Birthday: Freddie Green

In almost 50 years with Count Basie's orchestra, guitarist Freddie Green rarely performed a solo, but his rhythmic cadences were essential for the band's swinging feel.

Born on March 31, 1911, in Charleston, S.C., Green learned music playing banjo in a marching group called the Jenkins Orphanage Band. He moved to New York at a young age to pursue a career in music, and after switching to guitar he found plenty of jobs.

When talent scout John Hammond heard him play, he recommended the young guitarist to Basie, who hired Green in 1937. In 1950, Green worked his way into Basie's small band, when it was trimmed to seven members, and stayed with the group as it was rebuilt. After Basie's death in 1984, Green continued to work with the orchestra, then led by Frank Foster.

Green's sense of rhythm was so precise, he reportedly would poke the drummer with a stick if he sensed the beats were straying. Green died on March 1, 1987, at age 76.

Other birthdays Friday: Red Norvo, 1908; and Herb Alpert, 1935.