Getting To Know The Voice of Late Night Soul Music – Lenny Green

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Our Interview With Veteran Radio Host, Lenny Green

When you’re someone who makes a career out of interviewing others, you gain a lot of insight and often have many stories to share yourself. Lenny Green has been one of the voices of late night radio for over 13 years, so needless to say, he had a lot to share about his road traveled, his experiences behind the mic and what life is like for the man behind the voice. For years Green was the lone late night love guru in the tri-state airing on Kiss F.M.’s Kissing After Dark until he was unsuccessfully partnered with Brian McKnight about a year ago. Now with the partnership behind him, Green is back with his solo show, slightly renamed to include his name (Kissing After Dark with Lenny Green) and now syndicated in many markets throughout the country. While many faithful listeners never thought the partnership might be the end for their beloved voice of late-night, Green never once had a doubt. As far as he is concerned his whole career has been guided by divine intervention and a power much higher than himself or the people around him. He talked about it all in our exclusive interview one night before he was set to go live at his usual 7p.m. start time. Our chat was so good that we’d probably still be talking if he didn’t have to go on air.

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Parlé: I know you wanted to be a singer as a child, let’s start with that. Why didn’t that career work out?

Lenny Green: Nine years old right, I focused on the singing, I thought I was going to be the next Michael Jackson, honest to God. Why it didn’t work out? I guess, I started out singing by myself at first, then met some cats around my neighborhood who were interested in singing so we formed this group. We started singing, did the Apollo Theater, came in second place and then they got disinterested. When they got disinterested my interest fell a little bit, but it was still focused on music. So I started a solo career although I never pursued the Apollo thing again. Put it like this, when I got out of high school, I was singing. When I got to college I was singing, but it was that moment when I walked into that radio station that changed things.


Parlé: What brought about your interest in the radio station at all?

Lenny Green: Somebody had told me that the school, Kingsborough had a radio station. I really wasn’t interested but eventually I went, probably two semesters in, I went to check out the radio station. When I got there I was just in awe of all the inner workings and what was going on there. Footnote: My brother had an interest in radio way before I came to college. My older brother, but we’re like twelve years apart so I kinda grew up pretty much on my own, but I guess his first introduction was kinda in the back of my head but it had no effect on me. It was those inner working of that first impact that I was like ‘wow, this is pretty interesting’. I hung around a few more times and they kinds threw an opportunity at me, like ‘hey, you want a show?’ This is college radio, we’re talking a ten watt station. I’m like ‘yeah, I’ll take a show’. ‘


Parlé: What kind of show was it?

Lenny Green: Jazz.


Parlé: That’s an interesting pick, why jazz?

Lenny Green: It was contemporary jazz, cause my brother-again-when he was doing his show it was contemporary jazz, again early influences. This is like a footnote for kids and to parents, those early influences really have a benchmark to kids. So, they gave me a Jazz show, ironically, here’s the spiritual catch, it was 7 o’clock in the evening, 7pm has stuck with me. Seven, the number 7 is a spiritual number, the number of completion. Call it divine intervention, but 7pm has been the magic number for me and I fell in love from that point. From that point I started really listening to some of the cats in NYC. What better place than NY, I mean NY had some of the best voices in radio of our time. So I just started paying attention to those guys and by God’s grace I’m here.


Parlé: What was it like growing up in Brooklyn?

