For such a big man he had a gentle way about him. That’s what I remember the first time I saw Clarence. Sax players back then were often the “Big Men” in the group. Their ability to produce sound as a result of pushing volumes of air out from their lungs that was both rich and sweet at the same time required a robust frame. For me, that’s why the sax was such an integral part of the sound of Soul and Rhythm and Blues. The saxophone was a vessel for the inner sprit and all its complexities. Pain, joy, sorrow and love, the saxophone knew the language of all these emotions.
I grew up with a loving for this music. Before the British Invasion, this was the music we heard on the radio. Years later, rock bands might add a sax to a solo for an R & B or jazz feel. But often it was a track just laid on top of the others. Pleasant to hear in the mix, but for me it never really honored the instrument. But that deep, nasty, raspy, street fightin’, city cryin’, soul searching sound that can only come from down deep in those who lived it, was a rarity in rock circles. Until the E Street Band brought it in and gave it a home. It wasn’t until years later that I learned of the rich R & B sound and history that came out of Asbury Park. Then, to me, it made total sense that Bruce would weave together all these influences to create his own unique sound
Watching Clarence that night and that day during rehearsal, I was mesmerized. Here was this giant of a man with a way about him that was attentive, sensitive and at least from my recollection a bit on the quiet side. But when he performed he was out in front with Bruce and in lock step with the other members of the band. He wasn’t the accompanist; he was an integral and equal part of the band as they all were. That was the magic of the E Street Band that night. They were locked into each other, clearly a Band of Brothers.
When I look at this photo I see Bruce lost in a moment, eyes closed almost physically removed from what is around him. But then Clarence, there is by his side, holding his own, standing tall, as if he was saying, “Just let it go. I got you, brother”. And as we all know, they clearly were.