Remembering Tony (#533)
Friday, September 28, 2012
Two years ago today, Tony Greene left this world for a better place. And frankly, I—and a whole lot of other people—miss him.
Two years ago today, the world of Southern Gospel music changed quite a bit. Here's why...
In addition to keeping his own group, The Greenes, on the road, Tony promoted dozens of concerts each year. Throughout the year, more than 20 artists would hear Tony on the other end of the phone asking, "Can you come over and work my little singing?"
That little singing, as Tony put it, might have been the annual August event that he hosted in Boone, North Carolina, before moving it to Marion, North Carolina. Or it could have been an event elsewhere in North Carolina. Or South Carolina. Or Georgia. Or Virginia. Or West Virginia. Or...
Tony promoted Southern Gospel music concerts all over the country and sadly, many of those concerts have not been picked up by another promoter still today. With that many concerts suddenly stricken from the calendar, you now understand why I said the world of Southern Gospel music changed quite a bit on September 28, 2010.
When it came to concerts, Tony was fearless. He'd make up line-ups that would leave artists scratching their heads and have other promoters wondering what had gotten into that boy. I remember one occasion when The Booth Brothers were just getting into the national spotlight and Tony booked them on his concert in Lenoir, North Carolina. On the program were The Greenes, The Booths—and The Primitive Quartet, The McKameys and Michael Combs. And during that time, no one was hotter in Western North Carolina than those latter three. Still to this day, Michael Booth says he remembers how well he felt the breeze of the people leaving their seats to go buy The McKameys' latest CD when the first Booth Brothers track started playing.
But Tony knew that The Booth Brothers were going to be an asset to him down the road in future promotions, so he took the plunge, introduced them to some new people—and sure enough, Tony later used the Booths on many concerts when no one left their seats.
So, yes, Southern Gospel music misses Tony Greene as an artist and as a promoter.
But we also miss him for "just Tony." Most of you know the story of how Tony accidentally left me in Ohio on a cold winter night, and he and I laughed about that for years. I'll always remember that "innocent little boy look" he had in his eyes when he opened the bus door for me after returning some 90 minutes later. Then there was the time he accidentally destroyed the mood of an opening prayer I was saying on stage in Columbus, Ohio—Ohio has been a rough state for Tony and me for some reason—when all of the medicine he was taking combined for an odorous emission he simply couldn't hold any longer. He started his infamous snorting when Tony Gore & Majesty, The Hoppers and the rest of The Greenes lost their composure and fell apart in uncontrollable laughter as the curtain opened. The first 30 minutes of that concert turned into a laugh-fest.
Things didn't change much when we were off the road, either. Back when Tony and I both lived in Boone, North Carolina, Tony would often call my office to see what was going on "in the Southern Gospel music world that he needed to know about." More than once, his reply to my "Hello" was "Well, has any group quit today? I need their dates!"
Now, before you think Tony was being a vulture, you simply had to know Tony to know why he said that. The "real" Tony was the Tony Greene I witnessed—for umpteen times—rolling down his window and handing over a $20 or $50 bill to someone standing on a corner with a sign that read, "Need help."
But back to Tony's phone calls. A lot of those same conversations often included an invitation for me to go over and see him at Hampton's Funeral Service where he often worked when he wasn't singing. I cannot tell you how many times he told me, "Hey, you need to come over here right now. We just got in a big shipment of caskets and some of them are just dandy! You oughta come test drive one!"
How could you not miss someone like that?