Lenny Green: Prison. We didn’t have no silver spoon in our mouth. We grew up poor, middle class, however you like to call it, but it was fun. I had a childhood, kids today don’t have a childhood. I grew up in the hood, grew up in the projects, Pink Houses in East New York, which today is kinda rough. Grew up in Bushwich, which today again is kinda rough, I mean it was rough then, you know, we had gangs, Tomahawks, Jolly Ranchers, Jolly Stampers, whatever they were, but it was in a different fabric then how it is now. It was rough. I remember the first time I got ripped off. I get ripped off after working a summer job up in Harlem. I went to collect my check up at the armory on 145th Street. This dude ran the okie-dok and I fell for it. And he got my dollar bill cause that’s all I had on me at the time. I wasn’t a rough kid. I remember the first time some cat offered me an Old English 800, it was a 40, I didn’t know it was a 40, but I knew I didn’t like beer. I knew I wasn’t drinking as a kid, so when the dude said take a swig, I said no. He said ‘by the time I count to three if you don’t take this bottle I’ma bust it upside your head.’ He said 1,2… I was gone. I was grease lightning, and we lived on the 8th floor, forget an elevator I just flew. So I kinda stayed out of trouble. I wasn’t a kid who was looking for trouble, I knew a lot of the dudes who were on the cutting edge, I knew some gangsters, I knew some kids who were ripping off people, but I always fell in that mood where I was cool with them and they were cool with me so it was no problems. The neighborhood I grew up at the time we had some issues with another neighborhood so there were some racial issues at the time but looking back at it, I enjoyed my childhood. I’m sorry that a lot of kids don’t really get a chance to enjoy it as much as I did, especially young men.


Parlé: How’d you end up at Kingsborough and what did you end up studying?

Lenny Green: Well when I went in I studied Liberal Arts. By the time I fell in love with radio it was Broadcast Management. Coming out of Brooklyn my zone school was Lane, I didn’t want to go to Lane. You looking at a kid who did 8 years in Catholic school, Lane was a little rough around the edges, they could’ve beat me down to the pulp, I didn’t want to go there. Again, call it divine intervention, a guidance counselor messed up on my paper work out of grammar school and I ended up here in Soho and it was a vocational school. I studied electrical installation for 4 years that I hated, my adopted brother, he loved it, I hated it. So I kinda got by high school on academic measures and singing because I found out they had a music class. I found Kingsborough Community College because it was back in Brooklyn. When I got there I thought it should be a University. When you go to Kingsborough Community College right now, it’s a fly college, you would want to learn. I mean you have your own private beach, you’re isolated, there’s not a lot of congestion. You got the water there, it’s very tranquil, very good for meditation, great for studying. What tripped me up in college, I’ll tell a secret, going to that vocational high school, the bad part about it is that it was an all boys school, so needless to say when I got the college the ladies definitely had my attention. So between radio captivating my attention and meeting a lot of ladies, it was rough for two-years.


The Voice of Late NIght

Parlé: Did you pursue college after the two years?

Lenny Green: No. And that’s my desire right now. A lot of people say ‘why would you want to pursue college, you already got your career?’ It’s about self-fulfillment. At the end of the day, you can have all the accolades, but you also want to have some personal achievements in life. I think that’s my personal achievement. Ultimately I wouldn’t mind teaching this at some point on a college level, I don’t think they offer it on a high school level. But I really want to get my Masters. My schedule has just been so busy since I been here in New York. This year makes 14 years at Kiss so I’m blessed by that opportunity by leaps and bounds but my schedule is just crazy because I don’t just do radio, I kinda have my hands in a lot of things, but my focus and my goal, its not even in the back of my mind, its kinda on the side of my mind—is to go back and get my Bachelor’s of Science and then go and get my Master’s.


Parlé: Would you get it in Media?

Lenny Green: Probably in Communications or Journalism. I might as well stick to what I love, because this is not a job to me, this is a love.


Parlé: Wouldn’t that be a little weird though? I mean if I’m a professor and I’m teaching

Lenny Green, I’m probably just gonna take a seat and take notes from you.

