ASBURY PARK, N.J. — Scores of fans gathered Sunday at a legendary rock club to mourn the death and celebrate the life and music of saxophonist Clarence Clemons.
The Stone Pony in Asbury Park was the place where Mr. Clemons, Bruce Springsteen and other E Street band mates got their musical starts. A makeshift vigil was created at the club late Saturday as word spread of Mr. Clemons‘ death from complications of a stroke he had suffered about a week earlier at his home in Singer Island, Fla.
Flowers, a candle and a handwritten sign saying “RIP Big Man” - his nickname making note of his physical size, stage presence and booming sax notes - soon sprouted outside the building, and more items were added throughout the night and on Sunday. By Sunday afternoon, the stage was adorned with Clemons photos as fans lined up to snap pictures and leave flowers to honor the musician.
Gary Mottola, who owns the Stone Pony, said Sunday that the E Street Band was “the soul of Asbury Park” and that Mr. Clemons was the soul of the band. Fans at the club had similar views, fondly recalling the impact Mr. Springsteen and Mr. Clemons had on their lives.
“One of our first dates was a Bruce concert,” said Cyndi Matts of Little Silver, recalling the night more than a quarter-century ago when she and her now-husband heard the band perform “Jungleland.” “When he had that solo and everyone put their hands up - it still gives me chills,” she said.
Kyle Brendle, the house promoter at the Stone Pony, said the last time Mr. Clemons performed at the club was at a solo show in summer 2006.
Mr. Clemons‘ raucous sax solos helped define the Jersey shore sound of the ‘70s and ‘80s. He was a vital part of the E Street Band and loyally worked for decades with Mr. Springsteen, whom he met in 1971 on the New Jersey bar band circuit.
“We are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years,” Mr. Springsteen said on his website.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, an avowed Springsteen fan, said in a statement Sunday that “Clarence Clemons represented the soul and spirit of New Jersey … when I heard about the Big Man’s passing on Saturday night, I was struck with an overwhelming feeling that the days of my youth were now finally over. My condolences to Clarence’s family and all the members of the E Street Band.”