Book Excerpt: Good Morning Blues: The Autobiography of Count Basie

Book: Good Morning Blues: The Autobiography of Count Basie
Author: William "Count" Basie
Copyright: 1985
Publisher: Donald I. Fine, Inc. - New York
ISBN: 0-917657-89-6

page 186 - Basie meets and hires Freddie Green

Of course, John Hammond was there, and he was doing everything he could to help. He was always bringing somebody in there to hear us, and there were also a few things he wanted us to hear. That's John. He always had something he wanted somebody to hear. To this day. So anyway, while we were in the Roseland, John told me something about a young guitarist. He said he thought this guy would be good for the band, and he'd like for me to meet him, and if I'd like, after one of the breaks he'd like for me to hear him play.

That seemed kind of funny. He wanted me to audition a guitarist. I hadn't been used to a guitar in the band except when the Fiddler (Claude Williams) would put his violin down and strum the guitar. I'd always been used to hearing a banjo. Like Buster Berry in Bennie Moten's band, and Rueben Roddy in the Blue Devils, and the other little groups that were around all had banjos. So this was something that was a little strange to me at the time.

I don't know why the hell I didn't remember Cliff McTier, who played guitar in the band I had in the Cherry Blossoms and took down to Little Rock, Arkansas, because Cliff was a hell of a guitar player. But for some reason that must have slipped my mind, and I'm talking about the same Cliff McTier that I just heard in Oklahoma City in the same show with Roy Eldridge.

Anyway, when John Hammond brought this man in there, I said, "Why don't we just play," and we just played maybe one song with a couple of choruses, and when I heard that much, I knew that was all that was necessary. There wasn't any need for anything else. Because if I was going to use a guitar, that would be it, because that would be just what I would want to hear. And that is how I met Freddie Green.

Freddie was working is a club called the Black Cat and, although I didn't know it at the time, so was a very good-looking dancer named Catherine Morgan, who had first caught my eye back when I was working with Bennie Moten and we played on the same bill with the Whitman Sisters. Anyway, I hired Freddie when we came out of Roseland, and he went to Pittsburgh with us. By the way, I don't think that addition hurt Fiddler any at all. First of all, Fiddler didn't give a darn anyway. He wanted to leave anyway, and the guitar wasn't what he wanted to play. He wasn't getting enough work. He really wasn't used to being tied down to just playing the guitar in a band. He only used to play the guitar now and then. The fiddle was his instrument. We got together on that, Fiddler and I, and that is why we have always stayed good friends right on up to this day. He really wanted his own thing, and there is no problem about him getting a gig. He went back to the Midwest or anywhere else and got a gig. I don't remember exactly when he cut out, but I do know that he was still in the band when we went to Pittsburgh, because he's on the air checks of those broadcasts we made during the time we were there. Those are his violin solos on "Lady Be Good" and "St. Louis Blues".

page 259 - Freddie Green gets arrested

I don't remember very much about working out at the (movie) studio, only that Freddie Green went out there (Hollywood) and got locked up. I think that was when we were working on "Reveille with Beverly (a movie starring Ann Miller). Whenever it was, we went out on intermission or something, and he didn't have his draft card and couldn't get back in. Green likes to shop. When we are traveling, every time the bus stops somewhere for a while, he gets off and goes shopping. He likes to walk and shop. Any two minutes he gets, boom, he's gone!

But this time they caught him. When we came back on the set, nobody knew where the hell he was. He was out somewhere in the street looking in the windows, walking. They checked him out and he didn't have his card, so they picked him up and took him to jail, and when he didn't make it back in time to do the scene, (Henry) Snodgrass had to sit in and fake it on guitar. Freddie got out later on, but for a while we didn't know what happened to him.

page 274 - Freddie writes a novelty tune

That was our first session under our new contract with RCA Victor, and four of the five things we did were vocals. We made two blues: Anne Moore on "Me and the Blues", Jimmy Rushing on "Brand-New Wagon." Then there was the band doubling as a vocal chorus on "Free Eats", a little novelty written by Freddie Green and Snooky Young; and we did Dusty Fletcher's old vaudville hit called "Open the Door, Richard," with Sweets (Edison) doing Dusty's part with Bill Johnson as the straight man. The only instrumental was "Bill's Mill", with Paul Gonsalves doing a nice little get-off chorus.

page 283 - Freddie rejoins Basie

When we came back to New York, we became a septet. We didn't include Freddie Green in that group that we took out to Chicago, but when we got back he just came on in on his own. One night we were playing somewhere in midtown, and I came to work and there he was with his guitar and everything.

"What the hell are you doing here?" I asked. And he just looked at me and looked at the wall or out in space or somewhere and shook his head."

"What the hell do you mean what am I doing here? You working tonight, aren't you?" And that was it, and he's been right there ever since."

page 340 - Sam Herman substitutes for Freddie:

Later on that fall, we cut a second album of originals that Benny Carter laid on us. "The Legend" was the title of the album. By the way, Benny Carter himself also sat in on alto on those sessions, but he wouldn't take any solos. He just didn't think it was fair to take even one solo away from a regular member of the band. Hell, the only reason he sat in at all was because Marshall Royal had to be absent to take care of a family emergency. So he just sat in as a favor to me, so we wouldn't have to go out and hire a replacement for Marshall; and what actually happened was that Frank Wess shifted from second to first alto, and Benny played second for Frank. Incidentally, another substitution in our lineup for that album was on guitar. Freddie had to be away, so Sam Herman sat in for him.

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