song was cut by Bobby Charles back in 1955, not released as a single but included in the Chess Masters CD in 1996. The Charles/Bisco record is a bouncy bitter sweet affair very unlike the song with which it’s been confused though thematically they cover the same ground. I can’t add any more about J. Bisco other than the fact that ‘J.’ is short for Joey but he (or she?) doesn’t appear to have written any other songs. Given Charles’ preference for recording his own songs I do wonder if this is an alias he was using.

The Frogman version has Allen Toussaint writ large all over it. He’s retained the bounce via his own New Orleans walking piano which introduces the number followed by a distinctive new riff from the brass section which dominates the arrangement. Although it’s somewhat in your face, the concoction works and there’s a case for saying that Allen and Clarence achieved a similar bitter sweet interpretation of the song but came at it from left field as it were.

The flip of Lonely Street, Why Can’t You (a ‘genuine’ Bobby Charles number this time) doesn’t make the cut for me due to the omnipresent parping trombone. Whether Leonard Chess had told Toussaint or Gayten to play up the dixie aspect, I don’t know but feel that without it this would have been a perfectly good record. Similar comments about good time dixie influence also ruled out other Charles interpretations, A Little Too Much and Lost Without You although less so in the latter case. The Jealous Kind, a country song (and it’s rare when you can categorise a Charles song so easily), was better but eventually I ruled it out purely on the grounds that I so much prefer the version from Bobby himself which appeared on his Last Train To Memphis album (though there are other takes from him as well).

Other interpretations of Bobby Charles songs by Clarence appeared on the solitary LP that Chess/Argo issued, You Always Hurt The One You Love. Two of them are of particular interest: Steady Date and Your Picture. The former is a dance track and it seems a long time since we’ve heard such a thing. My guess is that Chess were so keen to bottle what made But I Do a hit that jumpers took a back seat to ballads on most of the follow-up releases for quite a while, but you could get away with such things on an LP. Steady Date was New Orleans at its best, riffing horns just behind the beat but with something just that bit different about the production which made it sound fresh. I can’t be certain but I’d guess that Toussaint was in control, if not, whoever it was did a great job.

The other song, Your Picture, is one of Bobby’s swamp pop ballad classics not unlike On Bended Knee. But while Bobby piles on the swamp pop tropes, the version from Clarence is more restrained (and more polished). I’m sticking with Bobby on this one leaving On Bended Knees as the lone swamp pop ballad in The Ten. (It’s possible that the rhythm pattern of the Henry version of Your Picture was deliberately changed in order to eliminate any possibility of the record being compared to that on another disc cut in New Orleans – for more on that, I’d direct the reader to the Bobby Charles Topper.)

I have probably spent a disproportionate amount of time on the Frogman’s interpretations of Bobby Charles songs. He did cut songs from other sources and they deserve attention.

Standing In The Need Of Love was amongst the songs cut at Memphis in 1961 and it saw release as the B-side to On Bended Knees. Piano-propelled but with brassy interjections which were no doubt intended to put one in mind of the Crescent City but could just as well apply to sounds emerging from other parts of Memphis– the horns-driven Last Night from the Mar-Keys was released on Satellite earlier that year and that label morphed into Stax in the same time frame.

The suitably named Looking Back was the A-side of Clarence’s final Argo single release in ’64. A version, but not strictly a cover due to the years intervening, of a ballad co-written by Brook Benton but first recorded in 1958 by Nat “King” Cole and it should be said that that was an excellent recording. Prior to Clarence getting his hands on it the song had already crossed the soul/country border more than once with versions from Mary Wells, Dinah Washington and Benton himself plus Ferlin Husky and Marty Robbins from the other side of the tracks. John Broven in “Rhythm And Blues In New Orleans” summed up the record well: “Henry’s version of Looking Back”, a 1960 hit for Brook Benton, was a peach of a record, almost country soul in feel”. Thankfully there are no attempts to emulate But I Do or You Always Hurt The One You Love here, if anything the production, which according to 45cat was by Huey Meaux (of whom, more below), owed as much to the original Nat Cole arrangement as anything that followed, even the laidback (and restrained) New Orleans horns don’t make an appearance until the best part of 50 seconds have passed. A fine record.

Interestingly, a much later (1998) take on the song can be found on the album Man Of My Word from Johnny Adams, another New Orleans artist who had been involved in country soul, though this interpretation fits more in a jazz soul vein.

