Dr. Herman Green, Lifetime Acheivement Handy Award by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 11/23/2009 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

The photo above is the famous statue of W.C. Handy, "Father of the BLUES," in Handy Park on Beale Street. Memphis jazz man Dr. Herman Green was presented the Lifetime Music Achievement Award on Sunday at the 13th annual W.C. Handy Heritage Awards. Herman is a dear friend and was a fellow colleague of my mentor, Earl Forest, who played drums in B.B. King's band for many years. See the end of this article for a link to an article I wrote about Earl for the American Blues Blog. More on Herman in a minute, let's see who else got an award.

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Dr. Herman Green

In addition, Emerson Able, former music director for the Isaac Hayes Movement and retired Manassas High School band director, will receive the Music Legacy Award. Professor Able and I have been in bands together and he is a great teacher, fine horn player and a very kind man. He also was the man who once threw a young Isaac Hayes out of band class at Memphis' Manassas High.

Emerson Able, Jr – Music Legacy Award
(Stax Records Musician, Member of Isaac Hayes Movement) and retired band director –
Manassas High School, mentor of dozens of outstanding Memphis musicians.

Professor Emerson Able and trumpeter Ron Herd II
Accepting the First Annual Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Legacy Award

Music Business Award – Novella Smith Arnold: Stax Records, public relations, former disc jockey.

Ms. Novella Smith Arnold

Authentic Beale Street Musicians Awards – Toni Green, soul blues singer; Otis Clay, – blues recording artist; Spencer Wiggins, rhythm & blues singer; Earl “The Pearl” Banks, blues guitarist/singer; The Climates – (Robert T. Chisem Jr., David Glenn, James Rosser Sr., Raymond Edwards), Sun Studio rhythm & blues recording artists.

Toni Green
'No Ring, No Thang'

Otis Clay poster from 2008

Otis Clay and The HI Rhythm Section, 1986
Standing left to right: Leroy Hodges, Charles Hodges, Howard Grimes
Sitting left to right: Otis Clay and Teenie Hodges

I have to take a moment to thank my friend Howard Grimes who appears in the photo above. Howard is a drummer of the old school who is without peer. His shuffles were a true dream to play melodies over and he was one of the best friends and finest band mates with whom I have ever had the honor to share a stage. Also Leeroy "Flick" Hodges and I go way back and the three of us all played many nights in Earl Banks' cool blues band. Flick is probably the coolest guy I know.

Spencer Wiggins

My friend, bandleader Earl "The Pearl" Banks

Earl's the Pearl's cool band, People of the Blues
Eric Lewis, my buddy Dr. Melvin Lee and Earl Banks
photo taken at Blues City Cafe

Earl "the Pearl" Banks

The Climates, 1967
SUN Records recording artists

Check out this cool site on the Climates which includes some great music and pictures;

The award supports the W.C. Handy Memphis Home & Museum. Here's a picture of Mr. Handy's home

W.C. Handy's Memphis home

Richard Cushing belts one out as David Skypeck hits the drums

Now, back to Herman Green. In recent years Herman has been playing with my friend Richard Cushing in the great Memphis band FreeWorld. This is some incredible history about Herman from their website:

"Herman Green, in 1955, about twenty-three years old, just returned from overseas military duty, was on his way home to Memphis, Tennessee; when his plane stopped in San Francisco for an unknown amount of layover time and he decided to visit a bar near the airport for a drink.

A three piece combo began to play and Herman heard some of the same sounds that he had been playing in Memphis, but he also heard some new sounds, something that was not known in Memphis. He decided to stay a while and he got to know some of the musicians that played in the local clubs. They were as fascinated by his stories of Beale Street as he was by their stories of playing with artists like Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck.

In a short time, Herman found himself in the house band of the "Blackhawk", a famous San Francisco Jazz Club, that many believe helped to found the sound that would be known as West Coast Jazz. From 1955 to 1957, he played with artists such as Cannonball Adderly, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, the Modern Jazz Quartet and many others on a very long list. He was there when the experiments with Jazz were first starting and when Jazz become more than a few instruments improvising on "old standards".

In 1958, Herman became the leader of the House Band at a new place called, "Box City" in San Francisco. This was a late night club set up just for the musicians who played other places in town and then wanted a place to go and relax after they got off work. Box City did not even open until 1 AM in the morning. Herman had with him a young lady vocalist, then unknown, Dinah Washington. In Herman's own words, "I worked Box City, Say When, and the Jazz Workshop. These had to be the most amazing clubs I have ever played in. They were where you came after a night on the town or after you had been working. Frank Sinatra dropped in and sat in with the Band when he was in town, and this was many nights. It's where I got to know Sammy Davis, Jr. Many of what we would call the great artists of Jazz would come and sit in with the Band, for no pay, just for the fun, the company, and the relaxation. At the Jazz Workshop, we opened the place with Cannonball Adderly and it never went downhill from then."

