Jack Greene stand next to his awards that he donated to the CMA after the nominees announcement at the Ryman Auditorium in 2011. (Tennessean file: Samuel M. Simpkins/The Tennessean) - The Tennessean
Jack Greene, a Grand Ole Opry fixture in six decades and the singer of country music classics including "There Goes My Everything" and "Statue Of A Fool," died Thursday, March 14, at his Nashville-area home, due to complications from Alzheimer's disease.
Born Jack Henry Greene in Maryville, Tenn., Mr. Greene was 83. He was the Country Music Association's first-ever male vocalist of the year, and he voiced 19 Top 20 country singles.
Nicknamed "The Jolly Green Giant," Mr. Greene entered the music business as a radio disc jockey on Maryville's WGAP in 1947, while he was still in high school. He served in the Army during the Korean War, then moved to Atlanta, Ga., and worked as a vocalist and drummer in a band that opened for numerous touring acts. In Atlanta, he often listened to blind minstrel Pete Cassell, who became his greatest vocal influence.
When Ernest Tubb's Texas Troubadours played Atlanta in late 1961, Tubb was impressed with Mr. Greene's musicianship, and in June of 1962, Mr. Greene joined the Troubadours: Tubb sometimes referred to him as the band's "big-eared singing drummer." In addition to Mr. Greene's roles as a featured singer and percussionist, he was also valued within the group for other skills:
"From his Army days, he'd learned a lot about diesel motors and could drive and repair Tubb's bus," wrote historian Ronnie Pugh in "Ernest Tubb: The Texas Troubadour."
While Mr. Greene sometimes joked that his chief contributions to Tubb's band were mechanical and navigational, he stood out immediately as a deft player and vocalist, and he often took a turn at center stage, singing his debut single, "The Last Letter."
In 1966, Decca Records released Mr. Greene's first Top 40 single, "Ever Since My Baby Went Away," and later that year Mr. Green's recording of the Dallas Frazier-penned "There Goes My Everything" made him a star. "There Goes My Everything" spent seven weeks atop the charts, and Tubb encouraged Mr. Greene to go out on his own.
In 1967, Mr. Greene joined the Opry, and he was the runaway winner at the first CMA Awards, emerging victories in the male vocalist, single and album of the year categories. ("There Goes My Everything" also won the top song prize that year, an award presented to writer Frazier.)
"There Goes My Everything" was the beginning of a dominant chart run for Mr. Greene. His "All The Time" was a five-week No. 1 in 1967, and he followed that with chart-toppers "You Are My Treasure" and "Until My Dreams Come True." But it was 1969's "Statue Of A Fool" that extended and secured his legacy as an enduring country vocalist. Written by Jan Crutchfield, "Statue" may be heard as a bookend to Mr. Greene's first major hit: "There Goes My Everything" was about loss, while "Statue" is about resignation.
"By the time (producer Owen) Bradley's arrangement ascends to its thrilling conclusion, Greene's composure is shattered," wrote David Cantwell in "Heartaches By The Number: Country Music's 500 Greatest Singles." "All he can do is shout, in an operatic cry even Marty Robbins or Roy Orbison might have envied, that this statue of 'the World's Greatest Fool' should be named after him."
In the 1970s, Mr. Greene recorded and toured with Jeannie Seely, notching a No. 2 duet hit with "Wish I Didn't Have To Miss You" as well as Top 20 duo singles "What In The World Has Gone Wrong With Our Love" and "Much Oblige." He also scored with solo hits including "I Need Somebody Bad," "Satisfaction" and "It's Time To Cross That Bridge," though his string of Top 40 hits ended in 1980 with "The Rock I'm Leaning On."
Until Mr. Greene's 2011 retirement, he remained a regular presence on the Opry, where he was admired for a powerhouse voice that seemed impervious to aging and for his warm and gracious presence. He sang his signature hits in their original keys, often drawing standing ovations.
"Newcomers and Opry veterans alike would stand in the wings and marvel at what they were witnessing," said Opry and WSM announcer Eddie Stubbs, who often introduced Mr. Greene as "One of the Grand Ole Opry's finest singers, and one of its finest gentlemen."