Johnny Green

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Johnny Green
John Waldo Green.jpg
Background information
Birth nameJohn Waldo Green
Born(1908-10-10)October 10, 1908
New York City, New York, United States
DiedMay 15, 1989(1989-05-15) (aged 80)
Beverly Hills, California, United States
Occupation(s) Composer, Conductor
Instruments Piano, Trombone
Years active1930–1989
Labels Paramount Pictures
Associated acts Gus Kahn, E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, Edward Heyman, Paul Francis Webster, Mack David, Billy Rose, Johnny Mercer, Jack Benny

John Waldo Green (October 10, 1908 – May 15, 1989) was an American songwriter, composer, musical arranger, conductor and pianist. He was given the nickname "Beulah" by colleague Conrad Salinger. His most famous song was one of his earliest, "Body and Soul". Green won four Academy Awards for his film scores and a fifth for producing a short musical film, [1] and he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. [2] [3] He was also honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [4]

A songwriter is a professional that writes lyrics or composes musical compositions for songs. A songwriter can also be called a composer, although the latter term tends to be used mainly for individuals from the classical music genre and film scoring, but is also associated with writing and composing the original musical composition or musical bed. A songwriter that writes the lyrics/words are referred to as lyricist. The pressure from the music industry to produce popular hits means that songwriting is often an activity for which the tasks are distributed between a number of people. For example, a songwriter who excels at writing lyrics might be paired with a songwriter with the task of creating original melodies. Pop songs may be written by group members from the band or by staff writers – songwriters directly employed by music publishers. Some songwriters serve as their own music publishers, while others have outside publishers.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.

Conducting directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures

Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, such as an orchestral or choral concert. It has been defined as "the art of directing the simultaneous performance of several players or singers by the use of gesture." The primary duties of the conductor are to interpret the score in a way which reflects the specific indications in that score, set the tempo, ensure correct entries by ensemble members, and "shape" the phrasing where appropriate. Conductors communicate with their musicians primarily through hand gestures, usually with the aid of a baton, and may use other gestures or signals such as eye contact. A conductor usually supplements their direction with verbal instructions to their musicians in rehearsal.


Early years

John Waldo Green was born in New York City, the son of musical parents Vivian Isidor Green (June 29, 1885 – January 3, 1940) [5] [6] and Irina Etelka Jellenik (April 12, 1885 – November 15, 1947), [7] a.k.a. Irma (or Erma) Etelka Jellenik. Vivian and Irina wed on December 16, 1907 in Manhattan. [8]

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

John attended Horace Mann School and the New York Military Academy, and was accepted by Harvard at the age of 15, entering the University in 1924. His musical tutors were Herman Wasserman, Ignace Hilsberg and Walter Spalding. Between semesters, bandleader Guy Lombardo heard Green's Gold Coast Orchestra and hired him to create dance arrangements for his nationally famous orchestra. His first song hit, Coquette (1928), was written for Lombardo (with Carmen Lombardo, Guy's brother, and lyricist Gus Kahn).[ citation needed ]

Horace Mann School private school in New York City

Horace Mann School is an independent college preparatory school in the Bronx, founded in 1887. Horace Mann is a member of the Ivy Preparatory School League, educating students from the New York metropolitan area from nursery school to the twelfth grade. The Upper, Middle, and Lower Divisions are located in Riverdale, a neighborhood of the Bronx, while the Nursery School is located in Manhattan. The John Dorr Nature Laboratory, a 275 acres (111 ha) campus in Washington Depot, Connecticut, serves as the school's outdoor and community education center. Tuition for the 2014–15 school year was $43,300 from nursery through twelfth grade, making it the second most expensive private school in New York City. Tuition for the 2018-2019 school year from pre-kindergarten through grade twelve is $51,000. Niche, a website where students review their own schools, places Horace Mann at #4 in its list of 2018 Best Private High Schools in New York.

New York Military Academy

New York Military Academy (NYMA) is a college prep, coed boarding school in the rural town of Cornwall, 60 miles (97 km) north of New York City, and one of the oldest military schools in the United States. Originally a boys' school, it started admitting girls in 1975. On March 3, 2015, NYMA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and was sold at auction by the board controlled by Alumni to a foundation: Center for Research on Conservation which reopened the school in November 2015. The Research Center then poured millions of dollars into the campus to support instruction and capital improvements. The campus also has been host to popular camps like Camp All America into the 1980s and currently the NYMA Leadership Program.

A bandleader is the leader of a music group such as a rock or pop group or jazz quartet. The term is most commonly, though not exclusively, used with a group that plays popular music as a small combo or a big band, such as one which plays jazz, blues, rhythm and blues or rock and roll music. Most bandleaders are also performers with their own band, either as singers or as instrumentalists, playing an instrument such as electric guitar, piano, or other instruments.

