Frederick William Green (1911-1987), was a native of Charleston, S.C. Green, later known as "Steady Freddie," joined the Count Basie Orchestra in 1937.
2.5 linear ft. (2 cartons) [Annex]
5 oversize folders [On site]
Most materials stored offsite; advance notification required.
- See images from the collection published in SCL newsletter
- Additional images and more information available at the Freddie Green web pages, "dedicated to the master of the rhythm guitar"
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Frederick (“Freddie”) William Green was born in Charleston, South Carolina, March 31, 1911. A self-taught musician on the banjo and guitar, he began publicly performing around the age of twelve. Through trumpeter and band organizer Sam Walker, Freddie earned a spot on the Jenkins Orphanage Band. While not an orphan himself, Green played and traveled with the band for several years. He moved to New York in 1923 to attend high school and to pursue a musical career. Freddie played rhythm guitar at many clubs, including the Exclusive Club and the Yeah Man in Harlem and the Black Cat in Greenwich Village. It was in one of these venues that he was discovered by music producer and critic John Hammond who arranged an interview with William “Count” Basie.
Green joined the Count Basie Orchestra in March 1937 and remained with Basie and fellow musicians for fifty years; in fact, he died following a performance in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1987 at the age of 75. At the time of his death he was the last surviving member of Basie's “All-American Rhythm Section” which included Basie, Green, Walter Page on bass, and Jo Jones on drums.
Green garnered acclaim as one of the most accomplished rhythm guitarists the business. He was the band's only non-soloist, and many critics claimed he was largely responsible for the sonorous drive and pulse of the music generated through his un-amplified playing. Freddie also composed: his contributions to the band's play list included Corner Pocket, Down for Double, and Right On.
While he remained faithful to the Count Basie Orchestra, Green also recorded with the likes of Benny Goodman, Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Joe Sullivan, Illinois Jacquet, Lester Young, and Billie Holiday.
Scope and Content Notes
The papers of Freddie Green consist of two linear feet of material documenting his career as the rhythm guitarist with the Count Basie Orchestra from 1937 to 1987. The papers are arranged in three series: (1) Personal, (2) Count Basie Orchestra, and (3) Photographs.
The materials within Series I, Personal, generally reflect Green's career with the Count Basie Orchestra. The series includes correspondence, travel receipts, souvenirs, musical compositions written by Green, copyright information, royalty statements, newspaper articles, and obituaries. The collection also includes correspondence, a copy of Green's 1940 United States tax return, and certificates of merit from the Annual Playboy All-Star Jazz Poll and Broadcast Music, Inc. There is also receipt from a 1986 donation he made to the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston, South Carolina. The collection also contains his nomination by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for a Grammy award in 1986 for his collaboration on Swing Reunion.
Series II, Count Basie Orchestra, contains a variety of materials that Green gathered during his years with the band. The series includes articles, clippings, a scrapbook, itineraries, and programs. Green probably compiled the scrapbook shortly after Count Basie's death in 1984; it contains memorial articles and obituaries. The programs and itineraries show where the band traveled and performed in North America, Europe, and Japan. During Green's tenure the band traveled worldwide and performed before royalty, dignitaries, and United States presidents.
Series III, Photographs, contains approximately 220 images ranging in date from the 1940s through the 1980s. The photographs capture Green and the Count Basie Orchestra in performance and in more casual settings. There are a number of photos (both formal and informal) of Freddie Green ranging form studio shots to images of him performing. There are a number of photographs of Count Basie, both alone and with other members of the band. Of interest are the photographs of musicians and singers who performed with the band including James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra.
The container list for the Frederick “Freddie” William Green Papers consists of a three page file available in
Acquisition Number: 13073
Processed: Meg Moughan, Processing Archivist (July 1999)