Swingmobil - Jazz Music For Children

written and presented by Gudrun Endress
Broadcast Sunday, 8 March 1987

Hi there, today you're going to hear the story of a guitarist who played with the same band, the Count Basie Orchestra, for half a century. His name is Freddie Green. He was born Frederic Green in South Carolina in 1911. He began playing the guitar at the age of twelve and, as a young man, went to New York City to begin a carreer. He was soon engaged in a small club but made no more than eleven dollars a week. Count Basie, already conducting his own orchestra at the time, came to that club one night. He had been told an excellent rhythm guitarist was playing there. And after the Count himself had heard Freddie Green play he told him "You've just got hold of a job – in my orchestra!" You can imagine Freddie Green's joy, as Count Basie's orchestra was just having its first promising successes, they were playing on radio shows and made professional recordings. Now you're waiting to listen to the Count Basie Orchestra? Here is a title that was recorded four weeks after Freddie Green had joined the band.

Title: The Glory of Love (Hill) – Count Basie Orchestra, Coral COPS 6596/1

That's the sound of the Count Basie Orchestra in March 1937 when Freddie Green had just joined the band. It may not be easy to hear that – apart from Count Basie's piano, the bass and the drums - there is also a guitar in the rhythm section. A guitarist of Freddie Green's standing never tried to push himself up front. Most of all, he aimed at contributing to the overall sound of the orchestra. Freddie, who died last week, played an unamplified guitar all his life. He didn't like loud amplifiers or any electronic devices which only would have marred the natural sound of his acoustic guitar. I'll play you now a record featuring just the Basie orchestra's rhythm section with piano, guitar, bass and drums. It was considered the All-American- Rhythm-Section, the one with the most natural and easy swing. The title you'll hear played by the quartet is "Boogie Woogie".

Title: Boogie Woogie (Smith) – Count Basie Rhythmsection, Coral COPS 6596/2

They were the dream rhythm section of the thirties: Count Basie on piano, Freddie Green on guitar, Walter Page on bass and Jo Jones on drums. You've just listened to the four play "Boogie Woogie". The quartet was not only famed for their especially springy swing but also for their distinguished, individual sound. Count Basie spoke of his rhythm guitarist as a "tie-up man", who kept the band's sound together. This was demonstrated for over five decades of "Freddie Guitar" playing with the band. Here's a slow blues tune from the sixties as performed by the Basie orchestra. It's called "Kansas City Wrinkles". Kansas City has always had a special importance for the Basie band as it was there that their worldwide success began.
Title: Kansas City Wrinkles (Quincy Jones) – Count Basie Orchestra, Verve V6-8549
Rhythm guitarist Freddie Green's playing wasn't easily discernible through all those trumpets, trombones, saxophones and the sound from the piano, bass and drums, but his continuing effort lent a reliable, steady heartbeat to Basie's music. You've just listened to the Basie band playing a slow blues tune titled "Kansas City Wrinkles". Well, since last week the Basie orchestra must tour and play without its long-time rhythm guitarist because, as mentioned earlier, Freddie Green has died. And from now on it will be obvious to listeners that he's no longer with the band. Three decades ago, Freddie Green did a recording session with a smaller setup, and guess what he played? It was rhythm guitar, of course, no soloing. Hear for yourselves.

Title: Down For Double (Freddie Green) – Freddie Green Group, RCA EPC – 1210-1

So this was Mr Rhythm, as Freddie Green, the world's best rhythm guitarist was often called, together with six friends having a go at "Down For Double". Many musicians queued for Freddie Green's cooperation, but he always favoured the Count Basie Orchestra. It was only when he wasn't touring with the orchestra that he performed or recorded with other bands as well. Freddie had a lot of team spirit, he never pushed himself into the foreground, he always supported the other players, making them sound good, and he had been faithful to Count Basie's orchestra for a lifetime.

(crossed out lines on page 3 and 4 are not translated)

Every now and then, Freddie Green wrote his own material for the Basie orchestra. He used to jot his ideas down on any scrap of paper available because he often had new ideas in most unlikely moments. "Corner Pocket" is such a title. Can you guess how it got its name? He had kept the tune waiting on a slip of notepaper in his trouser pocket for a while when one day, in the middle of a band meeting, he unearthed it from the corner of his pocket, hence the name. Here's Freddie Green's "Corner Pocket" in a performance he played with a Count Basie Orchestra all-star setup in Leonberg last year.

Title: Corner Pocket (Freddie Green) – Tribute to Basie All Stars, Jan., 21, 1987, TJ Leonberg,

You've been listening to "Swingmobil", hosted by Gudrun Endress. Today's issue was about rhythm guitarist Freddie Green.

Translated by Michael Daimler, Aachen, 2001

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