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Johnny Green

Johnny Green (10 October 1908 in New York City, New York – 15 May 1989 in Los Angeles) was an American songwriter, composer, musical arranger, and conductor. He was given the nickname "Beulah" by colleague Conrad Salinger.johnny green
Early years

John Waldo Green was the son of musical parents, and was accepted by Harvard at the age of 15, entering the University in 1924. Between semesters, bandleader Guy Lombardo heard his Harvard Gold Coast Orchestra and hired him to create dance arrangements for his nationally famous orchestra. His first song hit, Coquette (1928), was written for (and possibly with) Lombardo. Green was educated in music, history, economics, and government before returning to pursue a master's degree in the field of English literature. His instruments were the piano and the saxophone, although he abandoned the latter after
college. He married three times, had a daughter with actress Betty Furness and two daughters with MGM "Glamazon" Bunny  Waters.

His father interrupted his education and compelled him to take a job as a stockbroker. Disliking the job, and encouraged by his young bride, the former Carol Faulk (to whom he dedicated I'm Yours), he left Wall Street to pursue a musical career. Before the marriage ended in the mid '30s, Carol remarked, "We didn't have children, we had songs." It was during his first marriage that most of his hit standards were composed, including Out of Nowhere (1931), Rain Rain Go Away (1932), I Cover the Waterfront, You're Mine You, and I Wanna Be Loved (all 1933), and Easy Come Easy Go (1934).

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!"


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 programmes.

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 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.

Carnegie Hall and Astoria Studios

Nathaniel Shilkret and Paul Whiteman commissioned Green to write larger works for orchestra, such as Nightclub, premiered by Whiteman at Carnegie Hall in 1933 with Green on solo piano. During tthe early '30s he 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 to Big Business, the first musical comedy ever written especially for BBC Radio.

On Green's return to the U.S.A. early in 1934, William 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' 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 of vocalists included his band singers Marjory Logan and Jimmy Farrell, and stage-screen favorites the Four Eton Boys. A bigger venture yet in commercial radio was The Fred Astaire 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-'37.

Piano, film, and MGM

Green is also well known for his piano playing. He was one of the best in New York, his warmly paced, full-chord style showing a rare command of harmony. He continued conducting on radio and in theatres into the 1940s, also leading a dance band for the short-lived Royale Records label in 1939-40, until he decided to move permanently to Hollywood and work in the film business. Green particularly made an impression at MGM, 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.

Notable works

Musical director

Johnny Green's credits as musical executive, arranger, conductor and composer are considerable, but include such highlights as Raintree County, Bathing Beauty, 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, however, 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.johnny green


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 version of Oliver! (1968), 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.


Green was a respected board member of ASCAP, and guest conductor with symphonies around the world, including the Hollywood Bowl, Denver Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and more. 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.