Clarence and Chess parted ways in 1964 and the next label to sign him was Parrot, a subsidiary of London. Production was entrusted to Huey Meaux. The results were mixed but while none of the singles released by the label got Clarence in the charts again, several deserve mention. The first Parrot release, Have You Ever Been Lonely was a blatant attempt at the “You Always Hurt” approach but perhaps the song selection was viewed as just too corny by potential buyers. I Told My Pillow was definitely country soul but it was on a flip so wouldn’t have been plugged. And finally Think It Over, a song that had been written and recorded (for Huey previously) by Jimmy Donley which fits into the country soul vein. I’m rather suspicious on this last effort that the backing track from the Donley original had been reused on the slightly murky Henry version (and for anyone wondering why the name ‘Huey Meaux’ appears in the composer credits on the Parrot disc that’s because Donley often sold the rights to his songs to support his drinking habit).

After Parrot, the next stop for Clarence was Buddy Killen’s Dial label in Nashville. Two singles were released in 1967 and ’68 respectively, and for me, the B-side on the first, This Time was easily the best of the sides. The song was again loosely country soul and it wasn’t new. It had been written by a young Chips Moman and appeared originally (in 1958), sung by Thomas Wayne (the man who’d go on be a one-hit-wonder with a different song, Tragedy in the following year and be celebrated for that achievement with a Toppermost). The song didn’t get forgotten though; another budding pop star Troy Shondell (not his real name of course) cut it in 1961 and hit the national Top Ten with it – he even took the platter to #22 in the UK Chart and hung around for 11 weeks. It would turn out to be Troy’s only hit so he too, turned out to be another one-hit-wonder; the story of This Time was littered with such things. Clarence was a lot more than that but he couldn’t crack the charts with his take even if, in the eyes of this critic, it was better than the previous two versions.

There weren’t to be many more singles from the Frogman but in 1975 two were issued on the American Pla-Boy label, one of many founded by Huey Meaux – yes, that man again. Single #1 coupled an acceptable but not exceptional take on In The Jailhouse Now with We’ll Take Our Last Walk Tonight, a song that had originally appeared on the flip of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s debut disc and biggest hit, She’s About A Mover. Like the A-side, it had been written by Doug and was based heavily on a riff that appeared in the Byrds/Gene Clark song I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better which in turn (according to Clark) was based on the one in the Searchers version of Needles And Pins – it was present in the Jackie DeShannon original but understated – which probably with a minor change came from the Drifters When My Little Girl Is Smiling with a bit of latin thrown in (and Doug could have taken a short cut through some of that).

Whatever, what it comes down to is that Clarence had recorded a pop song even if part of the arrangement, well, the principal part since the whole song was based on it, had come from black music. Mind you, calling Doug Sahm a pop artist would be to ignore his capabilities across multiple categories of roots and popular music. Take away that riff and the song could have come from Bobby Charles, another southern white boy who also worked across several genres. It has the measured feel you often find in Charles songs.

And it’s my final selection.

In terms of chart success, Clarence hit the #4 spot with But I Do, hit the Top Twenty with two other records (Ain’t Got No Home and You Always Hurt The One You Love) and made the Hot 100 with three other songs, Lonely Street, On Bended Knees and A Little Too Much. We loved Clarence over here too; he hit the Top Ten twice and broke into our equivalent of the Hot 100 in 1993 after the usage of But I Do in a TV advert for the Fiat Cinquecento.

I don’t know why I love you but I do
I don’t know why I cry so but I do
I only know I’m lonely and that I want you only
I don’t know why I love you but I do

And I’m very pleased to add, unlike most musical stars from that era, Clarence is still with us.

 

Clarence Henry photo 3

 

FOOTNOTES

1.Quite a few years ago I purchased the CD, Ain’t Got No Home: The Best Of Clarence “Frogman” Henry which gets mentioned several times in the main text and is the main source for the biographic data in footnote #2. What I hadn’t quite realised until I embarked on the research for this Toppermost was just how high the quality of the liner notes was. Writer Dave “Daddy Cool” Booth of Showtime Archives (Toronto) lists his own sources which includes revered names on the topic of New Orleans music: Jeff Hannusch, John Broven and Rick Coleman. A big thanks to Dave from me for those Notes.

