Freddie Green Obituary: Los Angeles Times


Rhythm guitarist Freddie Green, the "pulse" of the Count Basie orchestra for half a century, died Sunday in Las Vegas of an apparent heart attack. He was 75.

Green, acknowledged as having the longest held job in jazz history, had been in the band since March, 1937. His final performance with the band was with singer Tony Bennett Saturday night in Las Vegas.

A crucial player in what became known as "the all-American rhythm section," Green was also known as "Pep" and "Basie's left hand."

The consummate rhythm guitarist, Green, a quiet and unassuming man, seldom soloed. He believed that his role was to provide the steady pulse behind the band's soloists and ensembles.

Los Angeles Times jazz critic Leonard Feather, who was helping organize a surprise tribute for Green in Los Angeles later this month to celebrate his 50th anniversary with the band, called Green's death the "end of an era." He noted that Green was the last surviving member of a rhythm section that once included Basie on piano, Jo Jones on drums and Walter Page on bass.

"He was admired as the greatest rhythm man in the business and the pulse of the Basie band," Feather said. The tribute to Green, which was planned for the band's March 19 opening at the Wilshire Theatre, may now be turned into a memorial, Feather said.

Band member Bill Hughes, who described Green as "the main cog in the machinery," said his presence in the 17-member band will be sorely missed.

Green, born March 31, 1911, in Charleston, S.C., attended high school in New York City. Other than a few music lessons taken as a youngster, Green taught himself to play guitar. As a young professional, he made the rounds of Harlem and Greenwich Village clubs before joining Basie in 1937. And except for a few brief absences, he stayed.

Green recorded regularly with the Basie band and also as a free-lance musician with the Benny Goodman orchestra, Lionel Hampton, Pee Wee Russell and others.

"He was a reserved kind of man who didn't need the limelight, but who did his own thing and was happy doing it," said his son, Al, of San Diego. Green, who was twice widowed, is also survived by two daughters, Miriam Nicolls and Ruby Green, both of New York City. His funeral will be held at St. Peter's Church in New York City on Friday.

Source: Los Angeles Times
Date: March 4, 1987
Author: Marita Hernandez
Copyright: 1987

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