ANTI-BAEZ: THE BALLAD OF JANET GREENE
"Well, they have Joan Baez. We don't have anybody"
— Dr. Frederick C. Schwarz, founder of the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (CACC), to anti-Communist folk singer Janet Greene in 1964
"As long as you have a beat, people will listen..."
— Janet Greene to a newspaper reporter in 1966
Introduction: Coming Out PartyJanet Greene's grand unveiling as the radical right's answer to liberal folk star Joan Baez occurred at a press conference at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on October 13, 1964. Incredibly, just a few short months before, the raven-haired singer-songwriter had been a local television personality in Columbus, Ohio where she had played Cinderella on a popular kiddie program of the same name. Greene had been convinced by Dr. Fred Schwarz, a bellicose physician and professional anti-Communist from Australia to abandon her local celebrity to move to California and fight the Reds through song. On that fall day as she sat next to the two biggest icons of the conservative fringe—I LED 3 LIVES author Herbert A. Philbrick and Schwarz—one can only wonder whether "Cinderella" wanted to return to her carriage before it turned back into a pumpkin. But she remained seated and patiently awaited her introduction by her new mentor.
Greene's detour-filled odyssey from child opera prodigy to local kiddie show star to "anti-Baez" is, as you shall read, a truly remarkable one. But perhaps the most remarkable and puzzling element of the Greene story is the fact that she remains largely un-rediscovered. How is it that those tone-deaf kitsch stalwarts, The Shaggs, have achieved respectability and worldwide fame with a New Yorker profile, tribute album and rumored film, while Greene's equally fascinating career has been ignored? Is it because Frank Zappa didn't live long enough to provide the same publicity boost to Greene that he provided to the Wiggins sisters' band? Who knows?
While we would never presume to wield the same taste making power as Mr. Zappa, CONELRAD hopes that in telling Janet Greene's story a well deserved cult with Shaggs-like honors will eventually flourish. After all, who wouldn't want to hear a Radiohead version of the Greene classic Termites or alt darling Jenny Lewis essaying Poor Left Winger on a worshipful covers CD? Maybe even Joan Baez herself would contribute a track. And a Tim Burton-helmed biopic starring Reese Witherspoon as the folk singer could return the once interesting director to his former ED WOOD brilliance. With this feature, CONELRAD has done its part in sharing the gospel of Greene. Now all we can do is sit back and wait for the irony-embracing hipster exploitation machine to do the rest.
The ProdigyJanet Marcum was born to a poor family in Hamilton, Ohio in 1930 and was raised during the depths of the Depression. Greene recalled in a rare interview with CONELRAD that her hometown was so racked with poverty that three other families shared her house during her early childhood. But contrary to what might be expected of an artist who would later align herself with an anti-Communist religious organization, the family was not particularly God fearing or ultra-conservative. "I think we were conservative in some ways and liberal in other ways," Greene stated. Music was her sole diversion from the harsh reality of life during these formative years. Growing up, Janet—who is the middle child (she has a brother and sister)—fell in love with classical music and opera. Greene remembered that she would listen to a Saturday afternoon opera show sponsored by Texaco every week without fail: "I didn't know what they were singing of course, but I was absolutely enchanted by it." By age five she had declared to her parents that she wanted to become an opera star. Of course, for parents reduced by economic circumstances to hand out fruit to their children as Christmas presents, the idea of music lessons for Janet was out of the question.
Several years later, after the Marcum family had moved out of their crowded house and into an apartment, a neighbor, Pat Burke, who was a locally prominent Irish tenor, overheard 9-year-old Janet practicing her singing. Burke was so impressed with Janet's voice that he introduced her to his vocal coach who would eventually arrange for her to study at The Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Janet attended the Conservatory until she was 17. It was around this time that she met a handsome, fast-talking salesman by the name of David Greenroos and they were married a short time later (She used the abbreviated surname of "Greene" for her show business endeavors). Greene attributed her early nuptials to a desire to leave home: "I was not happy at home, so I jumped from the frying pan into the fire."
