Unavoidably labeled by many listeners as merely a poor man’s Fats Domino, Clarence “Frogman” Henry was much more than that. While he could mimic the Fatman as well as anyone, these tracks—recorded in Houston and Nashville between 1964 and 1981—included superb and influential swamp pop, honky tonk, pop, rock and dare we say reggae. After a successful run of Domino-styled discs for Chess, that style fell off the charts and Frogman got his walking papers in 1963. (Ironically, Henry’s R&B style fell from favor with the advent of the Beatles, but it was the Frogman who served as an opening act for the Fab Four on their initial American tour.) Henry then signed on with Huey Meaux in Texas, who placed Frog in a slightly different groove. A nice reprise of “Ain’t Got No Home” opens this but Henry’s New Orleans style was eventually adapted to a relaxed Gulf Coast groove.
Several tracks from this era are simply brilliant. The haunting ballads “Think It Over” and the country flavored “Cheatin’ Traces” were especially heartrending, while the jaunty title track included equal measures of Domino and fais do-do. But the real classic included in the early Houston sides was the Meaux-penned “Cajun Honey,” which was a Gulf Coast juke box favorite for decades.
Unfortunately, Henry’s five singles (issued on Parrot) didn’t sell much and by the late 1960s, his sessions were assigned to Buddy Killen’s Dial label in Nashville. The country-styled “Hummin’ A Heartache” and “That’s When I Guessed” were especially catchy, while “This Time” was a fine embodiment of country/swamp pop. Again the Dial singles did little and Henry retreated to Bourbon Street where he could work live gigs when he pleased. Meaux came back into the picture in the mid-’70s with a new label, Pla-Boy, and Henry was often served a diet of country—but it was damn good country. By the early 1980s, Henry’s tenure as a commercial recording artist came to an end, but thankfully the reissue market exploded. As previously stated, this one is worth more than one listen. Besides the old singles, there’s a plethora of unissued material and tracks from an out-of-print 1999 English import. I’d scoop this one up pdq as it’s a limited edition of 1,500 pressings and it won’t be around very long.