Photograph by James Fraher.
GREEN, CLARENCE (1934–1997). Blues guitarist and band leader Clarence Green was born in Mont Belvieu, Texas, in Chambers County, on January 1, 1934. He was a versatile guitarist who should not be confused with the piano-playing blues singer Clarence "Candy" Green (1929–88) from nearby Galveston. Green, the guitar player, was a stalwart of the Houston scene who fronted a number of popular bands, the most famous being the Rhythmaires, between the early 1950s and his death.
The oldest son of a Creole mother, he grew up in Houston's Fifth Ward in the neighborhood known as Frenchtown. He had first started making music on homemade stringed instruments devised in collaboration with his brother, Cal Green, who later served as lead guitarist for Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and did studio work for Ray Charles and other stars, relocating permanently to California in the process. Clarence, however, opted to stay close to home all his life, choosing the security of full-time employment with Houston Light and Power, where he worked for twenty years.
Nevertheless, he found ample opportunity in the Bayou City to exploit his musical talents, both on stage and in recordings. He started out around 1951 or 1952 in a group that called itself Blues For Two. Throughout the next decade the band's personnel changed often; some of the more well-known members, at various times, included fellow guitarists Johnny Copeland and Joe Hughes. Green went on to lead the High Type Five, the Cobras (not to be confused with the mid-1970s Austin-based band of the same name led by Paul Ray), and ultimately his most well-known ensemble, the Rhythmaires, which was a mainstay of the Houston scene for over thirty years.
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Mixing blues, jazz, and soul music––and playing in all manner of venues, from small clubs in the old wards to grand corporate affairs downtown and in private mansions––the Rhythmaires are remembered not only for Green's precisely swinging performances on electric guitar, but also for the many female vocalists they developed and featured over the years, including Iola Broussard, Gloria Edwards, Luvenia Lewis (who married Cal Green but did not follow him to the West Coast), Trudy Lynn, Faye Robinson, Lavelle White, and others.
Starting in the late 1950s and continuing through the 1960s, Green also did regular session work as a guitarist at various studios, the most notable being Duke Records, where he backed artists such as Bobby Bland, Joe Hinton, and Junior Parker and released a few singles, including "Keep On Working," under his own name. In 1958 he had recorded his first single, "Mary My Darling," for the C & P label, which later leased it to Chicago-based Chess Records. In the following years he made numerous records for a variety of other small labels, including Shomar (which released his "Crazy Strings" in 1962), All Boy, Aquarius, Bright Star, Lynn, Pope, and Golden Eagle. His backing personnel on these tracks varied from session to session but occasionally included notable Texas blues musicians such as Henry Hayes, Wilbur McFarland, Teddy Reynolds, Ivory Lee Semien, and Hop Wilson.
Green did not always receive proper compensation for his many recordings, especially as they began to reappear on compact disk in the 1990s. In 1994 he became a co-plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed against one of his former producers on behalf of fifteen Houston blues musicians or their descendants. Just days before Green died of natural causes in Houston on March 13, 1997, a federal jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
In the final months of his life Green was especially focused on performing gospel music in the context of religious worship, especially at the Frenchtown institution known as Buck Street Memorial Church of God in Christ, where he served as a deacon for many years. Green had a daughter, three sons, and several stepchildren.
Alan B. Govenar, Meeting the Blues (Dallas: Taylor, 1988). Sheldon Harris, Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1979). Houston Chronicle, March 15, 1997. Bill Wasserzieher, "The Houston Scene: Clarence Green," Living Blues, January–February 1997. Roger Wood, Down In Houston: Bayou City Blues (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Roger Wood, "Green, Clarence," accessed February 13, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgray.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on September 17, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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