Clarence was an old pal, a soulful bro. He was a good hang. Back in the late Eighties and early Nineties, he was living out here in Marin County. He didn't have any commitments to the E Street Band. He was in moving-on mode, and he, Jerry and I were mixed it up a bit. We were dropping by clubs like Sweetwater and sitting in with various bands. Jerry and I were both single at that time, and Clarence suggested the three of us move in together and have a bachelor pad. Jerry and I almost went for it. It would've been a lot of fun, but I don't think anyone would have survived [Laughs]. Jerry was in good shape, but we were doing a little drinking.
Clarence was always up for playing and always a delight to play with. He had that power and authority. He was a big guy with a lot of lung power, and he really made his sax honk. But he was also real flexible. He could play tenderly, and he could play country and make it stick. There was a period when he sat in with the Dead, and that was where we got to know him. We'd do the R&B and blues stuff together, like "Little Red Rooster" and a version of Willie Dixon's "The Same Thing." I have a feeling he was shooting for a role in that band. Jerry and I would've gone for it, but I'm not sure everyone else would. In the Dead back then, anyone had veto power, and a couple of the guys hated saxophones. Had it not been for a couple of objections, Clarence might've ended up in the Dead.
The last time he sat in with me was at a Furthur show in April, in Boca Raton. He seemed a bit frail. He showed up at the gig in a wheelchair. But he walked on and managed to stand up, and he just fucking wailed. We played "Turn on Your Lovelight" and one or two others, and he blew everybody away. I miss him, but I'm always going to hear him. Whenever I play "Lovelight," I'll hear him.
NEXT: Alto Reed
To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here
CULTURE 14 Gonzo Masterpieces
Picks From Around the Web
blog comments powered by Disqus