The orbits of the E Street Band and the Grateful Dead are not that far away.
That’s why Nick Clemons, son of the late Clarence Clemons, will be playing with the Dead tribute band Splintered Sunlight on Friday, Jan. 11, at the Headliner Nightclub in Neptune.
Clarence Clemons on stage at his nightclub, Big Man’s West, Red Bank. (Photo: Photo by Bob Wilkinson )
It’s the first of two nights of the seventh annual Big Man’s Birthday Bash, which celebrates Clemons’ Jan. 11 birthday, now known as Clarence Clemons Day in the state of New Jersey.
“I’ll be playing the Grateful Dead music and celebrating my pop,” Clemons said. “He was almost an honorary member because he played so much with the Grateful Dead, and the Jerry Garcia Band.”
Nick moved with his dad to San Francisco from 1989 to 1991, and over that span Clarence became a regular with Garcia and the guys.
“Clarence was cut from a different cloth — more R&B than jazz — which suited the latter-day JGB (Jerry Garcia Band) approach and repertoire very well,” according to an uncredited post on www.dead.net, the official Grateful Dead web site. “Garcia seemed to have a great rapport with Clarence, always encouraging him to step out and solo, and smiling broadly when he did. Not that Clarence needed much prodding. He seemed right at home with the JGB, and because of the band’s loose format, he got plenty of chances to blow. It really was like dropping in a dollop of E Street Band magic.”
Clarence spent so much time in California that he founded a Temple of Soul West Band for his concerts in the state.
“I know he had a very good relationship with two of the guys, Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann, and Jerry (Garcia) was a very good friend,” Nick said. “He would often play the Bammies (the Bay Area Music awards show), and that area has so many music stars. You could walk down the street and see Bob Weir jamming with Johnny Lee Hooker.”
The Grateful Dead (Photo: NONE GPN)
Clemons suggested that he, Weir and Garcia all move in together, said Weir to Rolling Stone in 2011. Weir added that Clemons nearly became a member of the Grateful Dead.
“Jerry and I would’ve gone for it, but I’m not sure everyone else would,” Weir said.
Clarence wasn’t the only Dead fan in the E Street Band. The night after Garcia died in 1995, Bruce Springsteen joined the Dead tribute band Solar Circus on stage at the former Cheers in Long Branch for several songs, including a 15-minute version of “Not Fade Away.”
Clarence, a native of Virginia who found fame in Asbury Park as a member of the E Street Band, passed away June 18, 2011, in Florida, from complications of a stroke he suffered six days earlier.
He was 69.
A resolution proclaiming Jan. 11 as Clarence Clemons Day was sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth and signed by Gov. Chris Christie in 2014. It reads, “whereas, during the E Street Band’s legendary live concerts, Clarence Clemons’ saxophone solos were highly anticipated and he was always introduced last in the band introductions, to the delight of the concertgoers who greeted his every move with roars of approval.”
Those roars continued to Broadway, where the telling of the Big Man’s story by Springsteen drew the loudest applause in “Springsteen on Broadway” each night.
The applause continues this weekend. Splintered Sunlight, the Pat Roddy Band, the Nick Clemons Band, Secret Sound, Waiting On Mongo and Woodfish will play Friday as the Headliner. The show will include a re-creation of the “John Fogerty and Friends” concert from the Oakland-Alameda County Stadium on May 27, 1989. Fogerty’s friends included Clarence, Garcia and Weir. It was billed as the “In Concert Against AIDS” and the Dead were the headliners. Fogerty and his all-star crew performed a mix of Creedance Clearwater Revival classics and rock standards.
Bar A in Lake Como will host the second night of the Big Man’s Bash, with the Brue Crew; Moroccan Sheepherders; Colossal Street Jam; the Nick Clemons Band featuring Jarod Clemons, also Clarence’s son; Holme; the Matt O’Ree Band; Mr. LoveJoy (with Tommy Jannarone, a friend of Clarence who’s also the owner of Bar A); the Bob Polding Band; and the Big Man’s Birthday Bash All-Star Band featuring Eddie Testa, Jobonanno, Joe Bezzone, Lisa Sherman, Phil DeZago, Mark Leimbach, Killer Joe Ferraro, “The Philly Elvis” Nick Ferraro, Pat Roddy, Bob Polding, Vinny Daniele, Joe Vadalla and more.
Taylor Davis, Andy Russo and Deedee Pie, the Elk Manzo Ward Trio, Taylor Tote, the Rich Scannella Group and the Rich Meyer Show will play on the acoustic stage.
A tribute to the late Clarence Clemons at the corner of 10th Avenue and E Street in 2011. (Photo: THOMAS P. COSTELLO)
Nick is carrying forth the legacy of his dad. Big Man’s Brew, an India Pale Ale brewed at 902 Brewing Company in Hoboken, was released in May, and is served at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, Old Glory Kitchen and Spirits in Keyport, and Klein’s in Belmar.
It will be available backstage at the Big Man’s Bash shows. Nick is working on Big Man marijuana edible candies, when it becomes legal in New Jersey, and a new Big Man’s West nightclub and brew pub in Asbury Park.
Clarence was the host at the former Big Man’s West in Red Bank from 1981 to ‘83. Nick is looking to include members of the Asbury Park community who have been excluded from the revival of the east side of town in the Big Man’s West nightclub project.
Proceeds raised at the Bash shows this weekend will go to the CFC Loud N Clear Corporation, which supports those suffering from addiction, and the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“We want to follow through on the things he believed in,” Nick said. “We want to give back to the community and make sure we take care of our own.”