Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, ‘Ain’t Got No Home’ singer, dead at 87

Clarence "Frogman" Henry

NEW ORLEANS — Clarence “Frogman” Henry, an R&B singer from New Orleans whose croaking, frog-like voice at age 19 made the 1956 song “Ain’t Got No Home” a novelty hit, died Sunday. He was 87.

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Henry died at University Medical Center in his hometown from complications following back surgery, one of his daughters confirmed to NOLA.com.

The singer had been scheduled to perform at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival later this month, according to The Associated Press.

“Frogman’s absence at the upcoming 2024 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will be deeply felt, as he was scheduled to grace the stage on local’s Thursday with the New Orleans Classic Recording Revue,” the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation said in a statement. “Rest in peace, Frogman.”

In 1956, Henry imitated a frog sound in “Ain’t Got No Home.” In addition to being a hit at the time, the song enjoyed a resurgence when it was featured on the “Forrest Gump” and “Mickey Blue Eyes” soundtracks, the news organization reported.

The singer was 15 when he got his first piano, telling WWL-TV in 2021 that “my mama made me pay for it.” He washed cars to pay for the instrument.

It was a sound investment, even though the $610 price tag at Hall Piano in Metairie was steep for the 1950s, NOLA.com reported. Henry would perform through the years with notable musicians in the Big Easy and toured with The Beatles as an opening act for nearly three weeks in 1964, according to WWL.

Born in New Orleans’ 7th Ward in 1937, Henry’s family moved to the lower coast of Algiers. He was still in high school when he joined Bobby Mitchell’s band, the Toppers, NOLA.com reported.

He recorded “Ain’t Got No Home,” which came from an improvisation one night at a club. Henry sang in his normal voice, in falsetto and also mimicked a croak of a frog, according to the news outlet.

Henry told NOLA.com in a 2022 interview that he created the frog voice as a way to tease girls. He achieved the croaky sound by inhaling and singing at the same time.

Released by Argo Records, “Ain’t Got No Home” rose to No. 3 on the national R&B charts and cracked the Top 10 on the national pop charts, according to NOLA.com.

“I thought the sun would shine. I thought my record would always stay out there and stay on the top, but in 1958, the rain came and bring me back to New Orleans,” Henry told the AP in a 2003 interview.

He followed up that hit with a cover of Bobby Charles’ “(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do,” which charted in 1961. Henry scored a top-20 hit later that year with “You Only Hurt the One You Love.”

Henry opened for The Beatles for 18 dates during their first U.S. trip in 1964 with the Bill Black Combo and the Jive Five, the AP reported. That included one date in New Orleans, according to NOLA.com. He also toured worldwide, from Scotland to New Zealand.

“I saw things with The Beatles that I had never seen before on tour,” Henry told OffBeat in 2004. “Doctors and nurses and ambulances all around at every show. A lot of towns put us out, we’d get in there and they’d get us out of there. We’d play, but after we finished, that was it: get to the plane and get to the next city.”

Henry was married and divorced seven times, according to NOLA.com. He was still in high school the first time he tied the knot and some marriages lasted only a few days. He married one woman twice, the news outlet reported.

His home was badly damaged by Hurricane Ida in 2021, NOLA.com reported. Henry, whose mobility had been severely limited, slept on a sofa amid mold-covered walls until friends and fans learned of his situation. Volunteers and donations helped repair his home and replace his furnishings, according to the news outlet.

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