Johnny Green was a U.S composer, songwriter, pianist, band leader and orchestra conductor. His most famous song is ‘Body and Soul’.
On this week’s Phantom Dancer we’ll be hearing a few of the 1930s radio orchestras lead by Johnny Green. Below, your Phantom Dancer Video of the Week is a short film simulating a Johnny Green radio broadcast. The short was made in 1935.
This week you’ll also hear sets with Patti Page, Johnny Ray and Erroll Garner from live 1957 TV and some of the great swing bands from the 1930s live on the 1938-39 BBC series, ‘America Dances’.
Produced and presented by Australia’s only authentic 1920s-30s singer, Greg Poppleton, The Phantom Dancer is your non-stop mix of swing and jazz from live 1920s-1960s radio and TV every week.
Hear this week’s Phantom Dancer (after 17 April) and past Phantom Dancers online at radio 2ser.com
JOHN ‘JOHNNY’ WALDO GREEN
He won four Academy Awards for his film scores and a fifth for producing a short musical film. And he went by the name of John or ‘Maestro’ in his later years.
As you’ll hear on today’s live 1930s radio broadcasts of Johnny Green and his Orchestra, Green couldn’t help but be self-assured.
He entered Harvard at age 15. You’ll hear him talk today on a 1939 aircheck about his early music schooling and his first song as a kid.
Indeed, by the time he was at Harvard, bandleader Guy Lombardo had heard Green’s Gold Coast Orchestra and hired him to create dance arrangements for his nationally famous Lombardo orchestra.
Green’s first song hit was written for the Lombardo orchestra. It was Coquette (1928), which Green wrote when he was 19.
Two years later, in 1930, Green wrote ‘Body and Soul’ which is now a jazz standard.
In the early 30s he was the radio and recording accompanist and arranger to singers James Melton, Libby Holman and Ethel Merman, and as you’ll hear on this week’s Phantom Dancer, Ruth Etting. He was also arranger and conductor for Paramount Pictures.
In this period he also wrote the standards ‘Out Of Nowhere’ (which you’ll hear in play today), ‘Rain Rain Go Away’, ‘I Cover the Waterfront’, ‘You’re Mine You’, ‘I Wanna Be Loved’ (his 1934 Oldsmobile show theme song), ‘Easy Come Easy Go’, ‘Repeal The Blues’ and the theme for Max Fleischer’s Betty Boop cartoons.
Nathaniel Shilkret and Paul Whiteman commissioned Green to write larger works for orchestra, including ‘Night Club: Six Impressions for Orchestra with Three Pianos’.
After spending 1933 in London, where he wrote the first musical comedy ever for BBC Radio, Green returned to New York City where, William S. Paley, president of the Columbia Broadcasting System and an investor in New York’s St. Regis Hotel, encouraged him to form what became known as Johnny Green, his Piano and Orchestra.
And he continued to lead his orchestra in top ranking radio shows into the 1940s, backing singers such as Fred Astaire and Alan Jones.
In the early 40s, Green moved to Hollywood. He became one of the people central to changing the overall sound of the MGM Symphony Orchestra.
He was Music Director at MGM from 1949 to 1959 and was nominated for an Oscar thirteen times. He won the award for the musical scores of Easter Parade, An American in Paris, West Side Story, and Oliver!, as well as for producing the short “The Merry Wives of Windsor Overture”, which won in the Short Subjects (One-Reel) category in 1954.
After leaving MGM, Green guest-conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Denver Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He also continued to compose the occasional filmscore, including the critically acclaimed They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? in 1969. He conducted the orchestra for the 1961 United Artists’ film version of West Side Story, for which he won a Grammy.
Green was a chairman of the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, leading the orchestra through 17 of the Academy Award telecasts.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Your Phantom Dancer Video of the Week is a short film from 1935 of a Johnny Green Orchestra broadcast in action, with announcer Harry von Zell. I like the short scene of the ‘old radio listener’ slapping his knee with laughter. Enjoy…