Born in Omaha Nebraska on May 23, 1893, George Hamilton Green, Jr. was a piano prodigy at the age of four. His grandfather, Joseph Green I, began as violinist and violin maker in New York City-later he moved to Omaha to work as conductor and baritone horn soloist with the Seventh Ward Silver Cornet Band. In 1889 George Hamilton Green Jr.’s father (George Hamilton Green, Sr.) followed his father’s footsteps becoming cornet soloist, arranger and conductor of the Seventh Ward Silver Cornet Band-playing weekly concerts to audiences of 7,000-10,000 in the 1890’s. Coming from such a musical background, it is not too surprising that George Jr. was already being called the “world’s greatest xylophonist” when he was only eleven years old! The next four decades of recording and composing provide documented evidence to justify the title.
In 1915, a review in the United States Musician stated: “He has begun where every other xylophone player left off. His touch, his attack, his technique, and his powers of interpretation in the rendition of his solos being far different than other performers. To say his work is marvelous and wonderful would not fully express it.”
G.H. Green Jr. recorded his first solo record for the Edison Co. in February 1917-the beginning of an incredible recording career as a solo xylophonist. He recorded hundreds of records on virtually all record labels of the era-including the big three companies: Edison, Victor and Columbia. Groups that he recorded with include: Patrick Conway’s Band, American Republic Band, All Star Trio, Green Brothers Novelty Band (his brother Joseph Green II was also a xylophone soloist, composer and percussionist), Earl Fuller’s Rector House Orchestra, Fred Van Eps Quartet, Imperial Marimba Band, Happy Six, and the Yerkes Jazzarimba Orchestra.
In 1928 Lew Green, Sr. (much younger than his brothers George Jr. and Joseph II) joined his brothers to hit the “big time.” Lew played percussion but favored the banjo and guitar. The three Green brothers were the original sound music crew for the first three Walt Disney cartoons. In 1946, G.H.Green retired from music and began a second career as a commercial artist, illustrator, and cartoonist. It is sad that George Hamilton Green, Jr. passed away in 1970-just a few years before a great revival of interest in his music, and before his 1983 indoctrination into the percussive Arts Society’s Hall of Fame.