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Jeanie Greene - Mary Called Jeanie Greene (LP)

Jeanie Greene - Mary Called Jeanie Greene (LP)

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Genre: soul
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Mary Called Jeanie Greene
Company: Elektra
Catalog: EKS-74103
Year: 1971
Country/State: US
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: die cut cover; original lyric inner sleeve
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 5456
Price: $20.00

In the early 1970s Jac Holzman and Elektra Records became interested in Southern rock. That interest saw the label sign a host of Southern acts including The Alabama State Troupers, Lonnie Mack, Mickey Newbury, Don Nix, and Jeanie Greene. Though she only released one album and a couple of singles for the label, Greene was easily one of the more interesting acts signed by the company. In Holzman's book Follow the Music Ron Miller provided an interesting description of Greene: " ... she was white, but she sang black, she heard voices and truly believed she was the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene."

Born Mary Elizabeth Lee, billed as Jeanie Johnson she caught the attention of country star Chet Atkins who helped her score a contract with RCA Victor and produced her first three instantly obscure country singles:

- 1958's 'My Jimmy' b/w "Next Thing To Paradise' (RCA Victor catalog number 47-7163)
- 1958's 'Listen To the Wind' b/w 'Go Away' (RCA Victor catalog number 47-7271)
- 1960's 'Johnnie My Love' b/w 'Wishing Well' (RCA Victor catalog number 47-7782)

Starting in 1965 she released a pair of singles using the stage name Jeanie Fortune:

- 1965's 'Once More with Feeling' b/w 'Occasional Tears' (RCA Victor catalog number 47-8704)
- 1966's 'Keep Me' b/w 'Angry Eyes' (RCA Victor catalog number 47-8914)

Co-written by Dan Penn and Marlin Greene, the first single apparently introduced her to future husband Greene and found her starting to work as a sessions backup singer at Chips Moman's American Studios. One of the acts she supported was Elvis Presley. The resulting publicity saw her taking another stab at a solo career. Signed by Atlantic's ATCO subsidiary, as Jeanie Greene she released:

- 1968's 'Sure As Sin' b/w I've Been a Long Time Loving You'' (ATCO catalog number 45-6619)

Written and produced by husband Marlin Greene, two years later Greene and fellow back-up vocalists Mary Holliday, Ginger Holliday, and Donna Thatcher (later Donna Jean Godchaux of Grateful Dead fame) recorded a one-shot 45 credited to Southern Comfort.  

- 1970's 'Milk and Honey' b/w 'Don't Take Your Sweet Love Away' (Cotillion catalog number 45-44043)

Signed by Elektra, Green's first (and only) album "Mary Called Jeanie Greene" found her teamed with producer Don Nix (he also wrote several of the tracks) and the cream of Muscle Shoals studio players (Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, Wayne Perkins, etc.). As quoted above, Ron Miller's description was right on the mark. Blessed with a deep and gritty voice, Greene sure didn't sound like the small redheaded white woman shown on the inner sleeve and on the back cover. Musically tracks like 'Put Your Good On The Line', 'Mighty Time' and 'Pre-Recognition' offered up a mixture of Southern soul, Gospel and rock moves. Also worth mentioning was a strange, African-influenced effort - 'Swaziland Remembered African Folk Chant' an the atypical pop song 'Only the Children Know'. Perhaps not a perfect comparison, but imagine Bonnie and Delaney at a Southern tent revival and you'd be in the right musical neighborhood. Over the years I've listened to the album dozens of times and while I really like Greene's voice, there are at least two characteristics that keep the set from being a classic. Like Joplin and lots of other blues-based singers, Greene had a tendency to go screechy when she tried to kick into high gear (check out 'Thank God He Came' and 'Peter Put Away Your Sword' where she actually sounded quite a bit like a secular Joplin). Not that there's anything wrong in being reverent, but the collection had a fairly high and rather blatant religious quotient that probably won't appeal to a lot of folks. In all honesty you could probably classify this as a Christian rock set. Not exactly Elektra's most commercial release, but the set had its moments. Elektra also tapped the LP for an instantly obscure single:

- 1971's Only the Children Know'' b/w 'Magdalene's Medley' (Elektra catalog number EKS-45742)

"Mary Called Jeanie Greene" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Yes I Do Understand (Jeanie Greene - Marlin Greene)
2.) You Know Who You Are (Jeanie Greene)
3.) Put Your Good On The Line (Marlin Greene)
4.) Thank God He Came (Donnie Fritts - Arthur Alexander)
5.) Like A Road Leading Home (Don Nix - Dan Penn)
6.) Swaziland Remembered African Folk Chant (traditional arranged by Jeanie Greene)

(side 2)
1.) Joa-Bim (Tippy Armstrong )
2.) Mighty Time (Don Nix)
3.) Magdalene's Medley (traditional arranged by Jeanie Greene)
4.) Pre-Recognition (Jeanie Greene)
5.) Only The Children Know (Don Nix)
6.) Peter Put Away Your Sword (Jeanie Greene)
7.) Going Home (traditional arranged by Jeanie Greene)

Greene continued to work as a backup singer through the 1970s and 1980s, but as far as I can tell hasn't released any more solo material. Anyone know if she recorded any other material and what she's up to these days?

Ask and you'll get an answer ...

I'm a cousin of Jeannie Greene (Mary Elizabeth Johnson Lee). She lives in her hometown of Corinth, Mississippi in northeast Mississippi not far from Huntsville, Alabama. She moved back after the death of her second husband. She is in bad health and lives in a retirement complex. She loves to play her baby grand and talked about her recording and touring days. She is a smoker and has a great raspy voices when she sings. It was great to know that her work is still out in circulation. I enjoyed reading your review of her work. Her phone number is listed and I'm sure she would be honored to share her life experiences with you!

Sincerely, DeLane SteenJanuary, 2011
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