“If you get a good melody idea, you can kind of chase it and it reaches its own conclusions.” -Buddy Greene on writing the melody to Mary, Did you Know?
For our regular listeners, today’s episode is a change of pace. We’re going to take a week off from learning about nonprofit leadership. Those of you who know me well know that I’m a big fan of all kinds of music. Today, we’re going to explore the origins of what has become one of my favorite Christmas songs.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the release of the Christmas song, Mary, Did You Know?
The lyrics were written by Mark Lowry and the music by Buddy Greene. This song has become one of my favorite Christmas songs and from all accounts the favorite of many others.
If you Google the phrase “How many times has Mary, Did You Know been covered?” you will get an endless stream of YouTube videos. One writer has said this song has been covered hundreds of times.
Our guest today is Buddy Greene. I wanted to have Buddy join us for two reasons today. First, I want my listeners to become more familiar with the origins and the history of Mary, Did You Know? And, I want to expose our listeners to one of the finest harmonica players you will hear anywhere.
Thanks again for listening to Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership with Tommy Thomas and be sure to share this episode with the music lovers you know.
“Thankfully, a good piece of music-whether it’s a folk song, a hymn, or an old diddy-if it’s well written, it can be translated pretty easily.” -Buddy Greene
[1:58] – Tommy introduces the guest of today’s episode, Buddy Greene, writer of the music to Mary, Did You Know?
[2:31] – Buddy’s origin story in Macon, Georgia.
[4:44] – How does a young musician from Macon, Georgia, eventually get to Carnegie Hall?
[6:47] – Lessons Buddy learned from his experience with Jerry Reed.
[9:29] – What Buddy remembers from his first time on the Ryman Stage in Nashville.
[10:40] – Tommy shares his “Buddy Greene story.”
[12:10] – Buddy reveals what has humbled him in his music career.
[13:49] – Buddy tells us about a teenager that came to one of his concerts.
[16:00] – Tommy chats about some of Buddy’s popular songs.
[16:45] – How did Buddy Greene get to Carnegie Hall?
[19:15] – Buddy surprises us with the revelation that a featured performance on harmonica at Carnegie Hall was completely unrehearsed.
[21:40] – Much of Buddy’s classical performances on harmonica started as a piece of comedy that he would perform at bars and taverns in Georgia.
[23:15] – The William Tell Overture earned Buddy a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall. Here’s how Buddy’s harmonica-playing friends responded.
[25:08] – How did Mark Lowry come to write Mary, Did You Know?
[27:25] – Buddy’s reaction to reading the lyrics to Mary, Did You Know? for the first time.
[29:30] – When writing songs, Buddy usually writes with a guitar.
[31:02] – Did Buddy believe Mary, Did You Know? would be a big hit when he wrote it?
[33:06] – Some of Buddy’s favorite covers of his song.
[35:40] – Tommy reminisces on his first time hearing the song.
[36:38] – How can listeners find Buddy’s music?
[37:42] – Buddy has retired “for the most part.” Here’s what that means, according to Buddy.
[39:20] – Buddy performs the opening bars of Mary, Did You Know?
[39:55] – We listen to a studio rendition of Mary, Did You Know?
“I just like to make music whether I’m doing it in the privacy of my basement, or playing at a local pub, or at the stage at Carnegie Hall. It doesn’t matter, I just have a good time making music.” -Buddy Greene
Links and Resources
Some of Buddy Greene’s Key Performances
Some of Buddy Greene’s Favorite Covers
Mary, Did You Know? – Michael English (Adult Contemporary)
Mary, Did You Know? – Pentatonix (A Capella)
Mary, Did You Know? – Kathy Mattea (Country)
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