In Memoriam: Clarence "Frogman" Henry

Published on: April 8th, 2024

906 Clarence "Frogman" Hunter [Photo by Hunter King]

Clarence "Frogman" Hunter at Jazz Fest 2010 [Photo by Hunter King]

New Orleans R&B singer Clarence "Frogman" Henry has died at the age of 87. His famous voice of a croaking "lonely frog" propelled him to fame with the 1956 hit single 'Ain't Got No Home.' His chameleon-like vocal abilities lent themselves well to the song which he could be heard performing for many decades after its release.

Born in 1937, Henry grew up in the 7th Ward before moving to Algiers. He played trombone in the L.B. Landry High School Band and also started taking piano lessons as a teenager. Early in his career, he played with Bobby Mitchell's band, The Toppers, but soon went solo and recorded 'Ain't Got No Home' at Cosimo Matassa's studio. In 1957, the song was released by Argo Records, a subsidiary of Chess, reaching #3 on the national Billboard R&B chart and #20 on the Billboard pop chart.

Frogman went on to release a cover of Bobby Charles' '(I Don't Know Why) But I Do' and 'You Only Hurt The Ones You Love' in 1961.

Henry's unique voice captured the attention of four popular young British musicians in the early 1960s. In 1964, The Beatles brought Frogman on to open for them during their U.S. tour, including a hometown date on September 16 at City Park Stadium (now known as Tad Gormley Stadium) in New Orleans City Park. He performed at Jazz Fest nearly every year since its inception, including the very first year in 1970. His final appearance there was at the Blues Tent in 2023, where he rose from his wheelchair to perform his biggest hit and received an excited standing ovation from the audience in response. He was scheduled to appear at the 2024 festival, as well, as part of the "New Orleans Classic Recording Revue" along with The Dixie Cups, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, and Wanda Rouzan.

Henry was a big part of the vibrant and influential New Orleans R&B music scene of the 1950s and 1960s. Following his tours of the United States and Europe in support of his early hits, he settled into gigging on Bourbon Street for nearly twenty years. Throughout his career, Henry shared the stage with some of the greatest artists of the 20th century, including Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Tina Turner, James Brown, and Little Richard. He drew impressive audiences for decades and was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007. WWOZ named him a “Living Legend” in 2003.

If you have thoughts or memories you’d like to share, please leave a comment below. The entire WWOZ family sends its best wishes to his family and friends, and our appreciation for the many years of music he gave us, and the entire city.

Services will be held on Saturday, April 20 at the L.B. Landry High School auditorium (1200 L.B. Landry Ave., New Orleans). Visitation will be held from 8-10am and the funeral will begin at 10am. Repast will follow. Family, friends, band members, New Orleans musicians, and the public are invited to join to celebrate the memory and life of Clarence "Frogman" Henry.


Below, some of the many photos of Clarence "Frogman" Henry that we’ve captured over the years:

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