John's father, Vivian, compelled him to take a job as a stockbroker. Disliking the job, and encouraged by his wife, the former Carol Faulk, John left Wall Street to pursue a musical career.[ citation needed ]

Stockbroker professional who buys and sells shares and other securities for both retail and institutional clients

A stockbroker, share broker, registered representative, trading representative, or more broadly, an investment broker, investment adviser, financial adviser, wealth manager, or investment professional is a regulated broker, broker-dealer, or Registered Investment Adviser who may provide financial advisory and investment management services and execute transactions such as the purchase or sale of stocks and other investments to financial market participants in return for a commission, markup, or fee, which could be based on a flat rate, percentage of assets, or hourly rate. Examples of professional designations held by individuals in this field, which affects the types of investments they are permitted to sell and the services they provide include Chartered Financial Consultants, Certified Financial Planners or Chartered Financial Analysts, Chartered Strategic Wealth Professionals, Chartered Financial Planners, and Master of Business Administration. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) provides an online tool designed to help understand professional designations in the United States.

Wall Street street in Manhattan

Wall Street is an eight-block-long street running roughly northwest to southeast from Broadway to South Street, at the East River, in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan in New York City. Over time, the term has become a metonym for the financial markets of the United States as a whole, the American financial services industry, or New York–based financial interests.


Green wrote a number of songs which have become jazz standards, including "Out of Nowhere" and "Body and Soul". He wrote the scores for various films and TV programs. His earliest songs appeared with the billing "John W. Green," a styling he reverted to in the 1960s. After that anyone addressing "Johnny" was put right with the statement, "You can call me John – or you can call me Maestro!"

Out of Nowhere (Johnny Green song) song

"Out of Nowhere" is a popular song composed by Johnny Green with lyrics by Edward Heyman. It was the first recording by Bing Crosby under his Brunswick Records contract. He recorded it on March 30, 1931 and it became his first number one hit as a solo artist. Crosby also sang it in the film Confessions of a Co-Ed (1931) and in his short film I Surrender Dear (1931). He recorded it again in 1954 for his album Bing: A Musical Autobiography.

At the beginning of his musical career, he arranged for dance orchestras, most notably Jean Goldkette on NBC. He was accompanist/arranger to musicians such as James Melton, Libby Holman and Ethel Merman. It was while writing material for Gertrude Lawrence in 1930 that he composed "Body and Soul", the first recording of which was made by Jack Hylton & His Orchestra eleven days before the song was copyrighted.

Jean Goldkette American musician

John Jean Goldkette was a jazz pianist and bandleader.

NBC American television and radio network

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is an American English-language commercial terrestrial television network that is a flagship property of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. The network is headquartered at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, with additional major offices near Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. The network is one of the Big Three television networks. NBC is sometimes referred to as the "Peacock Network", in reference to its stylized peacock logo, introduced in 1956 to promote the company's innovations in early color broadcasting. It became the network's official emblem in 1979.

James Melton American opera singer

James Melton, a popular singer in the 1920s and early 1930s, later began a career as an operatic singer when tenor voices went out of style in popular music around 1932–35. His singing talent was similar to that of Richard Crooks, John Charles Thomas or Nelson Eddy.

Between 1930-33, Green was the arranger and conductor for Paramount Pictures and worked with such singers as Ethel Merman, Gertrude Lawrence and James Melton. He composed many of his hit standards during the 1930s, including Bing Crosby's first number one hit recording, "Out of Nowhere" (1931, co-authored with Edward Heyman), "Rain Rain Go Away" (1932), "I Cover the Waterfront", "You're Mine You", "I Wanna Be Loved" (all 1933), "Easy Come Easy Go" and "Repeal The Blues" (both 1934). He also composed the theme for Max Fleischer's Betty Boop cartoons in 1932, with Edward Heyman as lyricist.

After 1933, Green had his own orchestra which he used to perform around the country. He also, until 1940, conducted orchestras for the Jack Benny and Philip Morris records and radio shows.

Carnegie Hall and Astoria Studios

Nathaniel Shilkret and Paul Whiteman commissioned Green to write larger works for orchestra, such as "Night Club (Six Impressions for Orchestra with Three Pianos)", introduced by Whiteman on January 25, 1933 at Carnegie Hall. Green was at piano "one," and Roy Bargy and Ramona played the other two pianos. During the early 1930s, Green also wrote music for numerous films at Paramount's Astoria Studios, conducted in East Coast theatres, and toured vaudeville as musical director for Buddy Rogers. During his two and a half years at Paramount Astoria, he was able to learn more about film scoring from veterans Adolph Deutsch and Frank Tours.

London, radio, and recordings

Green spent much of 1933 in London, where he contributed songs to both Mr. Whittington , a musical comedy for Jack Buchanan at the London Hippodrome, and Big Business , the first musical comedy ever written for BBC Radio.

