L is for Les, Leslie and Roger, the Green Family Singers

“We all have a knack for singing, and we do relatively little rehearsing… We’ve even sung songs spontaneously and they come out as if they’ve been practiced.”

My sister MARCIA found this and put it on Facebook:

It’s a promo sheet my father created for himself as a “singer of folk songs,” never as a “folk singer,” which was too limiting a term for him.

I’m particularly interested in the setlist, I’m guessing from the late 1950s. Some of the songs he was still singing a decade later, when my father, sister Leslie, and I sang together, while there are others (Twenty Souls) I don’t even recognize. I’m always fascinated to hear other people sing the songs he, or we, performed, such as Cindy (Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer), Sinnerman (some early incarnation of Three Dog Night), and Hole in the Bucket, which Leslie and I stole from Dad (Harry Belafonte).

I must say we were pretty darned good, but Dad had a natural excellence, not just in singing, but in introducing the songs, that was very appealing to audiences. From an interview from February 23, 1970, Binghamton Press: “I’ll never sing a folk song publicly without explaining the reason behind the song, whether it relates to history or folklore. And I also have to explain my feelings to an audience… [so that they can] understand the emotions behind a song.”

Leslie Green, Roger Green, Les Green

If memory serves – it often doesn’t – I started singing one or two songs with Dad on stage, definitely including the Car Song (“Daddy, won’t you take me for a ride in the car?”)

During the summer of 1966 or, more likely, 1967, the family, Dad noted, was “camping at one of the local sites. In the evening, we were sitting around the campfire and I brought out my guitar and Leslie hers. We started strumming and singing and harmonizing. Before we knew it, other families who were camping nearby wandered over. And before we knew it, everyone was joining in. The owners of the camping site booked us for the next summer.”

The story noted that Leslie and I had brought in some of the recent folk-rock songs into the repertoire. It also said that, during the interview, while Dad strummed his guitar, I pulled out a comb and a piece of paper and “began playing a blues melody,” with Leslie playing bongos.

As Dad explained: “We all have a knack for singing, and we do relatively little rehearsing… We’ve even sung songs spontaneously and they come out as if they’ve been practiced. And every time we do a song, we do it differently.”

ABC Wednesday – Round 13

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

32 thoughts on “L is for Les, Leslie and Roger, the Green Family Singers”

  1. Oh what a wonderful look into your life and past. I love soft introductions to folk songs. I think the whole point is the ‘folk’ and those introductions always seemed to help me as a listener/viewer be more of a participant. Great post, thanks.

  2. Oh wow, Roger! Sounds like you had a pretty nice family life when you were young(er)…lol Wish I could have heard you all then.

    abcw team

  3. Aren’t you all just a little Von Trapp family!! Or maybe the Jacksons….or The Partridge Family….oops, did I date myself?

  4. I didn’t realise that I have been communicating with a celebrity! Brilliant! i wish I could hear you! I love folk music! Have a great week Roger

  5. thank you for sharing these wonderful memories! were recordings made by your family? I loved folk songs; I had several LPs of Peter, Paul and Mary and other folk singers.

  6. Thanks for sharing Roger. Those were some good times singing together with you and Dad. Definitely was a strong foundation for my love of harmony. We need to sing together again soon. Much love.

  7. Love the family history and picture, Roger. Also, isn’t it great that “Man of Constant Sorrow” was given new life in the Coen Bros. movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Amy

  8. Amy – my dad’s Constant Sorrow was WAY different from the O Brother; much more somber.

  9. Love this post. It makes me think of my stepfather. He loved folk songs, and always had such a joyful look on his face while he sang. Thanks for sharing this.

  10. I think it’s so great you got to sing along side your Dad, which you can tell by your writing that you adored him. Singing and playing families are such a treat, my hubby and son both play the guitar and my granddaughter who is 9 is learning to play.

  11. I didn’t know that you are coming from such a musical family ! It’s a pity that I can’t hear you all singing together !

  12. I love this, Roger, and I recognize many of the songs, too, some of them my favorites…Shenandoah, Worried Man, Sinnerman, Do Lord, and of course Kum Ba Yah (which everyone my age remembers, whether they want to or not).
    I’m so glad your sister found this. We have one or two musical memories of our dad, too, but my sister and I could never learn to sing. Dad and both brothers are musical, and Mom could whistle like a bird, any tune we’d ask her to do, but the musical gene missed me and my sister. We used to say we could clear everyone, including pets, out of the house as soon as we started to sing “O Susannah” while doing the dishes.

  13. My dad was a singer of folk songs too, although I’m sure not so accomplished as you and your father. He sang mostly for his family or church groups, and sometimes around a campfire somewhere in the wilderness (like Webster Park). He sang songs like “Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night”, “Billy Barlow”, and “Clementine”. Love the memories.

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