Syracuse, N.Y. — Bobby Green, who built a storied six-decade music career as one of Central New York’s top guitarists, has died. He was 84.
Green passed away Wednesday, his daughter Moné Love said. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.
Green played with and then led several groups and bands over the years, in genres ranging from doo-wop, blues, rock, and funk to R&B, which became his signature. He shared bills with such major names as The Platters, Frankie Avalon and Sly & The Family Stone.
He started with an a cappella band, The 5 Points, in 1953. Then came the 4 1/2 Notes, the Harmonetts, and The Eldaros, who scored a couple of hits with their tunes “Baby Child” and “Please Surrender. The Eldaros performed at the War Memorial, the Onondaga Hotel, Liverpool’s 320 Club and the CBS Building in Manhattan.
Later came Bobby Green and the Hi-Fis, Breeze, Black Hammer, The Soul Brothers, Blue, Greens and Beans, and the most recent, A Cut Above, which he formed in 1993.
He was regular on the stage at Shifty’s Bar & Grill in Syracuse, where he also played each year on his birthday, Oct. 15. He was inducted into the Syracuse Area Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2005.
“No, we never did make it big time,” Green said in a 2017 interview with syracuse.com. “Fame and money wasn’t our goal. Just to be able to sing, whether on a street corner, doorway or stage, was to us big time.”
He also found time to mentor and inspire younger artists.
“Thank you for sharing your gift,” Syracuse musician/drummer Sue Royal posted on Facebook today. “Thank you for sharing the many stories about my dad’s group playing in the same circles as your group back in the day. Thank you for always having encouraging supportive words whenever we would see each other. You were so much more than a local musical legend. You were a mentor and a friend. God bless you and your family. Soar high with the angels my friend. RIP Bobby.”
In the 2017 interview, Green talked about the barriers he faced as a Black youth growing up in Syracuse. In one example, he said, his homeroom at Washington Irving Elementary School was segregated and met in the building’s boiler room. He and other Black students weren’t allowed to take classes with other students, and were directed toward menial labor.
“They figured that was the only jobs we was gonna get, that we’d never amount to anything,” Green said. “We never did no schoolwork. That’s why I can’t spell.”
He never used the word “racism” during the interview. “That was just how it was back then,” he said.
Bu he taught himself music and learned how to play multiple instruments. He passed on that passion to his children.
“He taught me how to really take music in, to listen with my heart and mind and absorb the essence of music into my soul,” Love said in 2017. “Musicians are a unique species. They love hard, play hard and live and die for the music.”
Nearing his 81st birthday, Green said he kept playing because he wanted to leave a legacy for his 24 children and grandchildren.
“That their father, or grandfather, was a pioneer in the music world, would give them something to be proud of,” he said.