On Green's return to the U.S.A. early in 1934, 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. (Green added, "My arm didn't need much twisting.") The orchestra, based for a time at the St. Regis, featured Green's piano and arrangements, whose harmony and mood were among the most sophisticated of the day. It made dance records for the Columbia and Brunswick companies, although in the Depression even the most popular records sold only in small numbers.

In 1935, Green starred on CBS's Socony Sketchbook, sponsored by Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. He lured the young California singer Virginia Verrill to headline with him on the Friday evening broadcasts. His regular cast included his band singers Marjory Logan and Jimmy Farrell, essayist Christopher Morley, and stage/screen favorites the Four Eton Boys. A bigger venture yet in commercial radio was The Fred Astaire Hour (a.k.a. The Packard Hour), sponsored by Packard Motors over NBC in 1936 and co-featuring tenor Allan Jones and the comedy of Charles Butterworth. Green's band also backed Astaire on a series of classic recording dates, in both New York and Hollywood, in 1935–1937. He also served as musical director for The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny during its 1935–1936 season on NBC.

Piano, film, and MGM

He continued conducting on radio and in theatres into the 1940s, also leading a dance band for the short-lived Royale Records label in 1939–1940, until he decided to move permanently to Hollywood and work in the film business. Green particularly made an impression at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where in the 1940s, along with orchestrator Conrad Salinger, he was one of the musicians most responsible for changing the overall sound of the MGM Symphony Orchestra, partially through the re-seating of some of the players. This is why the overall orchestral sound of MGM's musicals from the mid-1940s onward is different from the orchestral sound of those made from 1929 until about 1944.

Green was the Music Director at MGM from 1949 to 1959. He compiled and arranged the MGM Jubilee Overture in 1954, a tour de force. He produced numerous film scores, such as the one for Raintree County in 1957. On loan out to Universal, he composed the songs for the Deanna Durbin musical, "Something in the Wind", one of her last films before retiring.

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. The short subject featured Green conducting the MGM Orchestra on-screen in the music from the opera of the same name by Otto Nicolai.

After leaving MGM, Green guest-conducted with various orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Denver Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He also continued to compose the occasional score to films such as Twilight of Honor (1963), Johnny Tiger (1966) and Alvarez Kelly (1966), and contributed the arrangements and musical direction for the critically acclaimed They Shoot Horses, Don't They? in 1969.

He was also hired to create the televised Guinness advertisement known as the "World" ad campaign. He recruited a team which included set designer Grant Major and Oscar-nominated director of photography Wally Pfisher to complete the job.

Notable works

Musical director

Johnny Green's credits as musical executive, arranger, conductor and composer are considerable, including such films as Raintree County , Bathing Beauty , Easy to Wed , Something in the Wind , Easter Parade (for which he won his first Academy Award), Summer Stock , An American in Paris (which won him his second Academy Award), Royal Wedding , High Society and West Side Story (another Academy Award winner for him). Although Green was musical director on these films, the orchestrations were usually done by someone else - in the case of the MGM musicals, it was usually Conrad Salinger, and in the case of West Side Story, it was Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal.


As mentioned earlier, Green conducted the orchestra for such famous MGM musicals as An American in Paris, as well as for United Artists' 1961 film version of West Side Story.

In 1965, Green conducted the music for that year's new adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's only musical for television, Cinderella , starring Lesley Ann Warren, Walter Pidgeon, Ginger Rogers, and Stuart Damon.

Johnny Green also adapted, orchestrated and conducted the music for the film Oliver! (1968), based on the hit musical play, and won an Academy Award for his efforts. He also wrote much of the incidental music heard in the film, basing it on Lionel Bart's songs for the original show. His daughter, Kathe, dubbed Mark Lester's singing voice in the film.


Green was a respected board member of ASCAP. He 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, and a producer of television specials.

Personal life

He married three times, had a daughter with actress Betty Furness and two daughters with MGM "Glamazon" Bunny Waters, including actress and singer Kathe Green. Actress Liza Snyder is his granddaughter.

It was during his first marriage to Carol Faulk that most of his hit standards were composed. Before the marriage ended in the mid-1930s, Carol Faulk remarked, "We didn't have children, we had songs."[ citation needed ]

See also

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  1. "Academy Awards Database". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on February 8, 2009. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
  2. "John Green". Songwriters Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
  3. Yarrow, Andrew L. (May 17, 1989). "John Green, 80, a Film Composer and Arranger Who Won 4 Oscars". The New York Times. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
  4. "John Green". Hollywood Star Walk. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  5. - Vivian Isidor Green (New York, New York City Births, 1846-1909)
  6. An obituary for Vivian Isidor Green appeared in The New York Sun, issue of Thursday, January 4, 1940, p. 19, under the title Vivian Green is Dead at 55 - Was Noted Realty Operator and Builder - see:
  7. - Irma Jellenik Green (New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949)
  8. - Irina Etelka Jellenik (New York Marriages, 1686-1980)