Herman Green Interview
From BB to Lionel Hampton, mentored by Coltrane, mentored Charles
Lloyd, recorded with Jimmie Vaughan, and performed with Miles, and
recently on the road with Bob Weir and Ratdog. Herman Green is one
For over 50 years saxophonist Herman Green has been on the scene in
various genre’s of music. Getting his start with the great BB King in
Memphis in 1947. When I recently had the opportunity to interview BB, I
asked Mr. King about Herman being his first sax player, BB corrected me
and said no, “Herman was my first good sax player.” The appreciation
of Herman’s playing continued while serving two stints in Lionel
Hampton’s band (58-62 & 63-67) getting opportunities to play with
Trane, and Miles, and hitting the south Jersey B3 circuit with Big John
Patton, who Herman told me convinced Big John to switch from piano to
B3! Recently Mr. Green has been seen on the road with Bob Weir’s
Ratdog, and at the end of 2002 recorded on Jimmie Vaughan’s Grammy
award winning cd, “Do You Get the Blues?”, as well as getting Jimmie
to return the favor on Herman’s, “Hernando Street Blues”. Both
recordings were done at the famous Ardent Studios in Herman’s hometown
of Memphis TN.
Amidst Herman Green’s whirlwind of activity, I recently had the
opportunity to meet Herman during my last visit to Memphis, who told me
he “had to see me accept the Keeping the Blues alive award for
radio”, to discuss Herman’s rich past, current and future projects.
Goldmine: Tell me about your days with BB King? In 1947 when BB
was playing around Memphis and DJ’ing at WDIA, I was introduced to BB
and stayed in his band for over two years. Those were fun days, we once
had to sneak in to my Dad’s church to borrow a guitar for a gig for
BB, and luckily we got it back in time before anyone noticed it was
Goldmine: When did you perform with Lionel Hampton, Miles, Trane, and
Marilyn Monroe? In 1955, after the Korean War, where I was pulled in
to “special services” to play my horn, and got the opportunity to
back Marilyn, really! After my release, I really had to urge to move to
San Francisco, and got a job working Bop City, and at the Black Hawk
Club, where I became the leader of the house band, and this is where I
was asked to back Miles. I later spent about 10 years with Lionel
Hampton and even got to play a solo on the Ed Sullivan show with
Hamp’s band on national television. Trane and I kept meeting on the
road, and Trane took a liking to me and mentored me as well, sharing
playing techniques and music theory starting around 1956 until near his
passing in 1967.
Goldmine: Being a Memphis musician, how is Hank Crawford doing these
days? Hank’s getting ready to play soon, and I got some dates with
Hank in the past in and around Memphis with Kirk Whalum as well.
Hank’s got that really signature sound, doesn’t he?
Goldmine: You were also friendly with the other fellow Memphis cats
like the Newborn’s? Yeah, I played in high school bands with
pianist Phineas, and recorded with guitarist Calvin Newborn, and did and
still do gigs with Calvin.
Goldmine: Memphis is very rich with great musicians, who else did you
work with? Well I mentored Charles Lloyd, and I worked with Willie
Mitchell, and recorded with George Coleman, Harold Mabern, and James
Williams on a project called, “The Memphis Convention” released by
Goldmine: What are your latest accomplishments? The Premier
Players award, getting the woodwind of the year, teacher of the year,
from the local NARAS chapter, I am a 3- time winner. I currently teach
at LeMoyne-Owen College for Jazz Studies as well.
Goldmine: What kind of community services do you do in Memphis? Mostly
nursing home performances, and local arts and crafts shows.
Goldmine: How did your latest Cd with Jimmie Vaughan “Hernando
Street Blues” come about? While my wife Rose was taking internet
courses, she met Jerry Atwood who wanted to record me at Ardent studios.
Jimmie was recording the eventual Grammy winning “Do You get the
Blues?” in the next studio, and heard our band, and said wow, you guys
sound great! And said he needed a flute player, so I did “Planet
Bongo” and another tune with him. When he wanted to pay me, I said no,
lets barter the tracks, and Jimmie played guitar on my Cd, “Hernando
Street Blues”. So Jimmie did, the title track, and “Highway 49”
for me, but my disc didn’t win a Grammy! More laughs.
Goldmine: When will your next Cd be released? Near the end of
2003. It will have a different direction than “Hernando Street
Blues” as it will be big band oriented, with more contemporary jazz on
Goldmine: So what’s your web site address? It’s http://www.losys.net/herman/.
And hey Bob, thanks for being a good friend, and for playing us up in
the Big Apple!
Herman, the pleasure is all mine!
NY Blues & Jazz Society
Radio Host @ WFDU’s, “Sounds of Blue"