Book Excerpt: It's The Cowboy Way - The Amazing True Adventures of Riders In The Sky

Book: It's The Cowboy Way - The Amazing True Adventures of Riders In The Sky
Author: Don Cusic
Copyright: 2003
Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky
ISBN: 0-8131-2284-8

Noted Rhythm Guitarist "Ranger" Doug Green on Freddie Green's Influence

Page 18

"While I never learned to play solos, I became passionate about the sound of rhythm guitar and devoted myself to that muscular old-time rhythm guitar style of Freddie Green (no relation), who played with Count Basie, and other big band guitarists."

Pages 234 - 235

"I've really tried to do something that I don't think has been done in western music", observed Ranger Doug. "And that's to bring that Freddie Green pulse - he's the guy who played rhythm guitar for Count Basie who's just my total hero in terms of guitar playing - to western music. There's a lot of people who play a lot of chords. Karl Farr played fantastic chords, but his were more inspired off the Django Reinhardt mold of melody and half chords. But I'm all in the middle strings - the A and D strings - and bringing that certain mid-range sound to it. Which is exactly what Freddie Green did with Count Basie. If you listen to our later albums - the 'Tweetsie' album or the 'Monster's Inc' album or the 'Woody's Round-Up' album - you can hear the guitar making a different kind of statement, and it's giving a different kind of pulse than anyone else has done. We always go out and see all these other groups and there's all these people who play good guitar, but they're still playing the big six note chords and that's not what I do.

"Most of the time I'm just playing two or three notes, maybe four. That's all you need - you just need the leading tones in the right range because if you get too high you're in the fiddle range and if you get too low you're fighting the bass. So I'm just providing the middle sonic range and the pulse, which is an important part.

"I don't think in terms of - this is the (chord) name and number and the separation of fifths - I just play what sounds good and the form I think will work. It's much more visceral. I don't play tons of chords - there's a lot of guys out there who play a million chords. I play six or eight really good ones a night, just in different locations, and again that's very much a Freddie Green thing. I owe that to him - he wasn't a genius as far as doing incredible chord solos like Joe Pass or people like that. He was a genius at keeping the beat of the band and playing the right notes.

"Freddie Green played forty-three years [1] with Count Basie and never took a solo [2]", noted Ranger Doug. "You really start to hear Freddie come out in the Fifties. If you get the 'April In Paris' album, every time you hear a piano solo, that guitar is just so clear and so right. And it's nothing fancy, it's just the perfect pulse of the group."

Page 236

"I didn't get my first Stromberg until pretty late," continued Green.

"I had a chance to get one when I worked for Gruhn's (Guitars) for eight hundred dollars and then there was one down there when we were with Riders for eight thousand dollars. But I just couldn't afford it at the time - either one. Then about six years ago George Gruhn called and said, 'I've got two Strombergs down here, if you're interested.' By the time I got down there the Master 400 was sold but the Deluxe was still there. I played it and said, ' This is the best guitar I've ever played. I've got to have it.' So I traded a whole lot of stuff. That had to be in the mid-Nineties. Since then the Strombergs have become my passion.

"Stromberg died in 1954," continued Ranger Doug. "The guitars are valuable because they're so rare. There aren't that many people playing the style that Stromberg excels at. So they're just incredibly rare - he only made about 336, I think. And of those, the really good ones -
actually, they're all good - but they were a good guitar in the Thirties and a great guitar in the Forties. For that big-band style - if you want to sound like Freddie Green or any other of those guys that played in top swing bands - that's the only guitar that'll give you that sound. Epiphones are good, some Gibsons are really good, but the Stromberg just has that cutting quality that rises above an entire orchestra. Just listen to any Count Basie recording and you'll hear it [3]."

Editor's Notes:

[1] Freddie Green played with the Basie band for just one month shy of fifty years.

[2] There are a few recorded examples of Freddie Green chord solos and single note solos, but they are brief and extremely rare.

[3] Early in his career, Freddie played an Epiphone Emperor. He changed to a Stromberg in the 1940's; then changed to a Gretsch in the late 1950's for concerts. It is believed that Freddie continued to use the Stromberg for recording studio sessions.

The Style | Recordings | Biographical Info | Photos | Additional Info | Contact Us | Post Comments | Home Page