Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales by Clarence Clemons, Don Reo, Bruce Springsteen | | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales
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Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales

3.7 18
by Clarence Clemons, Don Reo

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For the first time ever comes the inside story of Clarence "Big Man" Clemons—his life before, during and beyond the E-Street Band, including unbelievable, never-before-told adventures with Bruce Springsteen, the band, and an incredible cast of other famous characters recounted by himself and his best friend, television writer/ producer Don Reo.

Here are


For the first time ever comes the inside story of Clarence "Big Man" Clemons—his life before, during and beyond the E-Street Band, including unbelievable, never-before-told adventures with Bruce Springsteen, the band, and an incredible cast of other famous characters recounted by himself and his best friend, television writer/ producer Don Reo.

Here are just a few things you'll get from reading it:

  • The truth behind the final hours of making Born To Run
  • The real story of how the E-Street Band got its name
  • What happened when Clarence and Ringo Starr were sitting in a hotel room and Clarence got the call that Bruce was breaking up the band
  • How Bruce and Clarence met that dark, stormy night at the Student Prince
  • The E-Street band's show at Sing-Sing prison where all of their equipment blows out right as they take the stage
  • The secret that Robert De Niro told Clarence and Bruce they had to keep for 25 years
But that's merely a glimpse. This is not your average rock book. It is something creative, something unique, something new. It is the story of E-Street. It is the story of stories. It is the story of the Big Man.

Editorial Reviews

Clarence Clemons commands attention. The E-Street Band saxophonist is big, so big that he looks like a building walking around, but he also conveys something truly mythic. That mythos has played out freely in Bruce Springsteen songs and stories that seem to spread and change like the wind. In this autobiography, "Big Man" himself expounds on how it all happened and what it all means. Now in paperback. (Hand-selling tip: Big Man is the real deal. It tells the real stories behind the E-Street band's early years and subsequent worldwide fame. And it features a foreword by Bruce Springsteen himself!)

Kirkus Reviews
Bruce Springsteen's ebullient saxophonist and onstage foil recounts nearly four decades of the rock 'n' roll life, assisted by best friend Reo, a TV writer and producer. This account, the first by a member of the E Street Band, is "not a standard memoir," the authors warn. Half the chapters can be taken literally, but the rest, labeled "Legends," feature imagined conversations, altered times and places and more-just what a musician might offer up in the long hours on the road, fueled by Jack Daniels and other mind-altering substances, many of which Clemons cops to consuming over the years. Among the luminaries in these droll, quasi-fictional encounters are Thomas Pynchon, Frank Sinatra, Norman Mailer, Redd Foxx, Fidel Castro, Robert DeNiro, Bob Dylan and Groucho Marx. Clemons demonstrates that he might be every bit the raconteur that the Boss is in concert. For example, he describes how, in 1972 gig at Sing Sing Prison, the band escaped with their lives after their musical equipment blew out by jamming for an hour with just sax and drums. Fans will find especially fascinating the Big Man's account of the marathon Born to Run (1975) recording, the early road groupies and at least some of his five wives, the ornate touring sanctuary known as the "Temple of Soul" and the E Street Band's late organist, Danny Federici, who was given to such hijinks as running down hotel corridors naked. Any resentment lingering from Springsteen's 1989 decision to break up the band-a decision happily rescinded several years later-has dissipated, leaving only gratitude to a friend responsible for the best years of the author's life. Clemons imparts a warm, Indian summer feeling that deftly accompanies hisrollicking reminiscences, making this a must for the legion of fans that he and the Boss have accumulated over the decades. Agent: Lydia Wills/Paradigm
From the Publisher
"Legends have a way of growing every time they're told. This time, the tales of rock and roll history are brought to life by a legend himself, Clarence Clemons. Big Man relives Clemons's story in a unique personal narrative that's bound in both history and folklore. This is an essential read for any music lover."
—President Bill Clinton"

Big Man takes you on an outrageous journey with one of the most charismatic, gracious, kind and talented men of our time. This peek into the world of Clarence is full of fun and laughter, which is exactly what this guy is all about. He's a genuine soul worth his weight in gold. That's why he's been an inspiration to me for years and years, and his incredible music brings great joy to my heart. His role in the E Street Band helped place him and the band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...right where he belongs."
—Pat Riley, NBA Hall Of Fame coach"

Big Man is one of the greatest books about a big black man ever written. If you want to get really close to a big black man without getting punched in the face, this book's for you!"
—Chris Rock"

The feeling I get watching Clarence walk to center stage to play his sax must be similar to the feeling a Yankee fan had watching Babe Ruth walk to home plate: you're sure a big man is about to do something that's gonna make you cheer louder than you ever have before. This great book makes that feeling even stronger. Now excuse me while I drive my sleek machine over the Jersey state line."
—Artie Lange, New Jersey native, E-Street fanatic, and New York Times bestselling author of Too Fat To Fish"

Big Man is too funny, soulful, outrageous and wise to have been written by two people. I suspect Don Reo is an invented character. A mystical book, an oddly beautiful book, a wonderful book."
—Kinky Friedman

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Big Man

Real Life & Tall Tales
By Clemons, Clarence

Grand Central Publishing

Copyright © 2010 Clemons, Clarence
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780446546256

Prologue New York City, 2008


I’m not going to make it,” said Clarence.

