E Street Band's Clarence Clemons Has 'Tall Tales'

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This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 23, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Even if you live in a cave, you have heard about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Our next guest knows about the band from the inside because he is in it.

E Street Band's Saxophonist Clarence "Big Man" Clemons just came out with the book titled "Big Man -- Real Life and Tall Tales." Tonight, he goes "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Let me start the beginning with the music. Why the saxophone? Why did you pick that? My guess is you would have been good at any instrument.

CLARENCE CLEMONS, SAXOPHONIST, E STREET BAND: My dad decided he wanted his son to be a saxophone player. The story is illustrated in the book, and it's a pretty funny story.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know the story, but you have to tell the viewers. You have to tease them to get your book.

CLEMONS: My father and mother went to see Phil Austin play, and this was back in the day and they had to walk a long way to get there to this place in northern Virginia.

And my father came back, and he told my mother, well, I am going to give the boy a saxophone for Christmas. She figured I wanted something else. He said, I am getting him a saxophone. I guess the rest is history.

After I found out how to put it together and I met King Curtis through records and my grandfather was in the church and the choir, and the music there stimulated me so much. And I wanted to do the same thing with my saxophone. And so right now, when I play, it all comes from my spiritual background.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you immediately love the saxophone? Did you take to it, or was it a little work?

CLEMONS: It was a little work. I quit for a year, and then I went back to it with a passion after I heard King Curtis play.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is a very raw book. You talk about drugs and sex. You also talk about -- I love the story about your first girlfriend, your high school girlfriend.

CLEMONS: I almost cry when I think about that. It is a very sad story. It is all part of growing up and learning about life, you know, and then having a saxophone to help heal those pains.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you ever wonder where that high school girlfriend is?

CLEMONS: I have no idea. I have a sneaky feeling one day I will see her. With modern day Facebook and all that stuff, I figure she will turn up one day. But then I'm not looking forward to it.

VAN SUSTEREN: My guess is that she probably knows what you have accomplished and wondered, you know, that was a misstep. I should have hung onto him.

CLEMONS: That is right. I get the last laugh.

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed you do.

So your life progressed. How did you meet Bruce Springsteen?

CLEMONS: I was in a band called the Joyful Noise, and the girl singer in the band kept telling me about this guy Bruce Springsteen. You will meet him and you guys are going to change history and rock 'n roll and change the music scene, and blah, blah, blah, every day. I got so tired of it.

And about a month later we were playing in the same town, I was playing in a place called the Wonder Bar, and he was playing at Student Prince. And I walked in there to check it out.

I went to open the door, and the wind blew the door right out of my hand. I was silhouetted with this thunder and lightning behind me. I said, is your name Bruce? He said, yes. I said, I want to sit in. He said anything you want, just don't hurt me.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is fun reading how this life has evolved in terms of this great stardom with this band. But I am curious, how about that hat? The guy that you traded the date for with the hat, do you still have that hat?


CLEMONS: That was in the gray pages of the book. But I still have the hat.

VAN SUSTEREN: I was curious whether that had vanished or if you cherish it. Not many women get traded for hats.

CLEMONS: The hat is still in my life and I don't have to trade it any more. I am very happily married and I'm a very happy guy right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why is this band so great? What is the difference, because it is not an easy business? And you guys just went to the top of the charts and stayed there.

CLEMONS: It is about love. We really love and respect each other and have a great boss. Bruce is a genius. And I love geniuses. And when you are around him, you respect him and you want to work. You want to do things and be part of his life. And it has just been such a great ride, and I really enjoyed the whole trip.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is he a natural genius or does he work at it? What is it?

CLEMONS: He is a natural working genius. He works at it and he is totally dedicated. His dedication is part of the reason why this band works and why we respect him so much.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about when the band broke up in '89 for 10 years? Was that a heart trick?

CLEMONS: That was a heartbreak. The story is in the book. I was in Japan when he called and said it was all over. I was on tour with Ringo. Ringo handed me the phone and said, it is Bruce. And Bruce said to me, "It's over."

I thought he meant the Ringo tour was over and I had to come home because he was writing new songs and we had to go back on the road or something .

He said, no, the band is over. I got very angry. I still get choked up with I think about it. I got very angry. Then I got mad and I got angry and I got mad.

And finally the reality of it all settled down and I thought it was a good idea. It was not a great idea. I knew we would get back together.

But it gave me a chance to go out and do some things on my own. He had opened so many doors for me and gave me an opportunity to do other things. And I did. And I got the call 10 years later. But I knew the call would come.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was it like when he called 10 years later, and what was like to get back on stage with the band?

CLEMONS: The first day, the day he called and told me, I was getting ready for my birthday. I invite all these people to my house. I got the call and I had to leave the next day.

So the people came to my party, I was not there. I guess they were still wondered around my yard, wondering where I was.

But anyway, I caught a plane and went to New York. I came to New York. I felt weird. I felt kind of strange. It was the anticipation of what everybody else was feeling.

But as soon as we all got together, it was like we never left. It was a wonderful thing to be back together. It was like a family reunion. It was just so wonderful being back, and being back in his arms again.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tell me what it is like to be onstage. I should ask you, what is your favorite song? And what is it like on stage when you first start hitting those notes?

CLEMONS: The stage is what I call the "healing floor." I have had several operations on my knees and legs. I became the $6 million man about eight years ago. It has been more and more since then.

But being on that stage, everything goes away, all the pain, all the other stuff goes away, and you become a part of something that is so great.

Adrenaline is a pretty good drug, too. It kind of helps you get through it. And I just get so excited every time we go out. Every time we are out there, I am so excited in my heart, and the love and the camaraderie with the band.

It's like a family. It is like a family reunion every time we walk out on the stage.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where did the name come from, E Street Band? I know it is in the book, but tell the viewers where the name came from.

CLEMONS: David Sanchez was in the band. Some of the older people might remember. David Sanchez was a member of the band, and he was the last person we picked up whenever we went somewhere. And he was always not ready. We always had to sit there and wait for Davey.

And he lived on E Street in Belmont, New Jersey. And so we found ourselves sitting there on E Street, and somebody said one day, "Well, here we are, the E Street Band." And it stuck.

VAN SUSTEREN: And in describing your work, which word? "Fun" or "work"?

CLEMONS: Fun. It is always fun. It is a joy to be out there, you know, doing what we do. It is just so much fun, because you can see people's faces. And people always say what a great time it is and how they feel.

When you come to a show, you should leave with something that's really positive. And that's what we try to do with our music, turning people on with a few minutes of joy in their life, especially in the world today.


VAN SUSTEREN: Clemons book is out now, or you can catch the E Street Band on their "Working on a Dream" tour if you can score tickets, if you're lucky enough.

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