© 2017 Gary Green Productions, Inc.

These Six Strings Neutralize

The Tools Of Oppression:

Folkways Number 05351 (1976)

A cold winter day in 1976…

When Gary Green recorded his Folkways albums, both he and label-owner Moe Asch were more interested in the lyrics, politics, and poetry, than in "making music." Gary often joked that he was on the same record label as "Touch Typing For Beginners" and "Ameridian Music of Chile: Aymara, Qaqashqar, Mapuche". Moe took pride in calling himself an historian rather than a music producer. He often said he recorded Gary Green because "this young man has something to say and people need to hear him." Despite the absence of production or the benefits of re-takes or multi-tracking, these early Folkways recordings succeeded in recording, documenting, and exposing 13 of Gary Green's most powerful songs at the time. In the cold winter of 1976 when Folkways founder Moe Asch heard Gary's demo tape he handed him an advance check (something Moe rarely did) and the first "open" contract with Folkways he had given to anyone since Woody Guthrie. "Field Recorded" (as Moe liked to say) in a trailer park in Charlotte, NC, this album of originals is largely from that demo tape. Heavily influenced musically by Maybelle Carter and Woody Guthrie, this album was called by the Midwest Record Review "the last of the 1960s "protest singer" albums".  True to the Folkways tradition of not allowing re-takes or overdubs, Moe Asch left in the sounds of barking dogs outside the door, a jet flying over, and rattling the aluminum walls of the 12' x 60' single-wide trailer.
Number One Hit Song… in Sweden ? One of the most un-noteworthy tracks on the album, Dear Mister Kelly At The FBI, a song about Gary's attempts to obtain his FBI files under the Freedom of Information Act, was a minor pop hit in Europe in early 1977, becoming the number one song in Sweden that year. Produced by Moe Asch and recorded September and October of 1976 in Charlotte, NC on the commission and instructions of Asch, the 13 songs, words & music by Gary Green, were released on the album New Year’s Day 1977 in New York. Instruments and vocals by Gary Green; no overdubs. Steel string guitar is a Kay Jumbo Western model circa 1970 with Black Diamond medium gauge (bluegrass) strings. Nylon string guitar is a handmade Brazilian Giannini concert size with Albert Augustine SP Silver strings. Gary also plays a Horner "E" harmonica on one cut and a kazoo on another. Gary had not yet begun using special tunings, so all guitars are standard, though he liberally used a Jim Dunlop capo on both instruments.
The Tracks: Click here for the original 1976 album insert lyric sheet and liner notes. Below are descriptions of each track: Side one track one There Ain't No Easy Way This song was written after Gary hitchhiked to New York from Charlotte North Carolina and experienced the despair on the streets of the world's largest city. Gordon Friesen called this the best of the New York City folk songs of the 1960s-70s folk era. (steel string & vocal) Side one track two The Murder of Ella May Wiggins The true story of the unsung heroine of America's bloodiest textile strike, this song helped force the AFL-CIO to erect a monument in Gastonia, NC to the leader of the strike. Forty years after Gary wrote the song, it was used in the Kristina Horton’s 2015 book “Martyr of Loray Mill”. (steel string & vocal) Side one track three Down the Road and Over The Hill A deliberately Guthrie-esque song about frustration of NC textile workers wanting to escape the mill floor. Gary graduated from high school in a North Carolina textile town once known for having more mills than any other town in the world. (steel string & vocal) Side one track four Oven Fork Mining Disaster-1976 Written in Gary’s outrage over a 1976 cave-in of a Kentucky coal mine in a 1930s-style disaster, the song is an Ochs-influenced newspaper story put to traditional music. (steel string & vocal) Side one track five Little Mark Dupree Another newspaper story from 1976, about a racist NC murder and an even more racist jury; but also about some backwards white southern attitudes in general. (steel string & vocal) Side one track six The CIA Song A ragtime assault on the CIA's 1960’s and 1970’s illegal activities, inspired by the CIA-driven coup in Chile. This song became a favorite of listeners to the nationally syndicated Great Atlantic Radio Conspiracy program, receiving more radio airplay than any of Gary’s songs of the time. (steel string, kazoo & vocal) Side two track one The Cowboy One of the finest Brooklyn cowboy laments ever, this song was written about 3am in a Brooklyn NY commune and is about Gary's own displacement in the city. (nylon string & vocal) Side two track two You're Just As Guilty A lyrical attack on apathy with a chilling finger-pointing at mainstream America; written in late 1969 in the midst of Vietnam war unrest. (steel string & vocal) Side two track three I Wore His Gun One of Gary's very few non-topical and non-political-protest songs of this era. This is a western ballad, pure and simple. The influence is from Marty Robbins during Gary's teenage life in Nashville and remained one of Gary’s most requested songs during his entire performance career. (nylon string & vocal) Side two track four The Ballad of Broadside A much-ignored tribute to Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen (who four months later would take Gary into their home) and their struggle to keep political music heard by the masses. Friends of the couple strongly disliked the song for its ultra-left indictments of prominent liberals. (steel string & vocal) Side two track five America's Child Another rare non-topical song, this is a very "hippie on the road" angst poem about being younger than 21-years in a world where a young man could be drafted and taught to kill at 18 but could not drink or vote until he was 21. There has been much debate over the years as to whether this song was autobiographical or was written about Gary's brother Ron. It was still popular on college campuses well into the 1990s. (steel string & vocal) Side two track six Dear Mister Kelly at the FBI Gary had been working as a Police Reporter at a newspaper in Gastonia North Carolina (the scene of the murder of Ella May Wiggins) when the local chief of police told Gary that he knew the contents of mail Gary had received from Cuba. The chief went on to give Gary a brief recap of political rallies and demonstration the folksinger/journalist had participated in. During the next few months Gary and the newspaper where he worked attempted to exercise the Freedom of Information Act and obtain copies of files which the chief said the FBI had given to him. During the first three attempts the FBI refused to release documents, citing a danger to national security if they did so. In response Gary wrote this song about then-FBI director Clarence Kelly. Gary also mailed Kelly a copy of the song, Gary's Folkways Records contract, and a bitter protest letter. Ten days later Kelly ordered the files released...with dozens of redacted words, names, dates, and locations edited from each page like a prison censorship. Gary, of course, added that to the song. A very sing-song and not a particularly powerful song, these lyrics had the impact of swaying the FBI director and propelling the song to pop-airplay in Europe in 1977. It was, briefly, the number one pop hit in Sweden in 1977. (steel string, harmonica, & vocal) Side two track seven The Hammer This is one of the most powerful labor anthems ever written. It praises organized labor and at the same time defines the nature of wage- labor and threatens revolution. The song was especially well-received by more 500,000 union workers in 1981 at the Solidarity Day demonstration in Washington DC where Gary sang to his largest audience ever. Not many performers have played for an audience of a half- million. (steel string & vocal)