A big thank you too to John Broven. I had thought that I owned or could locate anything on the subject of New Orleans music online until I purchased “Rhythm And Blues In New Orleans” relatively recently. I was wrong and I thoroughly recommend the book to anyone interested in the topic.

Finally, I’d also say thanks to Cal Taylor who’s kept me on the straight and narrow throughout the production of this Topper.

2. Clarence was born in New Orleans on 19th March 1937, moving across the Mississippi to Algiers, the 15th Ward (the only ward out of 17 in the city which is west of the Mississippi) in 1948. He started learning classical piano before the move and continued crossing the river for lessons after said move. His boyhood idols were Fats Domino and Professor Longhair. He graduated to Landry High School and added trombone to his range of musical skills. Before long he was a member of the Landry High School Band, the musical director of which, William Huston was the president of the local musicians union. There’s a fascinating statement in the liner notes referred to above of a kind of service he laid on for the school:

“Much to the delight of his students, he (William Huston) used his influence to encourage several of the local acts, including Shirley & Lee and Fats Domino, to perform at the school.”

In 1952, Huston, again using his connections, placed Clarence, still in his teens, in Bobby Mitchell’s band, the Toppers; Clarence played piano and trombone. That is until one day when the second vocalist who was prone to turning up late, didn’t show up at all. The band persuaded Clarence to give it a go. To quote those liner notes again. “He (Clarence) recalled the moment to New Orleans writer Rick Coleman, “I started singing I Got A Woman and all that stuff, and the people just went haywire.”

Clarence appeared on several records by Bobby Mitchell & the Toppers but in 1955 he got himself fired. The reason? He’d failed to turn up for a gig because it clashed with a shotgun wedding he’d got himself into – he was still a teenager remember. Anyway, as soon as he finished high school – there were only two months left – Clarence put together a small band and started gigging in Algiers. He was spotted by a man called Pascal “Pops” Marcello who put him together with the Eddie Smith Band at his (Pascal’s) club, the Joy Lounge in Gretna. Which takes us up to that para in the main text when Clarence created the song which brought the frogman into being.

3. Bobby Mitchell was a minor New Orleans singer/songwriter and doo wop group leader. He had R&B Chart hits with Try Rock And Roll and the original I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday which was later cut by Domino. A Bobby Mitchell Toppermost is in plan for the New Orleans series.

4. I made mention in the main text of a Chess session for Clarence being held in Memphis rather than New Orleans. Recording outside New Orleans by him wasn’t an isolated occurrence. Daddy Cool comments on the demand Clarence was in after But I Do hit the charts. He goes on to say:

“In fact the entertainer was so busy on the road that Chess had to grab him that March while he was playing Chicago. Although local session musicians had to be used, Chess flew Allen Toussaint into the Windy City to supervise the recordings in an attempt to retain The Frogman’s unique sound.”

Backing up this statement are words from Clarence himself from an interview quoted in John Broven’s “Rhythm And Blues In New Orleans”: “From there we went to Chicago and we used session musicians and I didn’t know any of them, but we did fly Allen Toussaint up from New Orleans especially for the session.”

The success of Toussaint and the Chicago team in emulating the sounds from the But I Do / Just My Baby And Me, New Orleans session can be judged by You Always Hurt The One You Love and Lonely Street, two tracks from the Chicago session for which I have supplied clips in the main text.

5. My Toppermost on Rod Bernard (which is #1 in the Swamp Pop Series) contains a long footnote – it’s #2 – on the subject of Huey Meaux which, due to its length, I’ll refer the reader to rather than replicate here. Footnote #1 in the same Toppermost is a mini-essay on the subject of swamp pop.

6. In addition to the Chess/Argo You Always Hurt The One You Love album, three LPs were issued under the name of Clarence Henry: Clarence “Frogman” Henry Is Alive And Well Living In New Orleans And Still Doin’ His Thing on Roulette In 1970, The Legendary Clarence “Frogman” Henry on Silvertown in 1983 and Bourbon St. New Orleans on CFH Records (his own label) with date unknown. None of them have been released in CD format and consequently they are not on Spotify. I checked for all the tracks from the first LP on YouTube but none were there. In “Rhythm And Blues In New Orleans”, John Broven had this to say about the first of the three: “With seasoned sidemen and old songs such as Since I Met You Baby, Red Sails In The Sunset, and But I Do, it had all the right ingredients but it didn’t quite come off.”

