Monday, November 23, 2015

Character Studies-- Burt. Green(1874-1921)

Burton Green, the second husband of Irene Franklin, and long-time friend of Fred Hylands. Green was an interesting fellow, who seemed to be one who latched onto other great performers and piano players from time to time. He was considered one of the first Rag-Time pianists and performers alongside Ben R. Harney in 1896 and 1897. He was not only a great pianist, but also a great imitator of other performers and pianists as well. He was a dancer in his earliest performing days of Rag-Time, just like Harney was, and he was a good one too, but he didn't seem to keep up the dancing too long after 1900. He must have had a similar mindset and personality to Fred Hylands, as he was a good friend of his not only because of the publishing firm, but also because they were both well-respected Rag-Time pianists in the same area. Burt's origins are unknown, but it would seem that he had been playing the piano for many years by the time he started performing as an "Ethiopian song" pianist around 1893 or 1894. He was really playing an early installment of Rag-Time, but not a person would have known it when seeing him. When Rag-Time was given that official name, Green was imitating the main performer of the style of music, Ben Harney, and was becoming well-known for doing so. This was all when he was married to his first wife, who was a writer, and not really to his liking somewhat, as he strayed from her many times throughout their marriage. By 1897, he was working at Huber's museum/theater, and was getting paid a hefty salary for doing this. This is where he ran into Fred Hylands, Len Spencer, and a few more probably. He soon befriended Hylands, and later got to know Spencer, Roger Harding, Will Hardman(Hylands' lyricist), and Harry Yeager. Burt had no idea what a mess he got himself into, Hylands' not-so-great leadership, Spencer's promises that never became true, Steve Porter's yacht races, and a host of other things. This only lasted a year and a half though. 

Burt wasn't on Columbia's staff, but it almost seemed that way by the way he acted with those boys at Hylands, Spencer and Yeager. He wasn't exactly as wild and ambitious as Fred and Len, but he was the one who would go out an do the "dirty work" for the firm, by this, it is meant that he went out coaxing all the wives of firm members to join in. That oftentimes wouldn't work with Hylands or Roger Harding, so Burt had to do it. He would go out and flirt with the wives of many of the prominent publishers, performers, and investors, to convince them to get involved with the firm. Burt was a short man, at about 5 foot six, with hands that weren't too long, average sized feet, and a slight build. The best thing about him was that wild dark hair of his, with an unruly cowlick toward the right hand side of his long forehead. His hair rarely looked groomed, due to how it was naturally shaped, it seemed to make for an interesting sight when he performed. He wasn't as much of a comical picture when he played, unlike Fred Hylands, but he certainly sometimes tried to cultivate Hylands' stylings and also his attitude when he played. He would sometimes shake around his hair just like Freddy would, and it was a real sight when he did it. When Hylands started up the firm in 1899, Burt came in almost every day, just like Fred and Roger would, and when they were all there, it would become a real party, with all sorts of musical ideas being spread, and yarns being told. Burt would always watch Freddy with focused eyes and ears, taking in every single detail that he observed, even if Fred was high on some kind of drug or drunk. Burt was able imitate every one of the members of the firm, by their playing, singing, and even their usual antics and tones of voice. This extraordinary talent of his proved very entertaining at their over-the-top parties at the offices of the firm, and also at Fred's flat or Len's mansion. Burt went out and drank with Fred after recording days often, and it wouldn't at all be surprising for Burt to wake the next morning on Fred's couch or on the floor of his flat. His wife would often come with him to the firm during the middle of the day, but Burt would always tell her to scram by the evening, so the antics could begin. After the collapse of the firm in later-1900, Burt still remained a close friend of Fred's and Len's, but more so Fred, as it was quite a great deal of Len's fault that the firm fell so quickly. Fred and Burt still went out to drink after their day's work in the evenings, as long as Fred worked at Columbia, and as long as Burt worked at Huber's. Around 1906, Burt was working at Huber's one evening just as usual, and he was told a small and comical singer girl named Irene Franklin was going to be singing. He had heard of her before, but was not very aware of her. The moment she stepped out onstage, he was captured by her, with a thrust of passion shooting through his blood, with his eyes bright and entranced, silent at the piano. Irene--- how he wanted her bad. He tried all the flirting he could after the next few performances with her at Huber's, she held back for a little while, but by 1908, she finally allowed him to split with that dreaded first wife of his. He was split with her quick, and ran off with Irene in only a few months. Their first daughter was born sometime in 1908. It was a perfect marriage, and it was talked about in the media like mad, it was a celebrity marriage, so to speak. They were popular everywhere, and they were touring like mad, with almost no time to rest between tours and performances. This life though was hitting Burt hard, much like it was with Fred Hylands around the same time, by 1912 I mean. Fred died quick the next year after a few months in England, and it is a sure thing that Burt and Irene were invited to the funeral service. Burt was still holding up pretty well surprisingly by then, but he was still out drinking and taking in drugs, as his success with Irene was certainly getting to him by 1916. He and Irene were still traveling widely in 1917, including going off to France to perform for the boys in the trenches. But by 1919 and 1920, Burt was starting to have some severe health issues, getting bugs that turned into things that weakened him permanently. He did die at home, but it must not have been a very pleasant or painless death, much like his dear old friend Freddy or Len. But as performer women did in this time, Irene married another performer after Burt died, and pretty quickly too, quicker than Marie Hylands did for some reason. 

I'm back from the West Coast Ragtime festival! It was such a great time hanging out with "the squad"and playing there! I hope you enjoyed this! 

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