Lenny Green:  I appreciate the compliments but you know what, everybody has to learn and I’m a student of life. I feel like if you get to a point in life where you feel like you know it all then you might as well give up the game. I don’t know it all, I’m still trying to learn and I study just like everybody else studies, matter fact I’m more focused now, I’m a grown man now. All that little kiddie stuff that was coming from high school going into college I’ve worked out of my system. I can focus on what I’m trying to achieve. So I think it’s a footnote, not for a Lenny Green but for anybody, if you didn’t finish or you want to go back. I used to scratch my head when I first went to college wondering why there were senior citizens in my class, but now I understand, it’s about that self-fulfillment. That’s what my goal is, my goal is to achieve some personal things that I can be proud of and that when I have children I can pass on to them. That tells them that they need to strive for a higher goal and I think that’s what we’re all trying to reach. I’m not at my pinnacle point; I’m still trying to reach the next level. To some that may sound crazy but they don’t understand, the game changed, and the game changes all the time. Look at the economy; look at how many people are unemployed. They are now at a stage in their life where they have to change their occupation to survive. That’s just a testament that you always have to stay on top of everything and you can’t close the door and say that you’re never ever gonna do something because you don’t know. If I have to go to McDonald’s—I’ve worked at Burger King before—if I have to do that again in order to get a check then guess what? I’m not too proud to do what I gotta do to make ends meet.


Parlé: While you were doing the show at Kingsborough, was there ever a time where you were singing on air?

Lenny Green: Never. (laughs). Here’s the crazy part, I don’t sing anymore. The only time I’ll sing is if I’m in the shower, and the only way someone will hear me is if you’re my neighbor. I’ve lost the confidence. You know they say if you don’t use it, you lose it. That’s really true, you really will lose it if you don’t hold onto it. It’s just like everything else. An athlete can’t take off three years and come back, it’s just like singing. Now I do have another interest in music, and that is playing the saxophone. I think that’s the sexist instrument that one could play; they say that’s the closest thing to the human voice. I may not be able to sing, but I can talk a good game. I can’t sing anymore but the next thing close to singing is taking some lessons and picking up that saxophone. I have a lot of images of saxophones in my house, I don’t know why. I buy a lot of paintings and sculptures and it’s always a saxophone. I sat back one day just chilling and I said ‘wow, I got a lot of saxophones in here. It must be for a reason.’ I think my connection to singing would be as close to playing the saxophone. So look out for that.


Parlé: How’d you end up here at Kiss? I know you worked with a few other radio stations before, but how’d you eventually end up here.

Lenny Green: Divine intervention. We never get to where we are going by ourselves. Anybody who thinks that they get their by themselves is playing themselves. I been blessed to meet some people along the way who took out time to give me time. And time is something that is so valuable, you never get it back, once you give your time, you can’t get it back, it’s a part of history, a part of the past. I’m grateful for the guys that I’ve met who gave me a piece of their time, gave me advice, a moment to listen and critique my work. I think my life has been measured by how God has continued to bless me. My first radio opportunity came in Richmond, Virginia. Stayed there for a little while, from there I went to Connecticut—stayed in Connecticut for like ten years and then that radio station folded. When that station folded I had worked with a cat who was very close to the program director at Kiss, his name was Vinny Brown. My friend and him were very close. I had worked with this cat at another time in my life before I was working in Connecticut. I had worked as an administrative assistant at a radio syndication company and he was doing interviews and he would bring in the artists, interview them and use the audio bites for the various programming that he was producing. I kinda became friends with him because with radio being my passion I loved interviewing people. So I said, ‘anytime you can’t make an interview, I can do it’. Eventually he gave me an opportunity to do some interviews and we became good friends. I said all that to say, he was good friends with the programming director here at Kiss. When I lost my job in Connecticut, I was having a conversation with him and he said ‘when you’re in New York, I’ll call up my friend Vinnie Brown. I was like, ‘you know Vinny Brown? All these years?’

Things happen for a reason, at least in my life. My buddy called up Vinny Brown like he promised, I had a 2 minute conversation with him and next thing I know I was coming in the next day for an interview. Came in the next day and he said, ‘ look the only thing I can offer you in a part time position’. That was 13 years ago. And the gentleman who helped me, now works with me. He actually books all my interviews. His name is Kevin Simmons. Again, it’s keeping a wonderful network of people around you. I been blessed and that’s how it happened.


Parlé: Did you have anything to do with the name Kissing After Dark or was that around before you?

