Stormin' Norman Seldin
I first met Clarence when the Joyful Noyze were playing at a club at the Asbury Park Circle, I think it was in the very late Sixties. There were about 150 people, a decent crowd, when he came in one night and asked if he could sit in. We played King Curtis' "Soul Serenade." We played it for about 10 minutes, but we could've played it for 35. The crowd was stunned. I'm a total R&B guy, we had a drummer that was as funk as you could get. Clarence was exactly what I wanted. Afterwards, my drummer looked up at me and said, "You're going to do this, aren't you?" I said, "Clarence, you wanna work with this band?" He said, "Are you serious?" And he was an instant fit.
There were no black players in white bands back then. Promoters tried to get me to drop him. They said they'd give me the work back if we canceled him. I lost about $30,000 worth of work, which in 1970 and 1971 was a lot of money. If I didn't show up with him, it would've been fine. But I said, "There's no the Joyful Noyze without Clarence Clemons, period." I never told Clarence. I didn't have the heart to tell a man that.
Bruce came to watch us about three or four times in the early Seventies. I knew something was going on – I knew Clarence was talking to him after we played. Clarence said, "Would you like [if I joined Bruce]?" I said, "No." But it was none of my business. People have to live their lives.
But he never forgot me. When we were at the Garden last year, Clarence invited my wife and I to New York. He paid for our rooms and everything. We had a moment alone backstage, I asked how he was doing. "I'm not, man," he said. "Every part of my body is shot." He said, "God'll get me through this – I'll do a great show for you and I can't let you and Bruce my band and my fans down. But I'm hurting. I have to use a golf cart to get to the stage." It was not what I was used to looking at.
The next day, he went on Jon Stewart. About four minutes into the show, Clarence said, "I owe Norman Seldin everything." It broke me down. Chills went up my spine. He was trying to pay me back all the time. But Clarence was always trying to give something to somebody. The guy wouldn't turn somebody down for a nickel if he only had a nickel in his own pocket. That's the way he always was.
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