Who’ll follow the Big Man?

Louis Jordan … King Curtis … Sam Butera … Clarence Clemons … all gone.

No one takes their place, but someone must follow.

Who’s the most influential rock ‘n’ roll and R&B sax player out there now? I’ll go with Maceo Parker, but no one else leaps to mind. (And at 68, Parker is just a year younger than Clemons.)

I confessed here long ago that I’ve never been much of a Springsteen fan. That said, I’ve always loved horns, and especially the Big Man’s tenor sax.

One of my favorite albums from the ’80s is Clarence Clemons’ first LP.

In 1983, with Springsteen and the E Street Band between albums and tours, Clemons put together a group on the side. Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers — named for Red Bank, New Jersey, where Clemons briefly owned a club in the early ’80s — put out one record.

I dug it out last fall and wrote about it on my other blog, The Midnight Tracker.

“Rescue” is full of spirited, blue-collar R&B and rock, the kind you’d hear from a bar band. Which is exactly what the Red Bank Rockers appeared to be, albeit with one well-known sax player.

“A Man In Love” and “Resurrection Shuffle,” Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers, from “Rescue,” 1983. It’s said to be available on a two-fer CD along with “Hero,” his 1985 solo debut, but it’s hard to find.

The first song is co-written by Clemons and Desmond Child, who at the time was just getting started on his remarkable songwriting career. Keyboard player and producer Ralph Schuckett and Terry Abramson also are credited as co-writers.

The second, of course, is a cover of the old Ashton, Gardner and Dyke song from 1971. This cover alone may be why I bought this record.

The vocals on both are by John “J.T.” Bowen, whose hard-luck story we shared over at The Midnight Tracker.

“Peter Gunn Theme,” Clarence Clemons, from the “Porky’s Revenge” soundtrack, 1985. It’s out of print.

You always wanted to hear this one played by the Big Man, didn’t you? The credits aren’t specific, but I believe he’s backed by Dave Edmunds on guitar.

Finally, there is this …

This song popped up on shuffle earlier today. I immediately got the sense of being at church and hearing the tenor sax preaching a tribute to the Big Man. That is Andrew Love of the Mar-Keys on the tenor sax.

“Let It Be,” the Mar-Keys, 1971, from “Stax Does The Beatles,” 2007. It originally was on “Memphis Experience,” their last Stax LP (available on this two-fer CD with the “Damifiknow!” LP from 1969). I have this tune on “Beatlemania, Volume 2,” a Mojo magazine compilation CD from September 2004.


Filed under June 2011, Sounds

4 responses to “Who’ll follow the Big Man?

  1. I can’t tell you what a shock it is to find out that Clarence was older than Maceo!
    I grew up next door to Freehold and it took me a while to warm to Bruce, who was already oppressively huge around here before he turned into a mega star.
    Fortunately I had a friend who was a Springsteen fanatic who got me into those early albums, which are still faves.
    RIP Clarencd.

  2. Terry Anderson

    Very true about The Big Man. Just listen to the sax solo on Jungleland. Let me add the name of Chris Wood (Traffic) to your list of great sax players. His sax was the link between the Eddie Harris-jazz style and rock.

  3. I’m not sure who follows. I’ve always been partial to Bobby Keys, but I’m not sure how active he is these days, and he’l be 68 this year. Good tune selections. Thanks.

  4. Scott Thomson

    Don’t know about Clemons’ successor, but I will have to agree with the original post about not being a huge Springsteen fan. I was more of a fan, actually, before “the big man joined the band,” back when BS was billed as “the next Dylan” or “the new Dylan” or whatever. I still listen to “Greetings from Asbury Park” and “The Wild, the Innocent …” every once in awhile. The focus was more on the lyrics — and they came at you hard and fast. I feel kind of the same way about Mellencamp: I liked him better when he was John Cougar, and his handlers had him trying to reinvent James Dean

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