Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, New Orleans R&B Mainstay, Dies at 87

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Clarence “Frogman” Henry, the New Orleans R&B singer and pianist best known for his hits “Ain’t Got No Home” (1956) and “But I Do” (1961), died April 7, 2024, according to a social media post by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation. His death occurred at University Medical Center in New Orleans, from complications following back surgery. Henry was 87.

Although he had stopped touring regularly more than four decades earlier, Henry still performed annually at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, known to many as Jazz Fest, and was scheduled to appear at this year’s event later this month.

Born in New Orleans on March 19, 1937, Clarence Henry II moved to the city’s Algiers neighborhood several years later, and lived there until his death. Influenced by local pianists Fats Domino and Professor Longhair, he began entering talent contests and joined the local band Bobby Mitchell and the Toppers in 1952, followed by a stint in saxophonist Eddie Smith’s band.

Related: Fats Domino died in 2017

In 1955, Henry wrote “Ain’t Got No Home,” an uptempo R&B novelty song that featured him singing in the voice of a man, a frog and a young girl. He was signed to Argo Records, a subsidiary of Chicago’s Chess label, and the recording hopped to #3 on the Billboard R&B chart and #20 on the trade magazine’s top 100 in 1956. The song proved to have staying power, and was later used in such films as Diner, Casino, The Lost Boys and others. It also earned Henry the nickname “Frogman,” which he used professionally for the rest of his life.

“Ain’t Got No Home” has been covered by the Band and others.

In 1961, Henry’s cover of “(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do,” originally recorded by Bobby Charles and shortened to “But I Do” on the Henry recording, went to #9 R&B and #4 on the Hot 100, giving him a second trademark hit. It was later used in the film Forrest Gump, among others. He placed several other songs on the charts, including “You Always Hurt the One You Love” (#11 R&B, #12 pop).

In 1964, Henry opened a North American tour for the Beatles but his days of placing records on the charts ended at that time. Nonetheless, he continued to work as a performer on New Orleans’ Bourbon Street for nearly 20 years, and became a regular attraction at Jazz Fest.

Henry was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the New Orleans Music Hall of Fame.

Watch Henry perform “But I Do” live

Jeff Tamarkin

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  1. squirefld
    #1 squirefld 10 April, 2024, 01:07

    The Frogman in the 1990’s had a resurgence when Rush Limbaugh started using “Ain’t Got No Home,” as his homeless update, for his twenty million strong audience. Apparently, Clarence embraced the newfound attention, that came from Rush’s show.

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