So, you think you’ve got troubles? Just listen to the “Frogman” go on about “da rent man” and his wife and such and you will quickly shut yer mouth and start shakin’ yer rump. It was the A-side that quickly became the B-side after Ain’t Got A Home stole the spotlight via that darn, career-defining, novelty frog voice. Just as Gary Anderson forever carried his moniker after those early “U.S. Bonds” releases (a scheme cooked up by Legend Records label owner Frank Guida) Clarence Henry was never able–nor do I think he ever tried–to shake the “Frogman” nickname after the success of that single. I’ve got a small stack of 45s by Henry–all pre-Frogman era–that certainly demonstrate his capabilities and personality. But, a hit is a hit and, in the pre-web/iTunes/MySpace world of 1956, any way to make it onto the radio was a good bet. Well, that story has already been written a number of times, so let’s get back to the featured track, Troubles, Troubles.
I love a song that starts with a solo vocal line and Henry’s first two words here set the burning tempo that doesn’t quit until the finish a mere two minutes later. I couldn’t find any info on which session players were backing him up on this recording, but one can only imagine by the thumping kick drum and bouncing horns that it may have been laid down in New Orleans rather than Chicago (home of Chess/Argo).
There are few singers, IMHO, who’s personality comes through so clearly in the simplest of songs than Clarence Henry. When I saw him perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival some years back he needed a hand just to out to the mic on the Congo Square stage. But once he was there both his charisma and charm took the endeared crowd for a much appreciated trip down memory lane. No, he didn’t play Troubles, Troubles that day, but the memory of his performance come flashing back each time I listen to this record. His almost shy and innocent demeanor in the opening lines quickly gives way to winks of mischief and sly grins as this consummate showman growls about his “troubles wit’ da rent man” and his “troubles wit’ my wife.” And who else, besides perhaps The Louvin Brothers, could successfully contemplate suicide in the middle of such an up-tempo scorcher? Clarence “Frogman” Henry, dat’s who. | c.1956; Argo Records; 5259
** Special thanks go to my dear friend and creator of Floodwall, Jana Napoli, who gave me her very own copy of this treasure…a little bit of New Orleans that survived all that dirty water. **