Herman Green Interview
Goldmine Magazine

From BB to Lionel Hampton, mentored by Coltrane, mentored Charles Lloyd, recorded with Jimmie Vaughan, and performed with Miles, and recently on the road with Bob Weir and Ratdog. Herman Green is one versatile cat!

For over 50 years saxophonist Herman Green has been on the scene in various genre’s of music. Getting his start with the great BB King in Memphis in 1947. When I recently had the opportunity to interview BB, I asked Mr. King about Herman being his first sax player, BB corrected me and said no, “Herman was my first good sax player.” The appreciation of Herman’s playing continued while serving two stints in Lionel Hampton’s band (58-62 & 63-67) getting opportunities to play with Trane, and Miles, and hitting the south Jersey B3 circuit with Big John Patton, who Herman told me convinced Big John to switch from piano to B3! Recently Mr. Green has been seen on the road with Bob Weir’s Ratdog, and at the end of 2002 recorded on Jimmie Vaughan’s Grammy award winning cd, “Do You Get the Blues?”, as well as getting Jimmie to return the favor on Herman’s, “Hernando Street Blues”. Both recordings were done at the famous Ardent Studios in Herman’s hometown of Memphis TN.

Amidst Herman Green’s whirlwind of activity, I recently had the opportunity to meet Herman during my last visit to Memphis, who told me he “had to see me accept the Keeping the Blues alive award for radio”, to discuss Herman’s rich past, current and future projects.

Goldmine: Tell me about your days with BB King? In 1947 when BB was playing around Memphis and DJ’ing at WDIA, I was introduced to BB and stayed in his band for over two years. Those were fun days, we once had to sneak in to my Dad’s church to borrow a guitar for a gig for BB, and luckily we got it back in time before anyone noticed it was gone, laughs.

Goldmine: When did you perform with Lionel Hampton, Miles, Trane, and Marilyn Monroe? In 1955, after the Korean War, where I was pulled in to “special services” to play my horn, and got the opportunity to back Marilyn, really! After my release, I really had to urge to move to San Francisco, and got a job working Bop City, and at the Black Hawk Club, where I became the leader of the house band, and this is where I was asked to back Miles. I later spent about 10 years with Lionel Hampton and even got to play a solo on the Ed Sullivan show with Hamp’s band on national television. Trane and I kept meeting on the road, and Trane took a liking to me and mentored me as well, sharing playing techniques and music theory starting around 1956 until near his passing in 1967.

Goldmine: Being a Memphis musician, how is Hank Crawford doing these days? Hank’s getting ready to play soon, and I got some dates with Hank in the past in and around Memphis with Kirk Whalum as well. Hank’s got that really signature sound, doesn’t he?

Goldmine: You were also friendly with the other fellow Memphis cats like the Newborn’s? Yeah, I played in high school bands with pianist Phineas, and recorded with guitarist Calvin Newborn, and did and still do gigs with Calvin.

Goldmine: Memphis is very rich with great musicians, who else did you work with? Well I mentored Charles Lloyd, and I worked with Willie Mitchell, and recorded with George Coleman, Harold Mabern, and James Williams on a project called, “The Memphis Convention” released by Sony.

Goldmine: What are your latest accomplishments? The Premier Players award, getting the woodwind of the year, teacher of the year, from the local NARAS chapter, I am a 3- time winner. I currently teach at LeMoyne-Owen College for Jazz Studies as well.

Goldmine: What kind of community services do you do in Memphis? Mostly nursing home performances, and local arts and crafts shows.

Goldmine: How did your latest Cd with Jimmie Vaughan “Hernando Street Blues” come about? While my wife Rose was taking internet courses, she met Jerry Atwood who wanted to record me at Ardent studios. Jimmie was recording the eventual Grammy winning “Do You get the Blues?” in the next studio, and heard our band, and said wow, you guys sound great! And said he needed a flute player, so I did “Planet Bongo” and another tune with him. When he wanted to pay me, I said no, lets barter the tracks, and Jimmie played guitar on my Cd, “Hernando Street Blues”. So Jimmie did, the title track, and “Highway 49” for me, but my disc didn’t win a Grammy! More laughs.

Goldmine: When will your next Cd be released? Near the end of 2003. It will have a different direction than “Hernando Street Blues” as it will be big band oriented, with more contemporary jazz on it.

Goldmine: So what’s your web site address? It’s http://www.losys.net/herman/. And hey Bob, thanks for being a good friend, and for playing us up in the Big Apple!

Herman, the pleasure is all mine!

Bob Putignano, President
NY Blues & Jazz Society
Radio Host @ WFDU’s, “Across the Tracks”