As compensation for the lack of albums I can offer a 25-minute clip of a live performance from Clarence (in the UK in 1985) as part of Granada TV’s International Entertainers series. No prizes for guessing his opening song.

7. There’s a slightly odd coincidence/connection between the two late period songs that I spent so long talking about in the main text. The Sir Douglas Quintet cut the song This Time and it appeared on the album Midnight Sun which was released in 1984 but, I believe, only in Canada.

8. In 1964, Clarence opened 18 concerts for the Beatles in the US and Canada; this was the first Beatles tour to the North American continent. Also on the shows were Jackie DeShannon and Bill Black’s Combo (who backed Clarence). During the tour he got very friendly with Paul McCartney. To quote Clarence (from the Gary James interview): “We talked music. Paul and I and the singer from Bill Black’s Combo; Paul wanted to know different things about us. We hung out together, Paul, the singer and I.” and “Paul was the greatest. I called him a Soul Brother. He was down home. He was friendly”. For more on the tour read the OffBeat feature: “It Was 40 Years Ago Today Frogman Henry And The Beatles Came To Play”.

9. At the risk of over-exposure of one particular song, I’m closing with a clip of Clarence singing that song in the Nashville based TV show The !!!! Beat in 1966 which was hosted by Bill “Hoss” Allen. That’s Gatemouth Brown on lead guitar, and New Orleans favourite Robert Parker appears in the outro.

 

 

Clarence Henry poster 1

 

 

Clarence Henry official website

Clarence Henry at 45cat

Clarence Henry biography (AllMusic)

Dave Stephens’ New Orleans scenes
#1 Fats Domino, #2 Chris Kenner, #3 Jessie Hill, #4 Barbara Lynn, #5 Benny Spellman, #6 Ernie K-Doe, #7 Irma Thomas, #8 Barbara George, #9 Earl King, #10 Smiley Lewis, #11 Professor Longhair, #12 Shirley & Lee, #13 Lloyd Price, #14 Dr. John, #15 Huey “Piano” Smith, #16 Roy Brown, #17 Johnny Adams, #18 Eddie Bo, #19 Guitar Slim, #20 Clarence “Frogman” Henry, #21 Bobby Mitchell

 

Dave Stephens is the author of two books on popular music. His first, “RocknRoll”, is described by one reviewer as “probably the most useful single source of information on 50s & 60s music I’ve come across”. Dave followed this up with “London Rocks” in 2016, an analysis of the early years of the London (American) record label in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @DangerousDaveXX

Cal Taylor has avidly collected records since the early 1960s, gravitating to deep soul and blues. As time went on he got more and more into studying pre-war blues and accumulated a vast record collection. Cal saw many such artists live in the sixties. He has written several posts for this site including Charley Patton, Blind Willie Johnson, Robert Johnson and Otis Redding.

The Stephens/Taylor toppermosts include Johnny Ace, Arthur Alexander, Ray Charles, Cyril Davies, The Falcons, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Alexis Korner, Little Walter, Johnny Otis, Junior Parker.

TopperPost #1,036

4 Comments

  1. Andrew Shields
    Aug 23, 2022

    Dave (and Cal), thanks for yet another great Toppermost. And Dave, what is it with the Clarence’s at the moment? Knew ‘Ain’t Go No Home’ – which I heard first through the Sleepy LaBeef version – but a lot of the other tracks here are new to me. Thanks again.

  2. Dave Stephens
    Aug 27, 2022

    Thanks for those kind words Andrew. The “Clarence” thing is pure coincidence – I had been meaning to get back to New Orleans some time and the Frogman was an obvious candidate not to have been Toppered yet. Mind you, I do think Clarence might be a popular name way down in Louisana; there are some that crop up elsewhere in the New Orleans music scene.

  3. Michael Marshall
    Feb 7, 2024

    Frogman’s best & most distinctive cuts, to these ears, were the ones where his voice was recorded dry and the instruments had a natural room tone instead of added echo chamber reverb (which I suspect were added at another studio after the master left Cosimo’s original tiny room….)

  4. Dave Stephens
    Feb 8, 2024

    Michael, thank you for your Comments. There are some perceptive observations in there.

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