During the next seven years, with the exception of ongoing music lessons (voice, piano and guitar), Greene was a full-time homemaker and mother raising Greenroos' son from a previous marriage and, later, two daughters of their own, Joan and Marilyn. In an interview with CONELRAD, David Greenroos recalled that he didn't want his wife working the clubs during this period of their marriage: "Housework and raising a family was enough work," he explained.
But in 1954 Greene's old musical mentor Pat Burke convinced her to take to the stage with him. "He needed a soprano to sing duets with for his program he would do and he remembered me, so he looked me up," Janet said. It was in a small Cincinnati nightspot where the duo was performing one evening that Greene's life changed forever.
Cinderella's Pregnant..."So we were performing in this club and someone from the television station (WCPO, Cincinnati) saw me and came up and said to me 'you know, you look like Cinderella' and I said 'what?' and he says 'yea, they're looking for a new one because the other one got pregnant and had to take a leave of absence.'" Greene auditioned shortly thereafter and won the job of the celebrated storybook character. Whatever became of her knocked-up predecessor isn't known.
Greene's Cinderella quickly became a popular fixture on the highly rated kiddie program "The (Uncle) Al Lewis Show." The show aired weekdays starting at 8:55 A.M. on Channel 9 in Cincinnati and ran for an astounding 35 years—long enough to give a 7-year-old George Clooney his first television exposure when he appeared as a ship's captain in a brief segment. During Greene's three year tenure on the program, she shared the stage with Uncle Al and his ubiquitous accordion, his wife, Wendy Lewis (who played a character named Captain Windy) and puppeteer Larry Smith.
Smith recalled in an interview with CONELRAD that he loved working with Greene and remembered that "she used to come on set in a little carriage." He laughed as he recounted another detail of his broadcast days with Greene: "I used to find lipstick on my puppets and then I realized Janet had kissed them after singing to them." Smith helpfully explained that part of Greene's on-air routine was to serenade his puppets.
Like Smith, Al Lewis, who is now retired and living with his wife on a farm outside Cincinnati, holds only the fondest memories of Greene. He offered the following statement to CONELRAD: "Our time together on the air was very short, but she was probably one of the finest singers and entertainers I've ever had. The voice was just magnificent."
Unfortunately, according to Greene, the General Manager of WCPO, Mortimer C. Watters, took an unwelcome liking to her shortly after the Lewis show "went network" and began airing on ABC on Saturdays in October of 1958. The 49-year-old Watters—who was well known around town as a "ladies man" (despite being married to one of his station's "weather girls")—put an unseemly ultimatum to his TV Cinderella: "...he told me outright that I had to sleep with him," Greene recalled, an anger still present in her voice forty-plus years hence. When Greene flatly refused the randy GM's advances and picked something up to hit him with, "Prince Charming" made a second offer: "Well if you don't like me, there are several sponsors who like you." Greene, who was still in costume, had had enough and stormed out of the station. As she was rushing out, she declared to Larry Smith with an unusual intensity: "I'll be back tomorrow." In the meantime, Watters fired her for what was later described in press accounts as an "economy measure."
The following morning (October 28, 1958) Greene and her sister, Joan Marcum, drove up Symmes Street to the station parking lot in Greene's Volkswagen Beetle. Greene stated to CONELRAD that her sole intent in returning to the station was to claim her personal belongings: "...I had my guitar there and my costumes and everything and I had paid for them. You know, they were mine."
Cincinnati detective Bernard Kersker (now retired), who was posted at the station entrance along with a "merchant" policeman (Marion Blandford) hired by Watters, recalled for CONELRAD that Greene drove around security guards stationed at the foot of the road: "We got a call on the radio that she got through, so we locked the door to the station." Kersker stated that he "was there to make it official" and added with a tone of bemusement: "The police didn't want to get involved. Everyone knew what was going on." At this point he alluded to Watters' reputation (as a lothario, not as a broadcast pioneer). When asked whether he knew of Greene's role as Cinderella before that October day, the gruff old ex-cop said "I had little kids at the time who watched 'The Uncle Al Show.' I knew who she was."
What happened next differs depending on who is telling the story. Blandford and Kersker each testified in the subsequent legal proceedings that Greene caused a loud disturbance and, in fact, wanted to be arrested. Greene denied causing a ruckus and stated further that she was a victim of being manhandled.
