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Ron Wells: Meeting Clarence Clemons 1983

June 21, 2011
On Meeting The Big Man, Clarence Clemons in 1983 by Guest Blogger Ron Wells;  above, check out this early 80s video of Clarence Clemons with his band fronted by vocalist JT Bowen suggested by friend Ron Batie, another big fan of The Big Man.

There used to be one of the greatest little rock clubs on the West Coast called the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, California where, over the years, I saw Muddy Waters, Patti Smith, Paul Butterfield and so many others. The club was one of those  sweaty, super small, and cramped little rock clubs that you don’t see a lot of anymore. Anyway, it was great club that was right on Pacific Coast Highway. On the other side was the Pacific Ocean and Huntington Beach Pier. Fantastic place now long gone so the city could “modernize.”

Clarence and the Red Bank Rockers came to town in 1983. I was ecstatic and drove up the coast and got there super early. It so happened that the band had just arrived and was setting up on stage.

I stood in a side door and watched. There was no security or anything, but I didn’t want to interfere with the band hauling all of their equipment in. Finally, Clarence took a break and was standing in the middle of the club just looking at the stage where the other players were beginning to tune their instruments.

I walked in and stood near Clarence, but was a bit intimidated to say anything. Finally, when he glanced over at me, I held up a record album. I guess he was expecting to see the bright red Rescue album. He looked and then looked closer. He got this very puzzled look on his face.

Then he reached out and said, “Can I see that?”

I handed it to him.

He started laughing really, really hard. “Where in the hell did you get this?”

I told him bought it at a record swap meet.

The album was “Norman Seldin and the Joyful Noyze.” Clarence’s picture was on the back with the other band members.

He just kept laughing and shaking his head saying, “Man, oh, man. I didn’t know anybody out here had THAT  album.” He kept turning over the album in his hands–first the front, then the back, and then the front again.

Finally, he walked up to the stage, and said, “You guys gotta check this out.”

“You see, I TOLD  you I used to be in another band!” he joked. He handed the album to them and they were all laughing as they passed it from one to another.

They then gave it back to him and he handed it to me. I asked if he’d sign it, but no one had anything to write with. Amazingly, I was in such a rush to get to the club, I had forgotten to bring a pen or sharpie. Luckily, the club manager handed Clarence a pen and he wrote his name on  a small yellow area of the album which had a rainbow-like jukebox outline which went around  a picture of Norman Seldin who had enormous, 70’s-style Afro hair, and who was kneeling with his dog.

I was so excited and in awe that I thanked Clarence, and told him how much I was looking forward to that night’s show. He smiled, said, “Thank YOU for coming,”  shook my hand, and then walked back up to the stage to be with his band.

The show that night was of course more fun than anyone can imagine. Just a joyous rock show. Or to put it another way: it was so Clarence.

I still have the t-shirt from that night. A sky blue shirt, with an outline of Clarence playing the sax with the words “C.C. and the Red Bank Rockers” written in yellow script. On the back of the shirt, also in yellow script was, “Rock and Roll To Soothe Your Soul.”

And underneath those words: “The No Product Tour–1982.”

I’m looking at the shirt and album as I write this. Such memories. And so long ago…

It was the first of quite a few meetings with Clarence. I will never forget it. Did he soothe my soul? Oh my friends, you all know the answer to that. Whether you were there or not. He always did. He always will…..
Another 1980’s Clarence Clemons video suggestion from Ron Batie, this one of Jackson Browne on guitar with Clarence Clemons (and Daryl Hannah on backing vocals and video camera!)
Read a review of this Clarence Clemons solo album and learn more here.
Here’s CNN obituary for Clarence Clemons:  http://www.cnn.com/2011/SHOWBIZ/Music/06/18/clarence.clemons.obit/index.html
More photos and stories   http://www.stoneponyonline.com/
and http://www.app.com/
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