Big Name

Jackie Greene says that a collection of old-school albums launched his career. “They showed me that anything is possible,” he adds.

It wasn’t that Salinas-born Jackie Greene didn’t like his given name, he just discovered another prominent singer-songwriter who made a change as well.

“Yeah, I found out one day that Bob Dylan [born Robert Zimmerman] wasn’t really Bob Dylan,” Greene says. “That did it for me.”

So he began going by his newly taken stage name, but almost immediately it got him into a bit of trouble. “One of my very early gigs paid me by check,” he remembers, “and I couldn’t cash it because my license didn’t say Jackie Greene.”

Music has never given Greene any problems, however. Essentially self-taught, Greene started on piano when he was quite young.

“There was a beat-up upright piano in our house,” he says. “I heard my mom playing it, so I started plucking around on it. I even took lessons for a summer.”

Early on, both his guitar and piano teachers told his parents that the young musician didn’t need any more lessons because he was figuring out both instruments on his own, by ear. This same exploratory sense has led Greene to master no less than a half-dozen others, including drums, blues harp, and “any string instrument without a bow,” he says. “Instruments are just a tool to get the [songwriting] job done,” Greene says. “I tend to move from instrument to instrument when I’m writing a new song until I find the right feel.”

This creative process yields vivid, visual songwriting with heartfelt, emotive lyrics. Live, Greene displays ace blues harp solos, soulful piano comping, and slide and non-slide guitar soloing deft enough to have landed him a tour as lead guitarist for the Black Crowes back in 2013. His musical world is a kaleidoscope of diverse styles and strong, direct emotions – pure and unadulterated by the formulaic conventions of most modern songwriting, and delivered with an appealing ease of vocal delivery and a relaxed stage presence.

Greene says his life changed one day in Sacramento when he was a teenager and discovered a cache of his parents’ vintage rock ‘n’ roll and classic R&B recordings in a box in the family’s basement.

“Sure, I’ve been heavily influenced by gospel, R&B, blues, Americana, country and lots of stuff,” he says, “but in the end I just call it rock ‘n’ roll. It’s all about the spirit and the attitude. I just look to put myself in situations where great music can occur.”

JACKIE GREENE BAND 8pm Friday, June 7. Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $34-$62. 649-1070, goldenstatetheatre.com.
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