NEW ORLEANS — At 80 years old, legendary New Orleans R&B man Clarence “Frogman” Henry is still going strong.
We recently spent the afternoon being entertained and regaled with stories from his incredible career, but it all started in our town with the song “I Ain’t Got No Home.”
“My first big break was when I went to the Apollo Theater. My mom and everybody went to the airport. I was just like a little child with a little doll getting on the plane,” Henry told us.
That gig was the start of years of entertaining for Henry, and talking to him is like being in a time machine, in the heyday of R&B.
The stories are incredible, like the time he spent on the road with Ray Charles.
“He and I was on the show with Etta James, and that man dialed a rotary phone. Nobody was with him. I stood backstage. Look at that man! I ain’t kidding you,” Henry said.
Of course one of the most memorable stretches of his time on stage was the 18 dates Henry played with The Beatles on their first American tour, even stopping in his hometown in 1964.
“I had never seen nothing like it. They had ambulances, nurses at all the performances. I was amazed, but I was a youngster, and I said what’s all this with the ambulances and doctors at the shows. That’s what they had,” Henry said.
Henry’s mostly retired now and only performs a Jazz Fest show annually. We asked whether he missed the bright lights and adoration of performing.
Henry reasoned, “Yes, and no. I’ve been out there 60 something years and I’ve been all over the world. I raised my children. I’m old now, and I just want to relax and enjoy my life, the last lil’ few minutes, ya know?”