Clarence Anicholas Clemons Jr. respectfully known as The Big Man was born on January 11 1942.
Born in Norfolk County, Virginia his father gave him an alto sax as a Christmas present when he was nine years old. He later switched to baritone and then settled on a tenor. As a youth Clemons showed potential as a football player and attended Maryland State College on both music and football scholarships. He attracted the attention of the Cleveland Browns who offered him a trial. Clarence also tried out for the Dallas Cowboys; however the day before, he was involved in a serious car accident which effectively ended any dreams of a career in the NFL. He would be eventually posthumously inducted in the university’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.
At the age of 18 he started doing some studio session work, some of which were eventually released in 2007 by Truth and Soul Records as ‘Let Me Be Your Man’. While at Maryland he joined his first band, The Vibratones, which played James Brown covers and stayed together from 1961 – 1965. While still playing with this band he moved to New Jersey where he worked as a counselor for emotionally disturbed children at the Jamesburg Training School for Boys between 1962 and 1970.
The story of how Clarence Clemons first met Bruce Springsteen has entered into E Street Band mythology. ‘The E Street Shuffle’ with a monologue about how they met and the event was also immortalized in ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’. The story is they met for the first time in September 1971 and Clarence was playing with the Norman Seldin & the Joyful Noyze at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, New Jersey. It was Karen Cassidy, lead vocalist with Joyful Noyze who encouraged Clemons to check out Springsteen at the nearby Student Prince.
This is how Clemons recalled their meeting: