“Partly truth and partly fiction”


Les and Roger Green, 1953
The more I learn about my late father Les Green, the more I want to know. “He’s a walking contradiction. Partly truth and partly fiction” is a line from a Kris Kristofferson song. His life was very complicated.

Did he know that the Reverend Raymond Cone was his biological father? Surely, the pastor was not in dad’s life. What kind of teasing did he have to endure?

Or was his lineage hidden from most people? In the 1930 Census, when he was three and a half, he was listed as the son, rather than the grandson, of Samuel and Eugenia Walker. And he was mistakenly listed as Wesley Walker, an error that wasted some research time and money by my sisters and me.

Agatha Walker and McKinley Green were married in April 1931. How and when did they meet? And why were they separated for the latter half of the 1930s? According to the 1940 Census, Agatha Greene and Leslie Greene – the surnames were misspelled – were back with Samuel and Mary.

There is a picture of a group of Boy Scouts and their dads in a 1942 Binghamton newspaper. Les and McKinley are included in the group. But it wasn’t until 1944 when Les was 18, he got a new birth certificate, with McKinley listed as the father. It notes McKinley’s age in 1944, rather than in Les’ birth year of 1926. But Agatha’s age is properly 24, her age when Les was born.

Race matters

I’ve mentioned my father’s ambivalence about serving in post-war Germany. It was due to the racism, not of the German people but of the white GIs. He also experienced colorism from his future in-laws, the Yates, since he was much darker than they were.

If he was a bit of a standoffish father early on, could it have been a result of the miscarriage my mother experienced in April 1951? It would have been a boy. Maybe it’s why he made sure that I was named for no one else. Yet he named his first daughter after himself.

He may have been the most gregarious person I’ve known in a public setting. Yet, sometimes at home, he was dubbed by my sisters and me, as the “black cloud” who seemed to suck the oxygen out of the room. This was true mostly when we were growing up, but we experienced it as late as 1997.

Some people are who they are almost all of the time. I think our mom was like that. Then there was our dad, who was…complicated. We wish we could ask him questions about all of these things. But the items about his youth, for instance, we really didn’t understand until he passed.

Les Green would have been 94 tomorrow.

K is for Kris Kristofferson

“He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction”

kristoffersonI happened to get an issue of Rolling Stone magazine this year, and there’s a story called Kris Kristofferson: An Outlaw at 80, about how “one of the greatest songwriters of all time (covered by Johnny Cash… Elvis Presley and some 500 others)” was experiencing an “increasingly debilitating memory loss.” It turns out it wasn’t Alzheimer’s or dementia, but Lyme disease.

His first album, released as Kristofferson in 1970, was rereleased, with a nicer cover, a year later, as Me and Bobby McGee, named for the posthumous #1 song by Janis Joplin that he wrote. Some of the songs on that album include Help Me Make It Through the Night, For the Good Times, and Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, all hits for other people.

His second album, The Silver Tongued Devil and I, featured Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again), a minor hit for Roger Miller, and got to #26 on the pop charts for Kristofferson. It also contains my favorite Kris Kristofferson lyrics, from The Pilgrim, Chapter 33:

He’s a poet, an’ he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, an’ he’s a pusher
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned
He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction
Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home

His biggest single recording was Why Me, which got to #16 in 1973, from his fourth album, Jesus Was a Capricorn. He also recorded with his second wife Rita Coolidge.

Kris Kristofferson is also an actor, appearing in several films, before becoming a Movie Star in A Star is Born, with Barbra Streisand.

Now that he has most of his memory back, he’s listening to the old songs again, “to get reacquainted with his life’s work. ‘It just takes you back like a picture of something would,’ he says. ‘I was also interested in seeing if they still sounded good to me,’ he continues. ‘I’ve been pleasantly surprised, particularly with this one.’ He points to his third album, Border Lord. ‘I can remember at the time being so disappointed at the reception it got.’

“His wife [since 1983, Lisa] sits to his left and looks at him, beaming at his recall. ‘To me, the song is what matters, not necessarily the performances,’ he says as he moves a napkin to examine a picture of him in his twenties, looking disheveled in his meager Nashville bedroom. ‘Just the words and melody – that’s what moves your emotions.'”

“‘I may have some more creative work in me,’ he finally admits, then concludes on a characteristically impassive note. “But if I don’t, it’s not going to hurt me.'”


“Blame It on the Stones”
“To Beat the Devil”
“Me and Bobby McGee”
“Best of All Possible Worlds”
“Help Me Make It Through the Night” which gets ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ right and wrong in the same song
“The Law Is for Protection of the People”
“For the Good Times”
“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”
“The Silver Tongued Devil and I”
“Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)”
“The Pilgrim, Chapter 33”
“Nobody Wins”
“Why Me”

ABC Wednesday – Round 19

50 Country Albums Every Rock Fan Should Own

kristoffersonSomeone on Facebook pointed to this Rolling Stone list and being the lazy blogger, I use it to comment on the albums I actually own.

45. Lyle Lovett, ‘Lyle Lovett’ (1986)

First time I saw Lyle was on TV after his third album came out, and Bryant Gumbel of the Today show said, “That’s country?” I bought that album, Large Band, but subsequently virtually every album he’s put out, including this eponymous one. In fact, in my collection, which is arranged alphabetically, I have two albums in a row with the great song “God Will,” one by Patty Loveless, and the version by Lyle.

LISTEN to God Will
and You Can’t Resist It

31. Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris, ‘Trio’ (1987)

Some of the most glorious harmonies ever. I have a couple albums by Dolly, over a half dozen by Emmylou and over a dozen by Linda, but this may be my favorite one for each. Moreover, some of the songs they did together in the years before the album was finally released – e.g., I Never Will Marry, the Parton-Rondstadt duet on one of Linda’s albums, are also great songs.

LISTEN to To Know Him Is to Love Him
and Telling Me Lies

19. Dixie Chicks, ‘Taking the Long Way’ (2006)

This is the album that the Chicks put out after Natalie Maines said some unkind things about George W. Bush about going into the war in Iraq; I bought it nearly as soon as it came out. It didn’t do that well with country radio, if I recall correctly, but it had greater crossover appeal, quite possibly more for its politics than its music, though it has some great songs.

LISTEN to Not Ready To Make Nice

16. Kris Kristofferson, ‘Kristofferson’ (1970)

This album, which I’ve had on vinyl since I was in college, got renamed for its most famous song, Me and Bobby McGee, in 1971, and has a nicer picture of Kris. The album contains many of the songs he wrote that were hits for other people.

LISTEN to Blame It On The Stones
and The Law Is For The Protection Of The People

14. Garth Brooks, ‘Ropin’ the Wind’ (1991)

All of Garth Brooks’ six albums at the time were released as a limited series with an extra track on each disc. The whole collection was less than $20. What’s not to like?

LISTEN to Shameless – this is a live recording, not from the album.

12. Loretta Lynn, ‘Van Lear Rose’ (2004)

Much to the chagrin of my buddy Eddie, this is the only Loretta Lynn album I own, no doubt influenced by Jack White’s participation. It is a great collection, and she still had the pipes.

LISTEN to Have Mercy
and Portland, Oregon

11. Johnny Cash, ‘American Recordings’ (1994)

This began the third, and my favorite, phase of Johnny’s career, after being in the musical desert for a number of years. I was given this album, but bought all the subsequent albums (American 2-6, and the box set). I became obsessed with this period of John R.’s music.

LISTEN to Down There By The Train
and Drive On

1. Johnny Cash, ‘At Folsom Prison’ (1968)

And this began the second phase in Johnny’s career, which included the TV show I watched religiously. Getting seeped in his later career got me to get the 2008 Legacy Edition of this album, 2 CDs/1 DVD, even though I own the original release on vinyl.

LISTEN to Folsom Prison Blues

This list inspired me to pick up 22. Dwight Yoakam, ‘Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.’ (1986); 20. Steve Earle, ‘Copperhead Road’ (1988); 4. Willie Nelson, ‘Red Headed Stranger’ (1975); 3. Ray Charles, ‘Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music’ (1962) and 2. Hank Williams, ’40 Greatest Hits’ (1978).

I should note that I have a Patsy Cline greatest hits collection, but not the “definitive” one. I also have albums by Jerry Lee Lewis, Brad Paisley, Randy Travis, Bobbie Gentry, Rosanne Cash, Kenny Rogers, Emmylou Harris, and Dolly Parton, but not the ones listed.

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