Lenny Green: I can’t take credit for that, Kissing After Dark was already here before I came around. The first love show was called New York After Dark and that was hosted by a young lady by the name of Yvonne Mobley. After that they changed the name to Kissing After Dark and that was hosted by Sheila who now does our mid days. Every time Sheila went on vacation or they put her on a different slot they would ask me to fill in for her. The reaction was pretty good. I was the first man to host Kissing After Dark that was an opportunity of a lifetime and again that was at 7pm, 7 has been the magic number, by God’s grace everything has worked out. I worked Kissing After Dark for 10 years, then did a syndicated show with Brian McKnight and then Kissing After Dark came back this year, renamed slightly, its now Kissing After Dark with Lenny Green and I’m proud to say it’s now syndicated.


Lenny Green

Parlé:  You mentioned the show with Brian McKnight, that was an interesting concept, but had a very short run. Why didn’t that work out?

Lenny Green:  Life has a way of working things out on its own. I can’t give you a reason why it didn’t work out, what I can tell you is in life, nothing ventured, nothing gained. We all have to take chances in doing things and some things are going to work better than others. I think radio at this stage is going through a figuring out process. They’re trying to figure some things out, do new things, they feel some things are more appealing than others and I think a lot of people are believing that anyone can do this job. I don’t think anyone can do the job. Not to slight Brian McKnight or anyone who does radio but doesn’t do radio normally. I’m just saying that radio hopefully will be respected as a respectable entity like everyone else. There’s a lot of kids right now that are studying this craft and I applaud them. I hope that when its time to venture out an opportunity will present itself as oppose to having another kind of status in life. Hopefully you come out and you can do what you want to or what you studied. I hope it rewards that. To answer that question in that particular way I can’t really answer that. I know people in New York have a tendency to embrace certain things. We’re very picky here in New York, sometimes we want salad, sometimes we want filet minion. It depends on our appetite at that particular point and if it works, it works, if it doesn’t work out then we just move on.


Parlé:  Let’s just talk about media in general for a minute. I own a magazine and that field has been struggling. You’re in radio, that’s also been struggling. Even television and film in many ways have been taking a hurting over the last few years. Where do you see the future of media?

Lenny Green:  The future of media, I see it growing in a high technical way. Your magazine is physical, it seems like we’re moving to where everything is digital so its kinda like you have to have two mediums at the same time—online magazine as well as a physical magazine that you can put in people’s hands. Its just like promoting a party, its great to do the e-blast and have a great email database, but you also need a flyer in your hand cause if you’re out and about you need to make sure someone knows about your function. Well radio is transforming like that as well. Unfortunately Kiss F.M. is not streamed online, radio had already moved into streaming well before the millennium came in. There were stations down South that were streaming online and getting great results. My two sister stations stream online that’s why we’re next in line to start streaming because the technology is so advanced and so high. And it’s moving so rapidly, the only problem is getting the licensing together so artists can be paid or compensated in some way, shape or form. Its transforming and we haven’t really even began to figure out how it’s going to unfold fully. It’s still like right in the midst of understanding this transformation. Like I was saying a moment ago, unfortunately some management in radio feel that [popular] names are becoming more popular so why use someone who’s not known. I think that’s where the grind comes in, I think that’s where a person who is passionate about this Industry needs to do their homework and get scratched up on their knee and learn this business inside out. If you want New York like I wanted New York coming out of college, I wanted to get on New York radio instantly, it just wasn’t happening at the time. What do I do? Do I decide to give it up because where I want to go isn’t happening or if it’s passionate to me do I find other means of exploring. I chose other means because it was really that passionate to me to learn this game called radio. That’s why I ventured and got jobs in other markets. Gained, got scratched, fell down, learned the craft, learned the industry, learned how to work affectively the way I was supposed to work in this game and again by divine intervention things just opened up for me eventually and I was able to come back home to New York. It takes a lot of strength to overcome the obstacles and there are a lot of veterans in this game of radio that are no longer part of this game because they were looked at as too old, they’re has-beens. This whole medium for a broadcaster like me is not just radio. There’s other ways of using your voice, using your instrument. There’s voiceover work, which is a very hidden industry that compensates very well. There’s film, there’s animation, there’s documentaries. So there’s other ways and other things we can explore but when we become too one dimensional and I think that can be a problem with a lot of us in a lot of these industries, when you become so one dimensional that you don’t see the full spectrum of everything then you limit your capabilities in growing.


