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Mel Green: Biography


My earliest memories are of warbling along to hits of the 40s and 50s on the radio with my mother who always seemed to be singing. My younger twin brothers also sang along in our car (which did not have a radio.) I sang hymns and anthems at school assemblies, gleefully singing popular tunes with altered lyrics supporting my high school rugby team, and eventually for my classmates when I picked up a guitar from a still-life arrangement at art school in Cape Town...

... I borrowed a friend's f-hole guitar to ward off boredom after completing homework assignments at art school. Malaguena was the first tune I figured out by ear" and popular songs of that time soon followed.

One summer afternoon sitting on our apartment balcony I played guitar and sang, earning applause from a girl across the way. Ever since then I practiced and soon discovered folk music after transferring to the Johannesburg School of Art. 

I was soon hanging out at the Troubadour Coffeehouse in Johannesburg, almost every night, and became a waiter to be there all the time. All the while studying the guitar-picking styles of the singers playing on that little triangular stage with the hangman's noose suspended from the procenium.

I watched and studied the regular performers very closely: Des Lindberg and Keith Blundell, Leon & Mike, and others who stirred the attentive audiences. One evening I sang along to "Go tell it on the mountain", my loud harmony prompting British import Gary Bryden to pause in mid-song to invite me up on stage to sing with him. SInce then I never looked back!

Soon after, I persuaded my art school comedian friend Mel Miller to join me at the Troubadour ... we sang our entire repertoire... [only three songs] for manager, Keith Blundell, who promptly hired us to take over the Wednesday evening slot, which was soon to be vacated.

We played hooky, "bunking" art school for a month, and even then, when we took the stage at our first gig, we found we still had too few songs, so Mel Miller spontaneously filled in with jokes and extremely funny stories he had been telling at art school. And that's how our reputation as a folk-comedy duo took root.

Within a year, after we had appeared in the first Johannesburg Folk Festival concerts, we were signed to Columbia after being recorded with all the other performers for the compilation concert album. Soon after that, we were persuaded to leave our day jobs to go pro, taking a residency at South Africa's top hotel, appearing as Mel & Mel 6 nights a week, playing totally acoustic!

Our success on a nightly basis, of filling our own venue in the hotel, a large room which could accommodate about 100 people, prompted us to hire Julian Laxton as our lead-guitarist for our next contract in Durban, and in East London. We made three albums with him and enjoyed a short but stellar career, during the time of the Beatles, Stones and the other 60s greats. (That's the short version of our group story... please visit for more of that very eventful tale...)

Nearly forty years later, I am performing solo
, writing and picking as enthusiastically as ever... Apart from my recent recording venture, with my own small band, I have been writing and recording with The Maple Street Project, a folk-rock quintet I co-founded in the western suburbs of Boston and which has been together for over 20 years! It has proven to be a collaboration and a hotbed of inspiration for my own songwriting efforts... Thanks guys!

For my "solo" gigs, these days, I truly play solo, one guitar, one voice... and now and again, if some of my musical friends happen to be around, I'll ask them to step up to the mic and add harmony or instrumental embellishments, all of which keeps me on my toes. 

In the past my friend and collaborator on my solo CD, Paul Lee regularly accompanied me. He is a wonderfully versatile keyboard player, as well as a very good and knowlegable quitarist and singer, who I first met at Summer Acoustic Music Week. Occasionally my buddy from The Maple Street Project, Eric Luskin, accompanied me on bass guitar as well.

When the opportunity arises, I would love to expand the band, adding sax and flute and percussion, and even include a drummer on some gigs. The band "project"  is an ever-changing one as I play my own songs, attempting to re-create the sounds from my CD, "I'm Taking My Time", and interpreting other songs as well. Truth be told, I prefer playing well with others, if only because I know the attempt too recreate what I originally conceived can produce a more satisfying result, and playing with other fine musicians is very inspiring.

However, in a time when we all lead busy lives with careers and family taking our time, as it must, more recently I have "woodshedded"... in other words, making time to rehearse my music so as to play as a solo performer effectively. The more I do so, the more I find my songs taking on "a life of their own", which I can occasionally evolve into set pieces with more meaning and effect, as I play them alone in front of various audiences.

