Clarence “Frogman” Henry (born 1937) is an American R&B singer, pianist and trombonist. He is not to be confused with the jazz guitarist Clarence “Sonny” Henry. Henry’s earliest influences were Fats Domino and Professor Longhair, whose sartorial style Henry also followed especially whenever he used to appear on talent contests. His signature croak earned him the nickname “Frogman,” as such kind of vocal characteristic was utilized to the hilt on his first hit in 1956, “Ain’t Got No Home.” He achieved his biggest hit with 1961’s “I Don’t Know Why (But I Do),” which is now an oldies music classic. As hits were beginning to dry up, Henry opened for the Beatles in many of the group’s North American concerts during the 60s music era, and performed for almost twenty years at a Bourbon Street joint in New Orleans. His pioneer work earned him an honor from the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
Life and music of the “Frogman”
Clarence “Frogman” Henry is remembered by his 1956 major hit “Ain’t Got No Home” and with his frog-like style of singing which earned him the alias of the “Frogman.” Henry was born in Algiers, New Orleans, Louisiana on March 19, 1937. Fats Domino and Professor Longhair were cited as his main influences while growing up. He started playing trombones during his high school days. He also went to bars where Professor Longhair also played to listen. From 1952 to 1955, he became a member of the Bobby Mitchell & the Toppers and then caught on with saxophonist Eddie Smith’s band.
In 1956, Henry came up with the song “Ain’t Got No Home” after a late gig at The Joy Lounge. In the end, he was really drained and wanted to stop the show. However, it seemed that the club owner wasn’t too keen on ending the whole gig, so Henry just “slammed the keys down and” howled “Oooh oh oh oh oh oh oh” as his way to bring the performance to an end. Unbeknownst to Henry, his improvised idea would actually jumpstart his recording career.
In the summer of 1956, New Orleans A&R man for Chess Records Paul Gayten encouraged Henry to enter Cosimo Matassa’s studio. This is where Henry recorded “Ain’t Got No Home” on 45 along with another song “Trouble, Trouble.” Local DJ Poppa Stoppa gave the “Frogman” nickname on the young singer — and it stuck since.
“Ain’t Got No Home” was released on Chess’ subsidiary label Argo in 1956. It did really well on the charts, reaching #20 on the pop chart and #3 on the R&B chart. The song was later followed by the other successful singles “I Don’t Know Why (But I Do)” (#4 pop) #3 on the UK singles chart. “You Always Hurt The One You Love,” meanwhile, went to #12 on the pop chart and #11 on the R&B chart. It also became a top then hit in the UK at as well at #6. But after his peak years his hits began to dry up.
Henry embarked on a tour with The Beatles as the opening act for 18 concerts across the US and Canada in 1964. He also had the chance to perform with other musical legends who included James Brown and Elton John, to name a few. His songs, such as “But I Do” and “You Always Hurt the One You Love” in particular, have been featured in movies such as Forrest Gump.
Henry was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.