Clarence Clemons, Jr., also known as The Big Man, was a saxophonist, musician, and actor. He was reported to be 6′ 5″ tall. From 1972 until his death, he was a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, playing the tenor saxophone. He can be heard playing on songs such “Born to Run” and “Jungleland.”
1. Born in Chesapeake, Virginia, to Clarence Clemons, Sr., a fish market owner, and his wife Thelma.
2. Oldest of three children. His grandfather was a Southern Baptist preacher and, as a result, Clemons grew up in a very religious background listening to gospel music.
3. When Clemons was nine, his father gave him an alto saxophone as a Christmas present and paid for music lessons.
4. Switched to baritone saxophone and played in a high school jazz band.
5. His uncle also influenced his early musical development when he bought Clemons his first King Curtis album.
6. Work with The Coasters, in particular, would become a major influence on Clemons and led to him switching to tenor saxophone.
7. As a youth Clemons also showed potential as a football player. He graduated from Crestwood High School (now Crestwood Middle) before attending Maryland State College on music and football scholarships.
8. Played as a lineman on the same team as Art Shell and Emerson Boozer and attracted the attention of the Cleveland Browns, who offered him a trial.
9. Tried out for the Dallas Cowboys. However, the day before, he was involved in a serious car accident which effectively ended any plans of a career in the National Football League.
10. Posthumously inducted into the university’s Athletics Hall of Fame on February 24, 2012
11. At age 18, Clemons had one of his earliest studio experiences, recording sessions with Tyrone Ashley’s Funky Music Machine, a band from Plainfield, New Jersey, that included Ray Davis, Eddie Hazel, and Billy Bass Nelson, all of whom later played with Parliament-Funkadelic.
12. Performed with Daniel Petraitis, a New Jersey and Nashville legend. These sessions were eventually released in 2007, by Truth and Soul Records as Let Me Be Your Man.
13. Worked as a counselor for emotionally disturbed children at the Jamesburg Training School for Boys between 1962 and 1970.
14. Actor, known for New York, New York (1977), Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) and Fatal Instinct (1993).
15. Clemons suffered a stroke on June 12, 2011, and died of complications from it on June 18.