Harris: The man that Bruce Springsteen is leaning on on the cover of Born To Run and who he leaned on for many years — and often many nights kissed smack full on the mouth — Clarence Clemons joins us now on the guest line. Hello again, Clarence.
Clemons: Hey, how ya doing?
Harris: I’m doing great.
Clemons: What a way to start the day, man. You got me going now.
Harris: Was it the song or the kissing that got you going?
Clemons: Oh, a little of both I guess.
Harris: [laughs] That was the album that really busted you out in ’75. Now, I’ve always wondered about your sax stuff. Did you write your part or did Bruce give you charts, and say here’s what I want you to do?
Clemons: Charts?? We don’t need no stinking charts! [laughs] No, it came from the soul, man, it comes from the heart.
Harris: So Bruce would come in and play the song for you, and then you’d go and put your stuff together?
Clemons: There you go, buddy. That’s how it happens, that’s the magic of it all, that was the magic that happened. When we came together we just did it and it was great. It always came out good
Harris: And it surely did. Did you ever trouble remembering which solo you were supposed to do in which song?
Clemons: No, no. Because each song is so different they became a part of you, and so that’s just how it works. It’s like you don’t forget to put the right shoe on your foot.
Harris: That’s a very good analogy. So now you’re doing a lot of TV stuff. We see you as Big Barry on Nash Bridges, and I was watching UPN about a week ago and I saw The Sentinel. I went past it and thought, “Oh, it’s a bunch of people in an elevator. Hey! Wait a second! That’s Clarence!”
Clemons: [laughs] You know I’ve had a lot of my friends say the same thing, that they didn’t know it was on and kinda flipping through and said, “Wait! Wait! Go back, go back, go back!”
Harris: So I watched it for awhile, and it’s you and a bunch of people trapped in an elevator, like an extortion plot or something like that, but I’m watching it because you’re in it. And I’m thinking to myself that must be torture because I know when you’re doing TV or film, you don’t just go in and shoot for the hour show. You’re there all day.
Clemons: It took 16 hours a day for 3 days to do that.
Harris: All in an elevator?
Clemons: In an elevator. Now every time I get on an elevator, I check who I get on with. I make sure they don’t have a briefcase. If they’ve got a briefcase, I get off and catch the next elevator.
Harris: I would think that that would affect you for a while.
Clemons: Yeah, well, it’s acting, you know.
Harris: But does it get claustrophobic at all when you’re doing that?
Clemons: No, because one side of the elevator is gone so that the camera can get the view. So it wasn’t as claustrophobic as it seems. But there were three different elevators and three different sizes, so we switched elevators now and then so it was different.
Harris: Well you looked good on there. The acting bug is really catching up now and you’re enjoying it?
Clemons: I’m loving it and there are some really nice people involved in the shows. It’s a great thing.
Harris: Are you writing stuff too?
Clemons: Yes, I’m writing. I’m trying to get, I want to write a Nash Bridges series, but I have a couple scripts, well a few scripts that I’m shopping around right now.
Harris: I’m surprised that you haven’t started to score some of these things, too. I would think with your musical background you would maybe get the band together and….
Clemons: I don’t want mix it up. I want to keep the acting thing separate from the music thing.
Harris: Doing one thing at a time?
Harris: Are you still going to go out on the road? I know you toured with Ringo a couple of years ago. Are you going to do that again?
Clemons: I don’t know I was asked to do it but I haven’t heard from him in a while. Hopefully I will get the “big call” soon. I don’t know, I don’t want to start any rumors or anything cause I haven’t heard anything.
Harris: You just got everyone all excited! You can’t say the “big call” like that. You get us all pumped up. Three people just started lining up at US Air Arena!
Clemons: [laughs] That’s funny.
Harris: Do you talk to Bruce?
Clemons: I talked to him quite often. As a matter of fact, I am waiting to talk to him again real soon.
Harris: Well, you gotta tell him to stop doing this Ghost of Tom Joad folk stuff and put together an E-Street album, for god sake. I know he won a Grammy the other night for that, but we won’t see you guys back together.
Clemons: Yeah, me too!
Harris: That’s all you’re gonna say on that huh?
Clemons: Yes! [laughs]
Clemons: You know I’m not in to that part of the music business I’m into the doing-it side, the creating-it side.
Clemons: So that part doesn’t really excite me. It’s more exciting doing it live.
Harris: Well, you’re going to be doing it live at the Bartenders Ball here in town at the Sheraton Washington tomorrow night for us.
Clemons: I’m really looking forward to that. It’s kinda of a combination of a Bartenders Ball and a big band bash altogether, so it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s always fun to get back to Washington and see the old friends, remember the old days. Cause we kinda cut our teeth there in Washington, you know? That was a long long long time ago.
Harris: This was one of your home away from homes for a long time.
Clemons: Certainly was, and I grew up right down the street in Norfolk, so it’s like coming home.
Harris: Let me get the plug in here. Clarence is going to be playing with Steve Smith and The Nakeds — man, there’s a good band!
Clemons: Yes, sir!!
Harris: You know who is opening for you, by the way?
Clemons: No, I don’t.
Harris: Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.
Clemons: Right, right. I haven’t seen Mitch in a long time so it will be good. This is going to be fun!
Harris: You gotta get up and do Good Golly Miss Molly with them.
Clemons: Yeah! That’s going to be so much fun.
Harris: That’s the Bartenders Ball, tomorrow night at the Sheraton Washington. The tickets are on sale and you get Clarence Clemons with Steve Smith and The Nakeds, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, two other bands, 32 open bars, a dinner buffet, and the best thing about it is it raises a ton of money for 6 local charities. If you want details you can call us. Clarence, thanks for being on again, and enjoy the weekend!
Clemons: Thanks, Paul, always good to be on with you. See ya!
Copyright 1997, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Craig Glenn.