"The Big Man" on life with and without Springsteen

Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:51pm EDT
 
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By Christian Wiessner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Saxophonist Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons knew his life would never be the same when he walked up to a New Jersey bar nearly 40 years ago and the door blew off its hinges and sailed into a storm-battered night.

As all eyes in the club darted toward the stranger making his ominous entrance into the bar, Clemons remembers the keyboard player saying, "Boss, a change is afoot."

That "Boss" was a scruffy young guitarist named Bruce Springsteen, who asked Clemons to jam with the band. On that fateful night, one of rock's most enduring relationships was formed.

In a new book released on Wednesday, Clemons recounts stories from his childhood in Norfolk, Virginia, and recollections of hard nights on the road with Springsteen before eventual superstardom.

"Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales," written with Clemons' long-time friend, television writer and producer Don Reo, also contains embellished tales and what Clemons called "outright lies" -- including fictional fishing trips with Norman Mailer and hustling Cuba's Fidel Castro at pool.

In an interview with Reuters, Clemons reminisced about that first gig with Springsteen.

"When I first walked on that stage and hit the first note, I saw things that are happening today, then," he told Reuters. "I knew that he (Springsteen) was what I was looking for and I was what he was looking for to take that next step to the big time. It was just love, man, at first sight."

In the decades since they first met, Clemons and the rest of Springsteen's E Street Band have provided the rock-solid foundation and sound that helped "The Boss" sell tens of millions of records and play stadium-sized concerts worldwide.   Continued...

 
<p>Musician Clarence Clemons poses for a portrait while promoting his new book "Big Man" in New York, October 21, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>