It was Blandford who informed the former Cinderella that she was under arrest at which point Greene stated she offered to leave peacefully, but she was informed that it was "too late." Greene was then loaded into Kersker's police cruiser. Nearly fifty years later, Kersker could not remember whether they slapped the cuffs on their famous perp. During her trial Greene choked back tears remembering the moment of her arrest: "I was sick. It was shocking to think what my children would think."
At Cincinnati's Central Police Station Greene was booked on a Disorderly Conduct charge signed by Blandford. Detective Chief Henry Sandman offered Greene the opportunity to sign a notice of arrest which would have spared her from being jailed, but she refused stating: "My attorney told me not to sign anything." Greene was then placed in the Women's Place of Detention. There she remained for six hours, even refusing a bondsman's offer to post $100.00 bail for her. At one point, according to a newspaper account, Greene stated: "If Mort Watters and Al Lewis want me in jail, I'll stay here until they apologize." At 3 P.M. Greene was released on her own recognizance by Lt. Lawrence McGuerty without any apologies tendered.
On October 29th, to no one's surprise, the city's press had a field day with Greene's controversial arrest:
'Cinderella' Gets Boot Then Stages Six-Hour Jail Strike After Fracas at WCPO-TV Studio
— Cincinnati Enquirer
Dismissed Cinderella Is Carried To Jail on Disorderly Charge
— Cincinnati Post-Times (the Post-Times playfully began referring to Greene as "Cindy" in its coverage of her case)
"Cindy" in the DockAfter the headlines faded there were efforts to settle the matter before it went to trial. On December 11, 1958 Greene's three lawyers (Harry Abrams, Arthur C. Fricke and Edward Benson) reached a tentative agreement with the attorney for WCPO (Kyle Brooks). The proposed deal was for Watters to comply with the following terms: State that he regretted any misunderstanding with Greene; wish her well; and pay her for four weeks salary as well as her attorneys' fees. At one point Greene even read the text of the agreement over the phone to her friend, Tom McCarthy, a fellow local media personality who worked at WNOP. For whatever reason the deal was never formalized and the case went to trial on January 20, 1959.
Greene arrived in the courtroom of Judge William J. Keating (brother of Savings and Loan scandal figure Charles H. Keating and himself a future U.S. congressman) in a black knit jersey and red and white plaid skirt. She sat next to her husband and, according to one account, "quietly twisted her hands" as opening statements were delivered. Greene's avuncular lead attorney, Harry Abrams, hinted at his bold strategy when he told the jury of six men and six women that "There was some feeling between Mort Watters and this little girl and it didn't have anything to do with business."
Abrams' direct approach reappeared when he cross-examined Watters later that day. "Now there was some feeling between you and Janet Greenroos?" Watters responded "No" and Assistant Prosecutor Ralph E. Cors objected to this line of questioning. But Abrams stated he had not finished his question and resumed: "There's been some personal feeling between you and Janet Greenroos extending for some time?" Watters again responded "No." Cors objected to the defense's "effort to put in an under-hand curve of an issue that doesn't exist." Cors later stated that he intended to prevent the defense from suggesting that Watters had attempted to become "amorous" with Greene. At Cors' request the judge sent the jury out of the courtroom and a mistrial was then requested and granted.
On January 27, 1959 a new trial began that featured a jury field trip to Greene's dressing room at WCPO where her Cinderella costumes still hung on clothes hangers. A picture of the jurors (eight women and four men) gawking at Greene's wardrobe was splashed across the pages of the Cincinnati Enquirer the following day. Watters did not testify during the re-trial, but Greene did decide to take the stand.
Choking back tears, Greene rebutted the stories offered by Kersker and Blandford: "I never raised my voice. I didn't scream or holler." As for Blandford's alleged manhandling of Greene she recounted for the court: "He grabbed my arm and threw me in whip fashion I told him to stop, that he was hurting me." The dethroned star also revealed her anxiety of being taken away by the two men: "I was afraid to go with them. When I saw the (police) station I was certainly thankful. Up to that time, I didn't believe they were taking me to the station."
