Retired broadcaster and music industry executive Larry Green died of a heart attack in Toronto on January 2 at age 80.
Born Lawrence Greenstein as the only child of Polish Jews, he changed his surname in 1972 after his manager at a radio station in Oshawa decided Green was a more suitable radio name. His career in music perhaps was stamped on him at birth at the old Mount Sinai Hospital, at 100 Yorkville Avenue in Toronto, some 20 years before the site became a landmark building at the heart of the city’s counter-culture capital.
Raised in a mixed downtown neighbourhood, a love of music came to him early in life and his choice of instrument in a salt and pepper band was alto saxophone, with tutors and mentors including Morris Weinsweig, Moe Koffman and Bernie Pilch. According to a 2008 interview in BlogTo, his career as a musician playing Jewish summer resorts in his late teens was cut short when he broke his jaw in a car accident. From here he took a job in a CBC mailroom at 2149 Yonge Street that was better known as Studio 4 and earlier had been a Pierce-Arrow auto showroom.
His bright demeanour, natural-born curiosity and love of music attracted notice from several notables at the pubcaster who suggested he might look to broadcasting as a career. Among them according to one report was a producer by the name of Lorne David Lipowitz who would go on to have an illustrious career in the US as Lorne Michaels.
Green's first radio job was at CHVC AM in Niagara Falls. After working in the honeymoon capital, he worked for radio stations in Oshawa, Guelph, Penticton, Vancouver and Winnipeg and, for a short time at K-Jazz in San Francisco until it was discovered he was without a work permit and was sent packing back to Canada. He returned and worked his way up from copywriter at CHUM, and CHUM FM which was then broadcasting classical music. His industry and affability won him more friends and, when the FM changed to a progressive rock format, he worked his way into the afternoon drive shift where his knowledge of music and life made him a popular on-air personality.
In 1968, whilst at CHUM, Green was honoured with the U.S Armstrong Award, He and fellow broadcaster Kim Calloway became the first Canadians to earn the honour. Named after the inventor of FM radio, Edwin Howard Armstrong, the trophy is presented "to AM and FM stations for excellence and originality in radio broadcasting" by the Armstrong Memorial Research Foundation at Columbia University. He was also the winner of The National Jazz Broadcaster of the year award in 2006 and was nominated for this same in 2007.
The liberal sweep of the station’s music format was short-lived and he took the leap into the record business, at first as marketing manager at GRT Records and then, for 16 years, as the national promotion director at what was then known as Warner Music Canada.
Subsequently, he was an operations manager and program director for Telemedia, hosted a program on CBC-TV and taught at Humber College where he took a call from Jazz FM broadcaster Ted O’Reilly who had just left the station (then known as CJRT FM) and thought Green would be a good replacement. It was a good call as Green embraced his new role in the city as an arbiter of all that was jazz and a supportive figure of the city’s practitioners. His shows were also populated by a long list of notable guest musicians headlining in the city, and his presence at local clubs that included Lula Lounge and The Dominion on Queen helped promote local businesses that were also supportive of his great love. Another notable highlight of his career at the FM was the creation of a program called Jazzology that gave students from Humber, York and Toronto universities the opportunity to perform on his Thursday night show and earn a credit.
He died of a heart attack on January 2, 2021, at Baycrest The Apotex Centre, Jewish Home for the Aged. He is survived by son Marc Yamaguchi, daughter Rosemary Green and their mother, Sheila Green.
No memorial events are currently scheduled because of the pandemic. A memorial to Larry will be announced in the future. To offer sympathy, you can donate to The Regent Park School of Music.