My sisters and I are on this Binghamton-specific group on Facebook. This woman that I do not know, in response to my sister posting a photo of our father, asked, “Is that Les Green the musician? If it is he worked with us at Hillside Garden Center at holidays.” This was possible; he had a lot of jobs, including working at Costas Flower Shop.
Then a guy we don’t know mentioned, “Must have been a popular man at the time. He was all over the news in the 1960’s.” He pointed me to http://www.fultonhistory.com/, which I had come across before.
But when I typed in “LES GREEN”, I discovered something interesting; there was another singing Les Green.
Avon NY Herald News 1979-1980
“LES GREEN, a tenor soloist, formerly from Syracuse, now from Charlotte, North Carolina, will present a Concert of Sacred Songs at Avon Wesleyan Church, Wednesday, October 31, at 7:30 p.m. Les originally moved from upstate New York to add his clear, high tenor voice to the professional quartet “The Envoys.” Together with “The Envoys” Les has appeared on talk shows such as the “PTL Club” and the “700 Club.” He has also shared the concert stage with names like the Blackwood Brothers, Inspirations, Imperials, Andrea Crouch. Everyone is cordially invited.”
So ANOTHER guy named Les Green, from upstate New York, was a singer, and they BOTH moved to Charlotte, NC? Were they aware of each other? My father took a while to do public singing, outside of the church, when he moved south, so possibly not.
The story with the pic above, from October 1960, began:
“Binghamton’s Les Green qualifies as a rarity among folk singers on several counts. He “doesn’t play the guitar,” by his own account. He doesn’t like Calypso music. He prefers working school and social club dates to night club engagements. He likes to talk about folk songs almost more than he likes to sing them.”
This IS largely true. He never learned the “correct” way to play the guitar, but he was effective using it, nonetheless. He hated nightclubs and bars, and anywhere there was drinking because he wanted to be a storyteller, spin his tales to enhance the singing of the songs, providing context.
“Mr. Green, a 6 foot, 2-inch man of 33, sang in light, sweet head tones, breaking up the tempo to emphasize the storyline of his songs. He also interrupted his singing to talk some of the lines. The guitar was well in the background, marking the rhythms and occasionally spraying chords. The children were invited to join in the singing, and they did.”
He was big on audience participation, whether entertaining children or adults.
This story is also about Dad:
Binghamton NY Press Grayscale 1962
…May 1, 1962 Folk Songs With Feeling Les Green Scores On Melodic Road. Les Green, traveled high, wide and handsome last night…
It’s easier to read than for me to capture electronically, but here are some excerpts:.
“For two hours and more… Added to this, he has a baritone voice powerful enough to line out ‘The Road to Mandalay,’ if he wanted to, which he doesn’t. Mr. Green has perfect control over this voice, the ability to slide without erring in pitch, the gift of spinning thin head tones, the sadness and worry, and hope… Most of the songs are not too well known, songs like “Passing Through,” “Midnight Special,” “Two Brothers” and “Michael.”
“Last night the turnout was not large, which dampened somewhat Mr. Green’s habit of bringing the audience into it to sing some of the choruses with him. The concert, for the benefit of the Women’s Club of Trinity AME Zion Church, will be repeated tonight, at 8 o’clock. Mr. Green, in his feeling for style and in the vocal equipment he has to achieve the sounds he wants, is a major league talent in a field that often seems to be dominated by adenoidal or asthmatic types content with making quaint sounds in the name of folk art.”
He was REALLY good at what he did.
Dad would have been 91 tomorrow.