In their closing arguments, the opposing attorneys crystallized their versions of the dispute. Assistant Prosecutor Cors said that the station "took extra precaution for what they considered good reason to keep her (Greene) from getting into the show that morning." Defense lawyer Abrams contended that WCPO engaged the services of the police "before they knew what was going to happen" and charged that his client's arrest was the result of a "deliberate frame-up." For emphasis and sympathy, the kindly old attorney reminded the jury: "You saw her on the stand. You saw what a nice, sweet girl Janet is. Here they have a fellow waiting to provoke trouble, to affect her reputation, to discredit her."
It took the jury 2-1/2 hours of deliberations to acquit "Cinderella" on the evening of January 28, 1959. Greene heard the good news at a little after 6 P.M. The Cincinnati Post-Times reported the decision with just the right mixture of reverence and exploitation in a story headlined "Cindy Acquitted In TV Hassle": "As the jury returned to the courtroom, Mrs. Greenroos appeared to be worried. When the not guilty verdict was read, Cinderella gulped, put both hands to her eyes and her chin quivered. Then she smiled."
Greene shook hands with some of the jurors as they filed out and she was quoted by the Post-Times to have said "Well, I feel much better now." The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that "the pretty brunette" looked "tired after her three day trial," and that she said "my faith in people has been restored" before leaving the courtroom with her husband. She added, "I am going home to rest and see the children. I haven't seen them all day."
In addition to acquitting Greene, the jury made a special request to the judge to speak with Kersker. The detective, still irked after all these years, recalled the moment: "They said 'we just wanted you to know that we believed you, but we felt there was more going on than was presented in the trial.'"
Goodbye ColumbusIf there was one headline that clearly summed up Greene's current life status after her tumultuous trials, it was this one from the Newark (Ohio) Advocate that ran the day after her legal vindication: "TV Actress Is Acquitted, But Remains Fired." Greene did what any performer would do today: She filed a $500,000 civil suit for false arrest against Mort Watters and station owner Scripps—Howard Radio, Inc. and then she returned to her roots—the road. Little did she know that the "road" would quickly lead her back to her retired glass slipper.
Greene recalled that her rediscovery occurred in a club in Columbus: "I was singing in what they called a 'key club.' That's a place where businessmen belonged. I was commuting (from Cincinnati). I hated going there because my kids weren't there, so I'd just drive back and forth every day 'cause I couldn't stand it...Anyway, some men came in and they were agents who sold business to radio and television and one man said 'you don't belong in here, you belong on television.' He knew who I was, he knew the story and so he got this one agent to come hear me and to meet me—Dwight King was his name, really nice man. And anyway, he thought we could create our own ("Cinderella") show from the start..."
Greene and King got sponsors lined up before they even pitched the children's show to WTVN and the new incarnation of "Cinderella" quickly sold and launched in 1960. The Greene family moved to Columbus and with the exception of David Greenroos' "stage husband" meddling on her show (he was eventually banned from the station according to Greene), she recounts the period as being a "much better" experience than her WCPO days. Greene augmented her TV work by appearing in such productions as The Columbus Symphony Orchestra's presentation of "The Story of Celeste."
It was in 1964 that Greene's life would take another bizarre turn—to the extreme right. What caused this radical departure for the suburban housewife, mother and television personality? Was it a mid-life crisis? Drugs? The Beatles? No, it was the charisma of Dr. Frederick C. Schwarz, the rabid Red Scare lecturer, who inspired Janet Greene to hang up her Cinderella costume once and for all. And it was David Greenroos' growing involvement with anti-Communist activism that was what first brought his wife into Schwarz's orbit.
