One Hit Wonders: Clarence "Frogman" Henry (1956)

Clarence "Frogman" Henry
Ain't Got No Home
Songwriter: Clarence "Frogman" Henry
Written: 1955
Released: December 15, 1956
Recorded: 1956

In the United States, "Ain't Got No Home" reached number 3 on one of the Billboard R&B charts and number 20 on the Billboard Top 100 pop chart. It ranks number 98 on the N.M.E. magazine's list of 100 Best Songs of the 1950s. Henry's contribution has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In April 2007, Henry was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

Clarence "Frogman" Henry

Clarence Henry used his trademark croak to improvise the song "Ain't Got No Home." The gimmick earned Henry his nickname of "Frogman." He once told an interviewer with the Rockabilly Hall of Fame; "When I was eight years old I asked my mama to send me to piano lessons because she sent my sister and she didn't like it. So I started going and learned the fundamentals. The style I taught myself." 

Ain't Got No Home

"I used to imitate the frog 
in school to scare the girls!"
Clarence "Frogman" Henry
In 1956, he wrote the song "Ain't Got No Home." He got the idea while playing in a club. "I was actually too young to be performing in that place, much less so early in the morning. They just kept dancing and partying and asking for more and more. I gave them every song I knew," he recalled. "I just looked out at one point, about 2 a.m. or so, and wondered to myself why all these people were still here and why they just don't go home." Clarence improvised the song with his trademark croak. He sang the first verse of the song in a man's voice, the second in a girl's, and the third in a frog's.   He told the Times-Pisquayne, "I used to imitate the frog in school to scare the girls!" 

Chess Records

Chess Records' A&R man Paul Gayten heard the song and had Henry record it. "I was working at a service station in New Orleans, and when I got off work, I would pass a club called the 'Brass Rail' where Paul Gayten played. I admired him playing, I'd stand on the sidewalk lookin' inside the club. Paul was the A&R man for Leonard Chess. I would relieve Paul on Monday at the 'Brass Rail.' I started singin' a song called Ain't Got No Home in the 'Old Joy' Lounge in Gretna. I played it for Paul, and Paul sent it up to Leonard Chess, and Leonard Chess came down to hear it. When Leonard heard it, he told Paul to break it up into different parts with the girl and the frog.

On stage Clarence had been doing both the girl and frog parts: 
"Shirley and Lee were from New Orleans and were hot during that time. I didn't have a female singer in the band, so I had to switch my voice like a girl."  It was released as a single in the United States on December 15, 1956. "A disc jockey called Poppa Stoppa here in New Orleans was pushin' Troubles Troubles for the A-side, and he flipped it over to Ain't Got No Home, and the people were crazy over it. They didn't know the title of the song or who was singin' it, so they said - "Play the Frog song by the 'Frogman.'" "I happened to be in the studio, and he said, "From now on, your name is 'Frogman.'"

Eventually, it rose to number 20 on the U.S. pop chart.   The record's success brought 'live' shows and tours in 1957. In his interview, he said; "The first place I went to play was the Apollo Theater (in New York)."

Opening for The Beatles

After the Apollo appearance, Henry joined many of the traveling musical caravans. His records quickly made their way to England, where "youngsters" began listening to them and emulating the sounds of American rock and roll. In 1964 a group of those British youngsters debuted at Shea Stadium in New York. They called themselves "The Beatles." They invited one of their U.S. musical heroes, 'Frogman' Henry', to open the Shea Stadium show. He went on to open 18 more Beatles' concerts in the U.S. and around the world. Henry said;

"Being on the same stage and performing with The Beatles was the high light of my life and career. They were all so gracious and kind. I loved them all, but there was a special bond between Paul and me; he was a soul brother." When the tours ended in 1958, Clarence played locally in New Orleans. The club owners wanted him exclusively on Bourbon St. Henry said he didn't want to "sign that kinda contract, but I said I will always stick with you."


Covers

The song's been covered by many artists:

Buddy Holly (here)
Suzi Quatro (here)
The New York Dolls (here).
  • The Band recorded it for the album Moondog Matinee (here).
  • It was used in a bathtub scene in the movie The Lost Boys (here)
  • Rod Stewart used the chorus in "Some Guys Have All the Luck" (here).
Ain't Got No Home
Clarence "Frogman" Henry

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