I encourage you (if you've read this far... thank you!) to watch this space for more developments.

 Cheers... Mel

Bio - The Short Version


Mel went solo in 1967... his mellow tenor voice soaring and captivating, his modest yet entertaining ways endearing himself to his audiences. This young man found that singing in public was the cure to his bad stutter, had found a way to a very special freedom... and a way to express, create & perform in public in ways that would have been incomprehensible during the self-conscious, shy days of his youth.

Mel grew up in suburban Johannesburg, South Africa during the 50s and 60s and has been singing since he was a toddler. He took up guitar at art school, refining his fingerpicking when he was a waiter at Johannesburg's Troubadour Coffeehouse. He became an advertising art director,  but soon gave that up to go into professional music with his art school buddy, Mel Miller at the height of the folk boom, going pro soon after the early folk festivals. 

Mel emigrated to the USA in 1970, stopping along the way to play at the Cecil Sharpe House (English Folk Song Society) in London, ... and then in Greenwich Village coffeehouses like The Gaslight and Gerde's Folk City, as well as doing cabaret in the Poconos, before settling in Cambridge in 1972 where he played at Club Passim (formerly Club 47) after being invited by Bob Donlin to open for Sandy Bull and later for the great Rosalie Sorrels. He often plays around the Boston Open Mic scene, and at occasional solo gigs.

Back in 1963, Mel founded South Africa's top folk trio... Here's the short story:

He met Mel Miller when he transferred to art school in Johannesburg, and the two Mels sang for their classmates and soon got a chance to audition at the Johannesburg Troubadour, where they accepted their own Wednesday night gig. The two were very entertaining, mixing their sets with well-sung duets and comedy.  Mel Miller was the comic while Mel Green was the "straight man". Within a year, they were offered full time employment at South Africa's only 5-star hotel, the Edward.

Recording dates followed, for which they called on Julian Laxton to play lead guitar. He soon joined the band for more residencies at hotels all around South Africa, and a short but very-successful career took them to the top of their genre. They recorded 3 LPs for Columbia, before they broke up in 1967.

Mel, Mel and Julian, were often described as that country's answer to The Kingston Trio/Smothers Brothers, because their marathon shows mixed well-played and sung music with hilarious comedy.  The group boasts residencies  at top hotels, performing nightly to capacity audiences in South Africa from 1963 through 1967. 

Their successful early residency at Durban's top hotel encouraged them to find a lead guitarist, and they found the best, one Julian Laxton who could play anything. Their reputation of Mel, Mel and Julian as top notch entertainers secured them a recording contract and they made three albums for Columbia Records.

During the 70s, despite encouragement from the late Bob Donlin of Club Passim to go solo and "scuffle" around the country doing solo gigs, instead he chose marriage and family which kept him away from the professional music scene. He continued playing and honing his music and his songwriting skills. 

The 80s and 90s found him singing, playing and writing songs with a duo, which soon became a trio called The Maple Street Project, ( with two friends he met at his Temple in Needham, during the mid-90s they added a bass player and a drummer to fill out their sound. They still get together occasionally to perform well into the 2000s.

In 2000, Mel decided to seriously attempt to re-enter the local Boston folk-scene, and has since then been attending many of the open-mic venues in and around Greater Boston... another great resource was found by attending the Summer Acoustic Music Week, (sponsored by WUMB-FM radio) which is an acoustic music week attended by a lucky  hundred or so like-minded people up at Lake Winnipesawkee in New Hampshire, wher his reach was extended and he made many new acquaintances and friends.

Mel was always a pretty good folk guitarist, and was influenced very early by the wide array of folk music...  and the many new things learned at music camp have rounded him out even more so. For one, his songwriting has come to the fore, and he has picked up other instruments, as well as other styles of music. He now plays some Mandolin, he still plays Harmonica, and also Electric Bass Guitar and Ukulele.

All this encouraged him to plan a solo CD, his first... which was completed in 2010.

Since releasing that CD in June of 2010, ("I'm Taking My Time") Mel's music is resonating with audiences and his CD is getting national airplay on radio stations in the USA, the UK, Europe and Australia.

Download Mel Green's One Sheet/EPK 
A concise background sheet of information...