Fred Schwarz was a college student in Australia in the 1930s when he became alarmed about the expansion of Communism. What concerned him most was that its atheistic tenets were an affront to his own deeply held Christian beliefs. In 1940 Schwarz was studying medicine at the University of Queensland when he had his first debate with an actual Communist. This spurred him to continue studying the subject. In the early 1950s, Schwarz, now a physician, toured America lecturing about the evils of the Godless Reds. The doctor's rhetorical gimmick was to "diagnose" Communism as a "disease" and then prescribe the recommended treatment for its "cure." In 1953 he founded the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (CACC) in the United States and by 1955 he closed his medical practice in Sydney, Australia to become a full-time crusader. To that end, Schwarz became a touring, multimedia whirlwind. During a career that outlasted the fall of the Berlin Wall, Schwarz wrote books such as "You Can Trust the Communists (to be Communists), recorded LPs including "Communist Trickery" and "What is Communism?" He also produced THE TRUTH ABOUT COMMUNISM film series narrated by Ronald Reagan as well as the film ULTIMATE WEAPON concerning the brainwashing of American POWs in Korea that was also narrated by the future president. One of Schwarz's more peculiar beliefs was that America would come under Soviet domination by 1973. A lot of strange things happened in the United States in '73, but the gulags on Main Street never did materialize. Schwarz resisted assigning specific dates to his dire predictions thereafter.
Greene remembered the circumstances that resulted in her first exposure to the oracle from Sydney: "...I didn't want to even go to the meetings, you know, but finally he (her husband) talked me into going and he was interesting...So anyway, I thought he was an excellent speaker. In fact, he was comedic, too. He was a very colorful and interesting speaker. You know, I had never even been to high school or college, so I was taken in by that..." Schwarz, it turned out, was also impressed by Greene. This was attributable to David Greenroos's eager-to-please tactic of ensuring that the good doctor was aware of his wife's exploitable musical talents. Schwarz's admiration led to his pitch for the Greene family to relocate to Long Beach, California where CACC was based and for the husband and wife to work full time for the cause (David Greenroos' work for CACC consisted primarily of scheduling appearances for Greene).
"...he (David Greenroos) told him about me," Greene continued, "so he (Schwarz) watched the TV show and he was real impressed with it. He said their (CACC) programs lacked music, they didn't have that and he said it would help to get their message across a lot better if they had music. And I had written songs before. I had written commercials and things like that. So he offered a $500-a- week package for me and my husband. It was less than what I was making. I was making more than that. Not a lot more, by myself."
In retrospect, Greene explained the decision to uproot as having a lot to do with the opportunity to move to the West Coast ("...It was a chance for us to move to California which I had always wanted to do, so we did"). The public reasons offered for accepting Schwarz's offer were geared more for his benefit. Indeed, after Greene broke the news to her incredulous station management ("They were very surprised. They couldn't believe it."), she held a news conference that was tilted towards her new role as a soldier for Schwarz. Greene's farewell polemic must have been intriguing to all of the housewives who, with their children, had watched her portray a decidedly non-partisan Cinderella. The text of Greene's statement:
I am very grateful to have had the privilege of growing up in the United States of America. I was reared in a Christian home with the love of my parents and my brother and sister. I have been able to follow my own personal chosen field of singing and acting. I studied and worked hard when I was young to develop my talents and through these efforts I obtained my own television show in Columbus, Ohio where I have been very happy. God has been very good to me. It has been my pleasure to work with the children of Columbus on my TV show, and I feel a great affection for them. I shall certainly miss them. My husband and I have two children of our own, and it is my concern for their future that has prompted me to leave my TV career. Our American heritage and Christian religion are in great jeopardy. The enemy is Communism. Communism denies the existence of God, the individual right to freedom of choice and woman's right to raise her own family as God intended. The Communists plan to take our children away from us. They are doing this in Cuba, just 90 miles of our shores. I have listened to the tape recording of the pathetic pleas of Juanita Castro (Fidel's sister) for the United States to help them regain their freedom. She has told of children spying and informing on their own parents, of slave labor and of horrible conditions under which all the people live. I do not wish this to be the future of my children. Recently women have played a major role in victories over Communism. The defeats surrendered by the Communists in Brazil and Chile were due in large measure to the women of those countries. I am hoping and praying that the women of the United States will become aroused and save our country and our children from the tyranny of Communism. I am dedicating my voice and musical talents to help bring this to pass.
As Greene set course for her new adventure out west, WTVN replaced her show with a politically indeterminate (but probably Republican) cowboy host and cartoons.
