Friday, 3 August 2012

The Anti-Baez

The Janet Greene story is a fascinating footnote in the history of American folk-rock. Called the Anti-Baez by contemporary commentators, she was the right wing’s answer to all of those liberal longhairs filling up America’s airwaves with their anti-war rhetoric, touted by the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (CACC) as an antidote to the growing number of commie sympathisers clogging up the charts.

Already a TV star in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, Greene (real name Greenroos) and her husband David discovered the message of the CACC when their propaganda started to infiltrate the Ohio school system. Ohio had become heavily anti-Communist during the Cold War: in 1950 Time Magazine reported that police officers in Columbus were warning youth clubs to be suspicious of communist agitators. Dave, who quickly became a fan of Australian anti-communist (and founder of the CACC) Fred Schwarz, heard that Schwarz was setting up a musical programme and – quicker than you could say ‘reds under the bed’ - he and the wife were off to California.

At a press conference Schwarz, who gained fame as the author of the international bestseller You Can Trust The Communists (to be Communists), introduced his ‘discovery’ with the following words: "Every great movement throughout history has expressed its inspiration in music. The Anti-Communist movement is young and music has not played a large part in its development to date…the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade is adding a new dimension to its activity, the dimension of music. We are satisfied with nothing less than the best and we have followed this policy in securing the services of Janet Greene as music director. Janet is a vivacious and beautiful young lady of remarkable musical talent. For the past several years, she had been the leading TV star of Columbus, Ohio where her early morning program, Cinderella, has delighted the hearts of the children. Conscious of the magnitude of the Communist danger, at considerable personal financial sacrifice, she had surrendered her TV program to become music director of the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade."

A cute girl with a decent voice and an established following seemed perfect for Fred’s scheme to infiltrate the pop scene; add in to the mix songs with titles such as Commie Lies, Poor Left Winger and today’s offering - Comrade's Lament – and they couldn’t go wrong, surely?

Ah, if only it was that easy to beat the red menace.

According to the book Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Post-war Right (By Michelle M Nickerson), Janet spent her time listening ‘to recordings of Schwarz’ speeches and transformed them into lyrics’ whilst hubby Dave acted as her PR agent. Billed as a ‘new and effective anti-Communist weapon’, Janet was even known to drag her two daughters on stage with her and perform the dreadful Ballad of the Green Berets. Luckily her four 45s failed to trouble the charts or unseat Joan Baez (who, apparently, Janet quietly admired) from the top of her red pedestal. By 1967 Janet had grown disenchanted with the whole CACC set up and quit.

For the full story on Janet Greene you need to visit, the cold war culture website which carries an extensive and exhaustive biography of Janet as well as a couple of interviews with the now-reclusive artist: it’s easily the most comprehensive source on Ms Greene and a fascinating read. You can find all eight of Janet’s CACC sides at the always-brilliant


1 comment:

  1. Oh, man. Thank you--that's definitely going in my "propaganda" playlist.


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