Jack Greene, a Grand Ole Opry fixture in six decades
and the singer of country music classics including “There Goes My Everything”
and “Statue Of A Fool,” died Thursday, March 14, at his Nashville-area home,
due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
Born Jack Henry Greene in Maryville, Tenn., Mr. Greene was 83. He was the Country Music
Association’s first-ever male vocalist of the year, and he voiced 19 Top 20 country singles.
Nicknamed “The Jolly Green Giant,” Mr. Greene entered the music business
as a radio disc jockey on Maryville’s WGAP in 1947, while he was still in high school.
He served in the Army during the Korean War, then moved to Atlanta, Ga., and worked
as a vocalist and drummer in a band that opened for numerous touring acts. In
Atlanta, he often listened to blind minstrel Pete Cassell, who became his greatest
When Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours played Atlanta in late 1961, Tubb
was impressed with Mr. Greene’s musicianship, and in June of 1962,
Mr. Greene joined the Troubadours: Tubb sometimes referred to him as
the band’s “big-eared singing drummer.” In addition to Mr. Greene’s roles as a featured
singer and percussionist, he was also valued within the group for other skills:
“From his Army days, he’d learned a lot about diesel motors and could drive and repair
Tubb’s bus,” wrote historian Ronnie Pugh in “Ernest Tubb: The Texas Troubadour.”
While Mr. Greene sometimes joked that his chief contributions to Tubb’s band were mechanical
and navigational, he stood out immediately as a deft player and vocalist, and he often
took a turn at center stage, singing his debut single, “The Last Letter.”
In 1966, Decca Records released Mr. Greene’s first Top 40 single, “Ever Since
My Baby Went Away,” and later that year Mr. Green’s recording of the Dallas Frazier-penned
“There Goes My Everything” made him a star. “There Goes My Everything”
spent seven weeks atop the charts, and Tubb encouraged Mr. Greene to go out on his own.
In 1967, Mr. Greene joined the Opry, and he was the runaway winner
at the first CMA Awards, emerging victories in the male vocalist, single and
album of the year categories. (“There Goes My Everything” also won the top song
prize that year, an award presented to writer Frazier.)
“There Goes My Everything” was the beginning of a dominant chart run for Mr.
Greene. His “All The Time” was a five-week No. 1 in 1967, and he followed that
with chart-toppers “You Are My Treasure” and “Until My Dreams Come True.”
But it was 1969’s “Statue Of A Fool” that extended and secured his legacy as an
enduring country vocalist. Written by Jan Crutchfield, “Statue” may be heard
as a bookend to Mr. Greene’s first major hit: “There Goes My Everything” was about
loss, while “Statue” is about resignation.
“By the time (producer Owen) Bradley’s arrangement ascends to its thrilling conclusion, Greene’s composure
is shattered,” wrote David Cantwell in “Heartaches By The Number: Country Music’s
500 Greatest Singles.” “All he can do is shout, in an operatic cry even Marty
Robbins or Roy Orbison might have envied, that this statue of ‘the World’s Greatest Fool’ should
be named after him.”
In the 1970s, Mr. Greene recorded and toured with Jeannie Seely, notching a No. 2 duet
hit with “Wish I Didn’t Have To Miss You” as well as Top 20 duo
singles “What In The World Has Gone Wrong With Our Love” and “Much Oblige.” He
also scored with solo hits including “I Need Somebody Bad,” “Satisfaction”
and “It’s Time To Cross That Bridge,” though his string of Top 40 hits ended
in 1980 with “The Rock I’m Leaning On.”
Until Mr. Greene's 2011 retirement, he remained a regular presence on the Opry, where
he was admired for a powerhouse voice that seemed impervious to aging and for his warm and
gracious presence. He sang his signature hits in their original keys, often drawing standing
"Newcomers and Opry veterans alike would stand in the wings and marvel at
what they were witnessing," said Opry and WSM announcer Eddie Stubbs, who often
introduced Mr. Greene as "One of the Grand Ole Opry's finest singers, and one
of its finest gentlemen."
Arrangements are under the direction of Greenwood Memory Lawn Mortuary & Cemetery.
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