Ideological Tupperware PartiesDr. Schwarz trumpeted his new discovery with the zeal of Colonel Tom Parker or, perhaps more appropriately, Albert Grossman. Not only did he trot Greene out for the Biltmore press conference as described earlier, he also wrote this grandiose introduction for his star in the October 1964 CACC newsletter:
Every great movement throughout history has expressed its inspiration in music. The Anti-Communist movement is young and music has not played a large part in its development to date. This contrasts with the Communist movement which has made great use of such singers and Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger. The Christian Anti-Communism Crusade is adding a new dimension to its activity, the dimension of music. We are satisfied with nothing less than the best and we have followed this policy in securing the services of Janet Greene as music director. Janet is a vivacious and beautiful young lady of remarkable musical talent. For the past several years, she had been the leading TV star of Columbus, Ohio where her early morning program, Cinderella, has delighted the hearts of the children. In competition with Captain Kangaroo and the Today show, her program Cinderella had the highest rating. Conscious of the magnitude of the Communist danger, at considerable personal financial sacrifice, she had surrendered her TV program to become music director of the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade. Her family had accompanied her to California and they now make their home in Long Beach. She has the complete support of her husband and charming daughters...
The Greenes arrived in Long Beach at the end of 1964 and the next three years would prove to be a blur of touring, writing and recording for Janet. The crucial decision for Greene to become the right's answer to Joan Baez was her own: "Well, it was kind of my idea and Dr. Schwarz and we both talked it over and he says 'well they have Joan Baez, we don't have anybody,' you know?"
Surprisingly, Greene actually admired her liberal anti-model and went to see her in concert in the mid-sixties: "She was a wonderful artist, I thought..." In retrospect, Greene is perhaps more forgiving of Baez's politics than Schwarz would ever be: "I'm not saying she was a Communist. She was just a liberal. You know that time, the sixties, all the mostly young people were swept away by free love and all that stuff."
Once this shrewdly calculated persona was adopted, the next order of business was for Greene to begin composing a repertoire of tunes to perform during her personal appearances. When asked, Greene described her songwriting methodology thusly: "What I would do is, I would listen to his (Schwarz's) speeches from office recordings and I wrote all of these songs. I got the gist for most of them from his speeches and then I'd set them to music." This technique may strike some as a form of glorified stenography, but anyone who has ever heard a Schwarz diatribe knows that extracting a song from all that paranoid blather is a major accomplishment. The fact that Greene eventually managed to mine eight catchy tunes from Schwarz's recorded rantings is a minor miracle. Besides, no one ever complained when Lennon and McCartney used the (London) Daily Mail as a source of inspiration for A Day in the Life.
Greene relied on these compositions to sell Schwarz's message. She would take her act to homes where women interested in the anti-Communist cause would gather for an evening. Greene recalled the impact her presence had on these ideological Tupperware parties: "...I sang and performed the songs and it made the meetings more festive..." She also toured the country with her growing catalog of tunes, a task that became tiring, as she recalled: "It's strange because sometimes I'd be in Detroit one night and then I'd be in Denver the next night and I'd forget where I was. Forget what city I was in, you know!"
The singer didn't always preach to the choir when she ventured out on the road, but as a testament to her talent and good nature, she almost always managed to win people over. In a 1966 newspaper interview Greene referred to such an incident that occurred at a Columbus, Ohio performance: "Some kids—beatnik types—picketed outside the hall. But they sent a note in to me saying my singing was 'the greatest.' They have nothing against me as long as I sing."
Goldwater Rally Program - Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA, May 30th, 1964. MC'd by John Wayne the program inluded a performance by Janet Greene.
In a show that is probably as close to a conservative Woodstock as ever will be held, Greene sang the National Anthem at a Barry Goldwater rally held at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA on May 30, 1964. Sharing the stage at this remarkable event was John Wayne (the M.C.), Ronald Reagan (reciting the Pledge of Allegiance) and CONELRAD favorites The Goldwaters!
Occasionally, Greene's tour fatigue was alleviated by on-stage visits by her daughters, Joan and Marilyn. The proud mother still fondly recalls singing Barry Sadler's The Ballad of the Green Berets with her kids: "It was so cute. They were both darling girls and they still are and they were good singers, both of them..." It is truly unfortunate that due to the law abiding nature of Greene's audience, bootleg tapes of surreal moments like these are unlikely to ever be uncovered.
