Thursday, October 31, 2013

Clarence "Frogman" Henry - Bourbon St. New Orleans

He could sing like a girl, and he could sing like a frog. That latter trademark croak, utilized to the max on his 1956 debut smash "Ain't Got No Home," earned good-natured Clarence Henry his nickname and jump-started a rewarding career that endures to this day around the Crescent City.
Naturally, Fats Domino and Professor Longhair were young Clarence Henry's main influences while growing up in the Big Easy. He played piano and trombone with Bobby Mitchell & the Toppers from 1952 to 1955 before catching on with saxist Eddie Smith's band. Henry improvised the basic idea behind "Ain't Got No Home" on the bandstand one morning in the wee hours; when the crowd responded favorably, he honed it into something unique. Paul Gayten (New Orleans A&R man for Chess Records) concurred, hustling Henry into Cosimo Matassa's studio in September of 1956. Local DJ Poppa Stoppa laid the "Frogman" handle on the youngster when he spun the 45 (issued on the Chess subsidiary Argo), and it stuck.
Despite some fine follow-ups -- "It Won't Be Long," "I'm in Love," the inevitable sequel "I Found a Home" -- Frog sank back into the marsh sales-wise until 1960, when Allen Toussaint's updated arrangement melded beautifully with a country-tinged Bobby Charles composition called "(I Don't Know Why) But I Do." Henry's rendition of the tune proved a huge pop smash in early 1961, as did a Domino-tinged "You Always Hurt the One You Love" later that year.
Frogman continued to record a variety of New Orleans-styled old standards and catchy originals for Argo (Chess assembled a Henry album that boasted what may be the worst cover art in the history of rock & roll), even recording at one point with Nashville saxist Boots Randolph and pianist Floyd Cramer. But the hits dried up for good after 1961. Henry opened 18 concerts for the Beatles across the U.S. and Canada in 1964, but his main source of income came from the Bourbon Street strip, where he played for 19 years. You'll likely find him joyously reviving his classics at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival every year come spring -- and his croak remains as deep and melodious as ever



Anonymous said...


Thanks for this posting!
(And all other ones I like too)


The DoorKeeper said...

This is a gem of a record. Thanks for posting it up. Do you have a date for it?

Xyros said...

The cover and label are not dated but at a guess I put it somewhere in the mid 70's.

Pete W said...

Surely the arrangement on "But I Do" was not by Allen Toussaint, but by the wonderfully named and woefully underrated Wardell Quezergue, a.k.a. "the Creole Beethoven"?

TalentAgent said...

Boy oh boy.... Thanks for posting this Lp from my friend Frogman. I look forward to getting his Xmas Card every year. I will tell him bout this.I can see his big smile now! One of the best guys to come out the New Orleans Music Scene. And one that is very Underated.

Xyros said...

Glad you liked the LP but I hope the Frogman minds me posting it.

Alan Balfour said...

He was in the UK with Bobby Vee and Tony Orlando in 1962 and again in 1967. I attended the latter and recall that Mike Vernon interview him at some length which was published in a Soul Music Monthly magazine

Anonymous said...

Super find... many thanks!