Never Again : Lillie (Lil) Greenwood©2008JCMarion


Lillie Greenwood was born in Pritchard, Alabama, in November of 1924. After her time at Alabama State College followed by a short stint as a grade school teacher, she decided to pursue a career in music as a vocalist. She moved to the West Coast in 1948 and got a number of singing gigs at area clubs including The Purple Onion. It was there that she was heard by the leader of one of the top R & B units of the time, Roy Milton & His Solid Senders. Milton asked Greenwood to join his band as a vocalist and go out on tour with the unit. In March of 1950, Greenwood made her first recordings for the Modern Records label. In May her recording of "Heart Full Of Pain" (with "Boogie All Night Long" on the flip) on Modern # 751 is a hot seller in San Francisco. Lillie tours with the Roy Milton unit which includes Jackie Kelso on alto sax, Eddie Taylor on tenor sax, Charles Gillum on trumpet, Johnny Rogers on guitar, Lawrence Cato on bass, Miss Lee Blackwell on piano (taking the place of Camille Howard), and of course Milton on drums. In June there is a big Welcome Home Dance at the Elks Hall on Central Avenue honoring the band for their recently completed national tour.

In July Lillie is set to appear at the huge "First Annual Rhythm & Blues Jubilee" hosted by Gene Norman at L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium. In August Modern releases "Ain't Gonna Cry" and "Come Back Baby" on # 757. In late September Modern issues # 771 with the songs "Dissatisfied Blues" and "I'm Going Crazy" by Greenwood. The Milton band gets back to the West Coast in December after a fifty thousand mile national tour, the most successful one in the band's history. The band debuts new male vocalist Freddie Clark at a battle of the bands at the Avodon Ballroom in Los Angeles with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson. Camille Howard is back at the piano with the band, and with Lillie Greenwood continuing as female vocalist, the band is a top R & B headliner. At year's end in 1950 Modern releases #803 which is a rare recording of Lillie Greenwood live at the R & B Jubilee from the previous summer. The songs "Open Your Eyes" and "No More Hearts Full Of Pain" were performed with the Roy Milton combo.

In March of 1951 Lillie hits the road again with the Roy Milton band. In April "Sittin' And Wonderin' " and "Young Blood" are released on Modern # 811. Blues & Rhythm Records, an offshoot of the Modern label, issues a four song 45 rpm EP by Greenwood titled "Never Again". In October of the year Lillie Greenwood is signed to the Specialty label in Los Angeles. She continues on tour with the Roy Milton band at New York's Apollo Theater, then D.C.'s Howard, and famed R & B night spots such as Gleason's in Cleveland and the Bronze Peacock in Atlanta. In February Greenwood's first record for Specialty is issued - "Love Will Make You A Slave" and "Can't Help But Love You" on # 421. Lillie's stay at Specialty was a short one as in the spring she moves on to King-Federal-DeLuxe Records based in Cincinnati, Ohio. In June Federal # 12082 is released featuring Greenwood (now listed on the label as Lil) along with Little Willie (Littlefield) and The Four Jacks on the tunes "My Latest Hour" and "Monday Morning Blues". By July, "My Last Hour" is a top R & B seller in Atlanta and Jacksonville Florida. Late in the summer Lil Greenwood records again backed up by The Four Jacks on "Grandpa Can Boogie Too" and "Never Again" on Federal # 12093. Late in 1953 Lil Greenwood records the songs "I'm Crying" and "I'll Go" on # 12158 for Federal.

In February of 1954 "Mercy Me" and "All Is Forgiven" is released by Federal on # 12165. By the summer of the year Federal had lost interest in Lil Greenwood. She went back to club dates mostly returning to the San Francisco Bay area. Here again she made her own break. She was heard one evening in 1956 by none other than Duke Ellington and he was impressed enough by her vocal stylings and ability that he requested her as a new vocalist with his orchestra. She readily accepted and worked with Billy Strayhorn, the Duke's renowned arranger and composer on songs to be performed with the Ellington orchestra. This began an association with Ellington that lasted a number of years and made Lil Greenwood a readily recognized singer on the national music scene. Lil was featured on the Duke Ellington LP "My People". She has continued to make appearances as a vocalist into the new millennium including a cd with musician David Amram. She remains a wonderful performer and a national treasure.

A great cd from Ace (UK) is available called "Walking And Singing The Blues" featuring all of Lillie (Lil) Greenwood's recordings for the Modern and Federal labels. Containing 22 tracks, it is a must for anyone interested in the style and career of Lil Greenwood.

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