We were sitting in his hospital room overlooking the East River. He’d had his second knee-replacement surgery two days before. The other knee had been replaced two weeks ago.

“Don’t talk like that,” I said. “You’re going to be fine.”

“I mean the Super Bowl show,” he said. “There’s no way. You can’t imagine the pain.”

For him to say this, the pain must have been off the charts. I’d been with him through surgeries before, including three hip replacements, which are no walk in the park. But I had never seen him like this or heard him talk this way.

“It’s too soon to say that,” I replied. “Give it some time. Take the drugs and rest.”

“They haven’t made a drug that can touch this pain. I feel like I’m made of pain.”

It was the first week of October, and the band was booked to play the half-time show at the Super Bowl in February. That was only four months away. In my heart I agreed with Clarence. I did not think there was any way on God’s earth that he’d be able to make that show.

“Do you want to work on the book?” I asked. “Feel like telling me some stories?”

“Maybe,” he said. “I’ve been having all these crazy dreams. Fever dreams about all the people in my life. My family, Bruce, music, writers I like…” He trailed off momentarily but soon picked up again. “Some truly bizarre stuff. These dreams—they’re full of crazy conversations in weird places. I’ve been thinking about my mother and father a lot. I guess that’s natural in this situation. They’re gone and I feel like I’m moving toward them fast.”

“This doesn’t sound like you, Big Man,” I said.

That was true. Clarence has always been one of the most positive people in the world.

“I know, Don,” he said. “But I don’t feel like me.”

He turned his head away and looked out the window. It was early afternoon, and the FDR was already jammed with traffic. A big barge was being towed upriver just below us.

“I’ve never missed a show in my life,” he said.

He didn’t look at me when he said it, because he wasn’t talking to me.

Norfolk, Virginia, 1950


My mother told me this story, and I love it with all my heart.


The man was drinking Coca-Cola; the woman was drinking ginger ale. All the other people in the club were drinking alcohol in one form or another. Not that it was all that crowded. The small room was about one-third full. All eyes were on the stage and the man playing the horn. His name was Sill Austin and he was great. He played with a soft intensity that was mesmerizing. The man and woman had walked two miles from their home through the cold December evening to see him. They rarely went out these days. Babysitters were a luxury they couldn’t afford. But when the man had seen the ad in the paper saying Sill Austin was booked at Frankie’s Lounge, he knew they had to find a way to go. They’d listened to the recordings over and over.

“You’re going to wear a hole right through that thing,” she’d say to him every time he put one of them on the record player.

“Then I’ll go buy a new one,” he always said in return.

And now here they were in the same room with him, watching him play and create that magic.

Watching Sill Austin play pretty for the people. He reached out and took her hand. She squeezed his hand in response.

After the show they sat at the table for a while and finished their sodas. It felt like the old days when they’d first started going out. Before the war to end all wars.

“If World War Two was the war to end all wars,” he said once, “how come they gave it a number?”

“I think that was World War One,” she’d said, smiling.

“Even worse,” he had replied.

“Did you like the show?” she asked him, even though she knew the answer.

“Yeah,” he said. He was never a big talker.

She thought he looked handsome in his Sunday suit. The shirt was as white as his teeth.

“Why do you think you like him so much?” she asked. “There are plenty of other horn players out there.”

“He plays the music that I hear in my head,” he said.

It was very cold when they stepped outside. The wind had picked up. The weather forecast was calling for snow tomorrow. Christmas lights glowed in a lot of the shop windows. They both pulled up their collars and started to walk. She put her arm through his and they stepped in rhythm, shoulder to shoulder.

“I think that’s him,” she said.

He looked at Sill Austin putting his horn case into the front seat of a new DeSoto.

“Yeah, that’s him, ” he said.

“Wanna say hello?” she asked.

“No,” he replied.

“Why not?”

“’Cause right now it’s perfect,” he said.

After the first mile she said, “Clarence wants a train set.”

He didn’t say anything.

“From Santa,” she said. “Electric trains.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Then when he grows up he can become a Pullman porter.”

“I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” she said, smiling. The cold made it hard to feel her face.

“The boy’s going to be nine years old,” he said. “Time he grew up.”

“Meaning what?” she said.

“I’m not getting him trains,” he said.

“He’ll be disappointed,” she said.

“He’ll get over it,” he said.

“So what do you want to get him?” she asked.

He lifted his head and looked at her. He smiled.

“A saxophone,” he said.


Excerpted from Big Man by Clemons, Clarence Copyright © 2010 by Clemons, Clarence. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Clarence Clemons lives in Florida.

Don Reo is the writer/producer of many award-winning television series. He lives in Santa Barbara California with his wife Judith D. Allison.

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