Meet The Man Of Many Stories From Hogshooter, Oklahoma
Written by Sean Dooley on November 5, 2019
Heck, it’s a very small town in northeast Oklahoma and birthplace of KVMR 89.5 FM’s volunteer broadcaster Che Greenwood, the 30-year host of “Folk Say” every other Wednesday on the Nevada City community radio station. It next airs September 11, 10 a.m. to noon.
Okay, Hogshooter was where Che was first exposed to live music on the porch of his father’s store where In the evening the men of the town would gather to tell stories and play their fiddles.
There were two other sources of music in the Greenwood home. There was the radio, which would pick up the Grand Ole Opry on station WSM out of Nashville, and there was the Victrola, which played the old 78 rpm records of Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and other jazz.
This town of 60 residents also boasted four churches, where a healthy dose of gospel music could be heard. “I took up mandolin at the age of nine and guitar at 19,” says Greenwood. “Live music has always attracted me.”
Che left Oklahoma at age 19 and moved near Cleveland, working in a mechanical testing department. While residing in Ohio for the next five years, Greenwood began traveling to local and regional folk festivals.
It was at one such folk festival at Syracuse, NY, that he met folk singer and activist Gil Turner. Turner hosted a popular Monday night “Hoot” at Gerde’s in Greenwich Village. So Che started making regular trips into the Village, which was a center of the folk music scene.
“Gil was probably the biggest influence on me,” says Greenwood.
A few years later, Che headed west to Los Angeles. Unbeknownst to him, Turner had also headed west, and they had a chance meeting on the street in L.A. “I was looking for a revolution to fight in, until Gil took me to my first love-in. Then that all kind of went away.”
ENTER KATE WOLF
Eventually Che located north to Big Sur, where his life took another interesting turn.
One day, late ’60s he thinks, while Che was returning from San Francisco with some friends, the VW bus they were riding in blew up. Someone had given him a phone number if he ever needed help in the Bay Area..
So Che called it, and who should answer the phone but Kate Wolf? “Kate came and rescued us, and took us back home–and then started coming down regularly to hear us play music.”
“Finally, Kate said ‘I wish I could write a song’ and everyone encouraged her,” recalls Che. “So she did.”
This began a lifelong association with the soon-to-be, yes, legendary folk singer.
By 1976 he was on the road with Kate, where they met folk singers Utah Phillips, Kuddie, and Bodie Wagner, all of whom ended up in Nevada City.
A decade later, Che too relocated here. Working at the Herb Shop, he helped to promote a series of successful folk concerts over the next two years.
“Oh, and Peter Wilson built the stage,” quips Che.
LOVES IT LIVE
His love of live music has found its way onto Folk Say, where musical guests frequently make appearances and perform. “I enjoy the spontaneity of having people come and play live,” he says.
The show has featured a variety of both national and local acts, including one memorable early performance by a bunch of teenagers better known as Nickel Creek, including now-public radio show host Chris Thile (“Live From Here”). Back in the ’90s day, they were delighted KVMR had (1) internet and (2) coupons for free ice cream cones. Kids…
Greenwood has also stage managed the “Kate Wolf Memorial Festival” for years. Held at the end of June each year, it’s three days of some of the country’s best musicians and songwriters.
“I’m always impressed by the words and the political power of music. The world used to be full of people playing music on their porches, in their kitchens, on the street corner,” Che muses. “Now people spend all their time in front of phones, computers and TV sets. I encourage them to pick up instruments and play.”
When asked how he decides what to play on his show, Greenwood says he usually stumbles across an idea for a theme–and then it just comes together. “My job is to get out of the way, play the music. The show is about the music, not me.”
MAN OF MANY STORIES
Don’t worry, Che is a guy full of stories. So there’s always room for one more.
Like where’d the show name “Folk Say” come from?
Seems Che was at a first year anniversary of Woody Guthrie having passed away and was talking with close Guthrie friend and activist actor Will Geer (“The Waltons”) in Los Angeles.
“We don’t have ‘Hoots’ out here,” Geer told him. “We call ’em ‘Folk Say’s.”
Okay, one more…
So Che used to have an hour-long radio show on KSRO, a commercial radio station in Santa Rosa, maybe 40 years ago now.
One day he heard Utah Phillips was visiting folksinger Faith Petric in San Francisco. So he gathered up a reel-to-reel tape recorder, went to Faith’s house, began to roll tape and asked, “So, Utah, what brings you to town?”
59 minutes later, Che again got to speak, “Well, Utah, thank you for being on our show…”
That’s Utah. And that’s Che.