Famous band to play for Crime Stoppers fund-raiser in Beloit

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Johnny Green and the Greenmen

Known for their part in the Batman series of the 60s, Johnny Green and the Greenmen will be performing in Beloit to benefit crime stoppers on Friday.

This year marks the 40 anniversary of the band playing the henchmen Joker on the Batman television series. Although some of the members have changed, it is still reason to celebrate.

Johnny Green, the leader of the band, said the band spends a lot of time doing shows for fund-raisers and charities. He said they try to perform one once a week.

“We've toured 102 countries and every state you could think of,” Green said.

The current members of the band include: Green (leader, bass), Rick Borr (keyboard, sax, vocals), Willy Crayton (drums, vocals), Lonnie Hafner (lead guitar, vocals) and Karie Oberg (percussion, vocals).

Even though some of the names may have changed, the story is still the same. Green began the legend of the Greenmen years ago when he started his musical journey decades ago.

At the ripe age of 14, Green began his music career with a three person band play at supper clubs and ballrooms in Door County.

By 16, he had moved to Milwaukee and started a group called the Royal Lancers that would later record the number one hit “I Fought the Law and the Law Won.”

At the time, the rest of the group was uninterested in touring so Green formed Johnny Green and the Greenmen and began touring as a backup for Jimmy Velvet.

Further into the future, the band would tour with other big names including the Drifters, the Coasters, Johnny Tilltitson, Fats Domino, Dion and the Belmonts, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.

In 1964, the band was featured at the New York World's Fair as the main attraction for the play “To Broadway with Love.” That same year, the band was featured in the August issue of Life Magazine, which also featured Marilyn Monroe on the cover.

The band visited Hawaii in 1966 to hold appearances with Don Ho, Dave Clark Five, Kui Lee and some of the stars from Hawaii Five-O.

It was after the year long trip to Hawaii that the band found the opportunity to audition for the band roll in the TV Batman series. Once receiving the part, the band played in 27 episodes and the Joker's henchmen. They played the musical score on the Batman soundtrack and appeared in the number one Batman episode “Surf's Up, Joker's Under” as the green haired band on the beach.

Green said the original script called for Jokers hair to be orange, but since the directors like the band's green hair, the color of Joker's was changed to green.

The band also appeared in the movie “The Ballad of Billie Blue,” staring Joey Ross, from the TV show “Car 54,” Jason Ledger and Eric Estrada. The Greenmen play music teachers in the movie and recorded the films movie soundtrack.

In 1968, the group met Bob Hope and was asked to tour with him in Vietnam for the USO armed forces tour.

The relationship they had made with Bob Hope had opened the door for the band to play for President Nixon at the Grand Military Ball in Los Angeles Times Building. Governor Ronald Regan and his wife Nancy also attended that same show.

With all the excitement in the United States, the band decided to begin touring abroad in Germany, Paris, Turkey, Greece, Spain and Italy. In 1969, the band became personal musicians for the Shah in Iran for a year and then played for the president of Iraq in Baghdad.

Returning back to the U.S. in 1973, the group worked on the U.S.S. Rotterdam, the Princendam, Volendam and Statendom cruise ships for four years. By 1982, the band had played in Newfoundland and most cities in Canada.

Green built his own night club in Medford, Ore. where the band played as the house band for a few years. In 1985, the band started touring Reno and Las Vegas, N.V. and other U.S. cities until 1989 when they played their own show at the Branson Music Hall in Branson, Mo. for the next two years.

From 1991-1993, the band toured all over the U.S. until Green opened another club in Annandale, Minn. in 1994. The Greenmen played at the club every three-six weeks in between the U.S. tour stops.

The band played their 25 anniversary of Woodstock in 1994 and they also attend and play the annual Sturgis Bike Rally in Sturgis, S.D.

Johnny Green and the Greenmen will be performing at the Marine Corp League, located at 3807 South Riverside Dr. on Friday. The show titled a “Valentines Bash” will be held from 7 p.m. - midnight and is to raise money for the Greater Beloit Area Crime Stoppers foundation.

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