Greene's studio recordings of her Schwarz-inspired songs were produced by a Los Angeles musician named Del Katcher with whom Janet had been taking guitar lessons. Katcher was a minor record producer, songwriter and session guitarist who hailed from Indiana. While Katcher may not have been Phil Spector, he apparently got the job done for the right price. Greene still thinks very highly of his talents: "...he had a little studio at his home and he played fantastic guitar. My guitar was just adequate and I just got by, but he was excellent. He overdubbed other instruments and everything. He did a very good job." Katcher's memorable back-up vocals are preserved for the ages on Comrade's Lament.
The eight songs that Greene recorded in Del Katcher's home studio in 1966 were released as four 45 RPM singles on Schwarz's Chantico label and as a side of Schwarz's own box set spectacular, "What is Communism?" Schwarz referred to the recordings on this collection as "tools" that were "honed sharp."
What was the critical reaction to the unique act of Janet Greene? It was mostly non-existent, but there were a few press blurbs that are so strange that they are worth excerpting here. The odd fascination with Greene's grooming in these reviews is a reminder that the right never managed to produce rock criticism on par with Lester Bangs (or even Kurt Loder).
FOLKSINGER NO BEATNIK, BACKS VIETNAM WAR
This is a folksinger? She is attractive and well-groomed, wearing a neat wool dress with a jeweled American flag pin... She is Janet Greene of Long Beach, Cal., the anti-Communists' answer to the left-wing folksingers appearing at rallies of protest against American policy in South Vietnam.
— GLOBE-DEMOCRAT (St. Louis, Missouri); October 15, 1965
A GIRL, A GUITAR AND A MESSAGE
Take one big guitar; tuck one small woman behind it; and add a clear, true voice. The sum of these parts is a black-haired, brown-eyed folksinger—a folksinger who refuses to follow the path of some of her colleagues. Her name is Janet Greene and instead of using her voice to demonstrate against American policy in Vietnam, Janet has enlisted it in the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade.
— GLOBE-DEMOCRAT (St. Louis, Missouri); April 8, 1966
YOUNG PATRIOTS ARE NOT WITHOUT A SONG
You'll never guess what happened at the University of California at Berkeley some days ago. It was really pretty wild and far out. A guitar-strumming folk singer performed before the students. That's not unusual in itself. But the songs were very unusual. They were patriotic. And the lyrics weren't obscene or suggestive. You have to admit that's different. And how did students at the university that achieved notoriety because of last year's "free speech" movement take to the patriotic songs? They cheered them. It reveals that most students are good Americans who love their country. It's as true in California as it is in Indiana. The Pro-American Folk Singer who gained the students' respect is Janet Greene. In a way it wouldn't be sporting to compare her to most female "protest" folk singers because Janet has a number of unfair advantages. For one thing she looks like a girl. Not many female protest singers can say that. And that may be what they are really protesting against, deep down. Granted, there are plenty of male protest singers who look like girls, but they don't look as good as Janet Greene either. Also, Janet does things that most protest folk singers wouldn't dream of. Like taking a bath. And like wearing clean clothes and dressing neatly and being legally married and having legitimate children and loving her country. You know, corny things like that...
— Woolsey Teller, June 6, 1966 (CACC Newsletter)
Forever ChangesBy 1967, Janet Greene was ready to conclude her reign as the "Anti-Baez." The ceaseless touring and tensions stirred up by her still "stage managing" husband had taken their toll. Greene recalled the climate that led to her departure: "Well, there was starting to be friction between my husband and Dr. Schwarz. And I had done it for three years and I was tired of it anyway. And because, I thought, well I did what I could and it's time to move on... He (her husband) would try and tell people how to do their jobs and that would not go far with Dr. Schwarz." Despite whatever ill will existed between David Greenroos and Dr. Schwarz, Schwarz wanted Janet to stay. "Well, he didn't want me to quit," Janet stated, "but I did."
