This is the kind of itinerant musician who was – for a short time anyway – right at home in rock ‘n’ roll.

Though reliant more on raw talent than acquired proficiency, a cross-section of club musicians and those who only dreamed of working steady enough in clubs to be called that, as they spent more of their time working house rent parties and other amateur gigs, they were eager to make records in whatever raucous style you needed.

They wouldn’t necessarily last long on the scene, but while they were there they did give it some color and came away with a few records to call their own and some stories to tell as they got older.

Some even, as with Clarence Green, managed to get an actual career out of it even though most in America were unaware of it.


Two Of A Kind
Since there were multiple Clarence Greens in music at the same time from almost the same place, we should tell you this Clarence Green was a pianist who’d grown up in Galveston, Texas where he had learned the instrument from his mother.

He was NOT the guitarist who was from nearby Houston who went on to a long but not always fruitful career of his own, mostly on the local club scene ironically, but with some session work and a few singles scattered along the way.

But THIS Clarence Johnson, later known as “Candy” Green from a nickname he picked up in the Army because the girls found him so sweet, had an early flurry of recording activity before frustration with the industry set in and he wound up in much the same boat as the other guy with the same name, except this Green sustained a career in music by heading to other countries, first Mexico for a stretch in the late 1950’s before heading to Europe where he continued to play regularly for three decades.

It’s doubtful that no matter how well received he was over there, that many had a copy of his debut single on Eddie’s Records, which may have sold as many as sixty or seventy copies in its day.

The flip side of this was called Galveston Blues, in honor of his hometown, but already Green was a man on the move having served in the Merchant Navy for three years in his late teens.

Now, still 19 years old, he signed with the latest start-up label in Houston and with a band that featured future member of Roy Brown’s Mighty Might Men, the great Johnny Fontenette on tenor sax, he cut Green’s Bounce a ramshackle instrumental that is crude in some ways, but surprisingly tight for a teenager entering a studio for the first time.

If nothing else it’s got heart enough to spare.

Two Leads, One Record
The first half of the record features Green showing off his chops on the keyboards. Unlike fellow teenage pianist Little Willie Littlefield, who was the first signing of Eddie Henry, there’s no attempt here to outrace the devil.

That may make Green’s Bounce a good deal less exciting than Little Willie’s Boogie, but it’s a fuller performance thanks to the band he’s working with and the construction of the song.

Green’s skills as a pianist are evident here even if he’s playing rather modestly. At times he shows really good instincts, his pregnant pauses are well thought out and he shifts from hammering away on the keys to playing lighter and more melodic passages without stumbling over the transitions.

At other times though he gets a little clumsy and hits two keys at once – probably nerves or just no chance for a second take – but it doesn’t take away from the performance much and by the time he hands off to Fontenette you’re reasonably impressed with what you’ve heard, even if it still sounds more like somebody auditioning for a spot in a band and trying to show what he’s capable of rather than a kid who’s essentially passed a different kind of audition which resulted in making his first record.

The sax that we’ll soon be thrilled to hear honking away behind Brown – another kid who got his start as a professional musician in Galveston a few years earlier – is not quite fully in command of his faculties yet. Mostly he’s using a more ghostly tone, indicating he’s not sure how forcefully he should be blowing. It almost sounds like an alto at times, but as he goes on he gets more vigorous in what he plays and it’s clear he’s got a good musical foundation under him as his solo never wanders, never loses its way and never strains too hard to impress.

By the time Green comes back down the stretch to handle the lead role until this fades out you’ve been reasonably won over by them. Even bassist Horace Richmond gets a brief soloing spot and – since we may never get another chance to print his name – drummer Rigs Bolden mans the drums with a steady hand.

Nothing spectacular here, but nor is it deserving of being skipped over altogether. They know what they’re doing at any rate and you’ll at least get your nickels worth at the jukebox.

Long Odds
Listening to this modest but efficient record made by a kid with a novice band on an inexperienced record label you wouldn’t have predicted stardom for Clarence Green but I’m not so sure knowing those factors going into this you’d be surprised that he was able to spend the rest of his life as a working musician.

Considering the number of young artists emerging at the time who would’ve loved to have had the same shot at a career that he had, Green’s Bounce is a pretty decent calling card for what would follow.

Granted it wasn’t a career filled with flashbulbs popping, insatiable groupies and autograph hounds tracking your every move, but it was sure better than working in the oil fields around south Texas for the rest of your days.


(Visit the Artist page of Clarence Green for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)