Clarence Clemons, who at the age of nine received as a Christmas present his first saxophone in lieu of a train set, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on January 11, 1942. His early love of football nearly led to another career, but, influenced by legendary players such as King Curtis and Junior Walker, it was the sax in which Clarence found his true calling.
Like other E Streeters, Clarence played with other bands around the Asbury Park, New Jersey area before meeting Bruce. The meeting, and his subsequent entry into the E Street Band, is the stuff of legend: a stormy night, the Bruce Springsteen Band at a club called Student Prince, Clarence bursting through the door that literally blew off its hinges and stating his desire to play in the band. How much is truth and how much exaggeration seems irrelevant; suffice to say that, from the moment “the Big Man joined the Band,” the E Street Band had found its soul.
The sound of Clarence’s sax reverberates through so many E Street classics — “Born to Run,” “Rosalita,” “Prove it All Night,” “Bobby Jean,” “Spirit in the Night,” to name just a few — it is impossible to imagine what they would have been without Clarence. And his solo in “Jungleland” is nothing short of sheer brilliance, an epic and signature performance in Clarence’s long and storied career with the E Street Band.
In addition to the sax, Clarence also backed the band with the tambourine, penny whistle, flute, and percussion.