© 2017 Gary Green Productions, Inc.
MUSIC
Gary describes his first Folkways meeting: “Dropping a tape off at Folkways was a scary proposition for me; it was the last resort. It was the label where Woody Guthrie had recorded; Pete Seeger was on the label; it was where I first heard Dylan (in his autobiography, Dylan wrote: "I envisioned myself recording for Folkways Records. That was the label I wanted to be on. That was the label that put out all the great records.") Phil Ochs had started on the label as had Janis Ian, Rev. Fred Kirkpartick and the legends of folk music. If I got a rejection from Folkways, it would be the last unbearable straw. Living in Nashville as a high school student, and going to college a few hours away in Knoxville, I had been knocking on the doors in Music City for years. In those days you could still go from little wood-frame house to house on 16th and 17th Avenues South in Nashville and they would listen to your tapes...providing you had a reel-to-reel tape and not one of those "new" cassettes. Most everybody in Nashville told me that my songs were phrased too much like Bob Dylan. Many judged me by the length of my hair; one well-known Nashville songwriter asked me, "Before I listen to this tape, just tell me how you plan to fulfill your military obligation to our country." Such were the prejudices of Nashville. Most who were civil (and most were) told me that I needed to take my songs to New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Only two gave me any real encouragement: First, a very young Kris Kristofferson gave me any encouragement when he told me "you should not be trying to sell songs; you should be recording them yourself; this is righteous; people need to hear YOU singing this." Next Reba Hancock, who ran House of Cash Music, and her brother Johnny Cash (who everyone called JR), told both me to keep writing because they liked my phrasing. JR’s song “What is Truth” really spoke to me about my experiences on Music Row in Nashville. New York was almost as bad. There I was  told that I was too "ethnic" sounding (as a Warner Brothers executive said) or too "hillbilly" (as someone at ASCAP warned me), or I should go to Nashville. It was against that backdrop that I hand-delivered a tape to Moe Asch at Folkways Records...knowing that this was the one place I could not handle rejection. I dropped off the tape and ran out the door. A week later I called...to pick up my tape. The secretary said that Mr. Asch wanted to see me. The legendary Moe Asch wanted to talk to me ! I could not believe it. In his office he looked at me over the top of his glasses as he turned on the tape and listed to the first two tracks on my demo. The first was the traditional "Wreck of the Old 97". He listened to about a minute of it and stopped the tape. He peered over his glasses and said "Young man. This is a very tragic song. It is about a train wreck that was so tragic that they are still singing about it today, fifty years later. Why are you playing it so fast and happy? Never play a tragic song fast and happy. Ever." He turned back on the tape and listened to the introduction to my own "The CIA Song" and then again stopped the tape. "Is that a kazoo you are playing there?" he asked with a look on his face like he was going to hit me. "Yes sir," I answered. "I see," he said, "so do you want a check today?" Five minutes later I signed a recording contract promising me 25-cents for every album sold and he handed me a check for my first advance. Six months later I moved to New York City into the apartment of Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen at 215 West 98th Street, where they published Broadside Magazine. Gary took up residence in to the front bedroom and shared the apartment with Sis, Gordon, their daughter Jane and granddaughter Ellie, and Gordon’s brother Ollie. I had moved to New York at the urging for Sis & Gordon, Pete Seeger, Brother Kirk, and Phil Ochs (who died while I was en route). We had planned to launch a new topical music project called “I Hear America Singing.”  We spent hours, days, weeks, together finding ways to introduce new singers, songwriters, and songs. In 1980 Pete told the New York Village Voice, "Hell, there ought to be a 'Ballad of Gary Green',” Acting as guest associate editor for three issues of Broadside Magazine, I also co-produced three albums for Folkways and Broadside (including Phil Ochs Sings For Broadside Volume 2, a compilation of New York street musicians called  Streetsounds, and the now-infamous album Bob Dylan vs. A.J. Weberman as a fundraiser for Broadside in conjunction with a concernt Gordon asked me to produce at Madison Square Garden. Around the same time, Moe Asch asked me to record a second album for Folkways.  
Today, the legendary Folkways Records is part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection (and re-branded as “Smithsonian Folkways”. In 1976 Gary Green showed up at their New York City doorstep with a reel-to-reel tape and a guitar case full of songs. Here is his story:
PHOTO KEY (top to bottom): Civil rights iconic singer / songwriter Reverend Fredrick Douglas Kirkpatrick (“Brother Kirk”) and Gary Green; circa 1977. Pete Seeger, the grandfather of American folk music, with Gary Green on the deck of his sloop, The Clearwater, Hudson River New York; circa 1976, Gary’s first paid professional gig, with his band fourth band, at a department store grand opening circa 1970. Gary (on banjo), college-pal Bernie Diemer (center), and Gary’s brother Ron (right), Knoxville TN circa 1972. Folkways records founder Moe Asch, circa 1976. Gary (left) and his brother Ron at Lincoln Center, New York City Entry from the massive (1,600 pages) 2011  Encyclopedia of Popular Music for Moe Asch, noting his discovery of Gary Green (and others). Gary notes that he was honored to be mentioned in the same paragraph as Lightening Hopkins and Elizabeth Hopkins.