Following Greene's clean break from CACC, she decided to try and go back to her kiddie show roots, but this would prove to be impossible in the Los Angeles media market: "I had gone to some TV stations and tried to pitch my show that I had. But there was so much competition there. Each station would tell me that there were so many famous people wanting to get television shows..."
However, Greene liked Southern California too much to leave, so she started up her lounge act again and performed in the various clubs for the next couple of decades. Janet calculated the timeline: "Well, I guess I started not too long after I left the Crusade. The end of '67. I started singing and I just kept on working until, oh, I worked until I was in my sixties."
There is never even a trace of bitterness in Greene's voice as she discusses her long cocktail lounge circuit career. Despite the fact that she developed a chronic hoarse cough from the years of exposure to audience cigarette smoke, she remains upbeat about this period: "The first place I worked at was the Saddleback Inn in Norwalk, California. And then I worked a lot of different times at the Captain's Quarters—that's in Long Beach, not far from my house which was really nice. And, let's see, I worked at...it's not even there anymore. It used to be right across from that big airplane factory they have there—Rochelle's. I worked there quite a few times. And I worked at a place called the Corsican Room, really often, but I don't think it exists anymore, it's in Belmont Shore. And I loved that place, that was such a nice place. I could do a lot of classical songs there and they loved it."
In 1977 Janet and David divorced. Greene had met a Spanish billboard and portrait artist by the name of Jose Nieto. "He was the most wonderful artist and wonderful man. I met him where I was singing. He came in and had seen my picture in the paper. He had had a heart attack and was in the hospital and he saw my picture and it said that I sang Spanish songs and he thought 'well as soon as I get out of here, I'm gonna go see her.' So that's what happened."
Nieto's rendering of his wife savoring a bowl of soup is featured on the cover of Greene's self-released 1980 LP "Country and Spanish Flavors." This record is a collection of Janet's favorite standards with two original tracks, one of which was inspired by Ronald Reagan (I Am Only One). Coincidentally, Nieto had also been moved to paint a portrait of Reagan around this time, so the couple decided to send a copy of Greene's LP along with the painting to the soon-to-be elected first family. These curious gifts no doubt still reside somewhere deep within the catacombs of the Reagan Library.
Greene's blissful life with Nieto ended in 1984 when he died of a heart attack. She has carried on alone ever since.
Drifter's EscapeLike the folksinger of yore, Janet has taken to traveling in recent years. She divides her time between visits to various family members around the country. With a lifetime of experiences to draw upon, she is almost certainly never boring at whatever dinner table she finds herself sitting at.
Long after his association with Greene, Fred Schwarz, who is still alive but retired from the CACC, wrote a doorstop of an autobiography touting his efforts in the toppling of Communism. Evidently, the elderly visionary did not consider his former music director's contributions to be significant enough to rate a single mention in his bloated tome. When CONELRAD attempted to reach some of Greene's other associates from her anti-Communist days, they either did not wish to discuss her or they claimed not to remember her. To be fair, Joan Baez did not wish to discuss her right wing doppelganger, either.
In the annals of show business, Janet Greene's lopsided deal with Dr. Schwarz may rank somewhere far below Robert Johnson's mythic pact with Satan at the "crossroads," but at least she became a marginal national presence as a result of her work (Johnson got everlasting fame and a Sony box set out of his deal). It is only by virtue of this limited exposure that CONELRAD came to learn of the amazing Ms. Greene. And if some superstitious blues fans insist on crediting the devil for Robert Johnson, we can certainly pause and thank Fred Schwarz for Janet Greene.
1. CONELRAD contacted the Cincinnati Police Department in the hopes of obtaining a copy of Janet Greene's police report and a mug shot (if one was taken), but we were told by the Public Information Officer that records of this vintage have long since been destroyed. [ BACK ]
2. Albert Grossman was the voluble folk-rock impresario and agent who managed many famous artists during the 1960s (most notably, Bob Dylan). Grossman was also responsible for the manufacturing of Peter, Paul and Mary (the nearest folk equivalent to The Monkees). He died in 1986. [ BACK ]
|© 1999-2007 CONELRAD.COM|
CONELRAD | ATOMIC SECRETS | CONELRAD 100 | ATOMIC MUSIC | MUTATED TV | SITE MAP | ABOUT US