Dr. Herman Green

In a place like Box City or the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco, you get to know a lot of people and this is where Herman was brought to the attention of Lionel Hampton, who was probably at that time the King of Jazz Music. Lionel offered Herman a job playing with his band and when Herman accepted he found himself in New York and playing with a band that he would stay with, on and off, for eight years. One of the other band members, who would become one of Herman's best friends, was John Coltrane. In Herman's own words, "New York was a blur in my memory for three years. It all happened so fast, it all was such a great time. We were musicians doing what we wanted to do and getting paid good money for it. I see today some of the concert listings for Jazz and the ticket is $50.00 to see just one of the top stars. I mean, we use to jam, for the fun of it, in my apartment in New York. There would be Miles Davis, Clark Terry, John Coltrane, Art Davis; all just sitting around my apartment playing what they wanted, how they wanted to play it, and all because we were having a good time." "I might add that everybody wanted to experiment, everybody wanted to try something new, but there was no one that had that innovation of music like John. Even today when I do a Sax break and I get way out in outer space; I still turn to the others in the band and say, 'Hey, I'm doing my John Coltrane thing'."

Like all Memphis Musicians, Herman thought from time to time about returning to Memphis, but the jobs were good and he was with Lionel Hampton, the most recognized name in Jazz Music. Herman said, "We were playing the Riviera in Las Vegas and Sammy Davis, Jr. was there. I was walking in the Lobby with him and I said, 'I'm worried, I invited my Mother out here to visit and I do not know what to show her, how to entertain her.' " Sammy said, "Why don't you let me worry about it. When she gets here bring her down to my concert. We'll think of something." When Herman's mother arrived he took her down to the show and right on the front row was a table reserved for Sammy Davis, Jr. and Herman Green. Herman's Mother got to watch the show sitting with Sammy Davis, Jr. except when it was Sammy's turn to be on stage, and when Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin dropped by to sit at the table awhile, Herman's mother never complained about being "entertained".

A few weeks later, Herman and some of the band members were having afternoon drinks in the lounge at the Riviera when the rumor began to circulate that the President had been shot in Dallas. All over America, things were never the same for most people and musicians were no different. Herman thought about what he was doing, what he wanted to do and where he had come from.

After taking care of all of his obligations to Lionel Hampton and the other musicians he had got to know, Herman was on his way back to Memphis.

You can see Herman, Richard and the whole band in Memphis every Sunday night from 10:30 PM-3 AM at the Blues City Cafe at Beale and Second Streets. They put on a great show!


FreeWorld's great new CD recorded at James Luther Dickinson's Zebra Ranch

FreeWorld is the preeminent jam band in Memphis and has superb credentials among the music community. You can check out and buy their album at the link above.

Here's a link to check out the Blues City calendar and menu:

Dr. Herman Green at Cafe Soul, Memphis

B.B. King, Herman Green, Melvin Lee Green

Mickey Rogers with Willie Foster's band

Last week we had some sad news about an attack on our old friend Mickey Rogers and here is another bit of news I got this week from Randy Magee from Tweed's Blues:

"The news from the delta is that Mickey Rogers was jumped after playing
on Walnut Street in Greenville Friday a week ago. Evidently someone
followed him to his house (a woman and two men) and once he got out of
his car they jumped him stabbing him in the stomach with a knife, robbed
him, then carried him inside his house, tied him up, put a sock in his
mouth and proceeded to beat him with a fireplace poker. He tried to act
like he was out cold, but the woman pulled some mace out of her purse
and sprayed him in the eyes and he reacted, so they beat him some more
trying to kill him. While they were across the hall in another room
ransacking his house, Mickey managed to get in the bathroom and kick the
door shut. He wedged himself against the door so they couldn't get to
him and just as they were about to shoot through the door they heard
someone out on the street and got spooked. They took everything of any
value from Mickey's house and even stole his vehicle which had all his
equipment in it. Mickey's vehicle was found a few days later burned to
a crisp on 9th Street in Greenville. The police have yet to arrest
anyone, but the word on the street is they know who did this so
hopefully they will soon be apprehended. I knew you guys would want to
know about this..."

Today Brad Webb from I55 Productions called me and asked if I wanted to ride with him down to the Club Ebony in Greenville, MS, for Mickey's benefit. Sadly I have a songwriting practice with the Reba Russell Band and a gig tonight on Beale with the Eric Hughes Band, so I could not attend. The update from Brad is that Mickey is out of the hospital, will attend the benefit today and Brad is going to give Mickey one of his guitars since Mick lost his. Also, the rotten villains who perpetrated this crime have been apprehended and apparently there were 3 men who attacked Mickey, one dressed as a woman. I will post an address for any of you who would like to donate to Mickey to help him out during this trauma:

An account is being set up for Mickey to help with his hospital expenses. The account will be administered by the Mississippi Delta Blues Society of Indianola.

Checks should be made out to the MS Delta Blues Society of Indianola or MDBSI, Inc. They will be tax deductible.

The mailing address is Mississippi Delta Blues Society of Indianola, P. O. Box 2037, Indianola, Mississippi 38751. Be sure to write on the check somewhere that it is for the Mickey Rogers Fund.

Here's a link to the very cool Tweed's Blues:


©2009, Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

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