Parlé:  Where do you see your own future?

Lenny Green:  I see my future on top of the mountain, at the highest point of wherever God wants me to be, whether that is in TV, whether that is in radio whether that is teaching at a University. I’m pretty much at a point in my life where I’m not in control of what happens and never have been. I really feel that none of us are. Things happen when they’re supposed to happen. I’m not a religious guy, but I’m a spiritual guy, so I think things happen in God’s time and when they are supposed to happen for us. We all want things when we want them but it may not be the time when it’s supposed to happen. And everything has a season in life. I want as much as I’m supposed to be rewarded and I have my sight on movies, I have my sight on TV, I have my sight on doing some other creative things maybe in news. That’s where I see my future and there’s probably some other areas that I don’t know what’s out there for me but I know whatever God has for me I’m gonna do. If God has the desire for me not to do radio anymore and the desire for me to get into church more fuller than that’s what I’m going to do and I’m going to be content in doing that.


Parlé:  I know you’ve done a bunch but aas there been a favorite interview that you’ve had?

Lenny Green:  So many favorite interviews, so many. Luther Vandross, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Ruben Studdard, Jagged Edge, you know, I’m in such a blessed situation to meet celebrities. I’ve met Janet, most of the Jacksons except I didn’t get a chance to meet Michael the guy that I thought I could be. I’ve met a plethora of artists—Patti LaBelle—really great people, really great friends of me, that’s what happens over the years, you really become friends with people. I’m sorry we lost a very dear friend of mine, we were very close, Gerald Levert. It’s hard to really say who was the best interview because I don’t really look at this as a job. When I get in to sit down with folks as you do, it’s more like this, its more of a conversation, more like catching up. The bad part about it, I have to be conscious sometimes because I do a love show, not a talk show. So people want to get in the mood, they don’t want to hear a lot of talking, they got other programs for talking to take place. So we kinda keep our conversations very very limited so there’s never enough time to cover things in depth, but I love the ability of interviewing. I studied interviewing from newscasters to people on the radio, emulating those who walked before me. I think it’s important to pay attention to those who walked before you. When I look at radio legends here in New York from Frankie Crocker to Gary Byrd to Jerry Bledsoe to Vaughn Harper—and Vaughn Harper is the New York cosmic love man who kind of blew up New York in a huge way in terms of a male doing a love show. I’m walking in the footsteps of those radio giants and I’m just trying to measure up to that level with a different twist, bringing my own thing to it. You can take from someone and respect their style but you still have to make it your own. I think I’ve transformed it and made it comfortable for Lenny Green and it seems like New York, the tri-state and the rest of the country so far seems to be liking what I do.


Parlé:  What’s your life like outside of radio? I know you do a lot of events and such but do people hear you talking on the streets and immediately recognize the voice and stop and say something?

Lenny Green:  The crazy thing about doing my events is that I’ve hosted a concert with thousands of people on numerous occasions and I won’t see people’s faces because I’m on a stage. Everybody sees you, but you don’t see them. So it does happen periodically where people will remember me from an event or from seeing me on a flyer. But besides from radio I do event marketing. I create events. One particular event that’s coming up this summer is my annual family day that I do in the borough of Brooklyn because that’s where I’m from and we bring all families together. It’s a family event, its outdoors, its all fun. We provide entertainment, we provide information for people to get in their hands for everything from health issues to jobs to college and we just have fun. We create some kind of celebrity softball game or some kind of celebrity volleyball game and we just bring people together. My purpose in doing it is bringing families and neighbors together. You can be on a block and don’t know your next door neighbor, your immediate next door neighbor. That’s not good. It tells me that we’re not talking. I know New Yorkers have a hard exterior where we walk by each other and don’t even say hello. When you go down South people say hello and you look at them like, ‘are you crazy? You don’t know me.’ We’ve developed such a hard core on the outside that we’ve forgot how to be kind. That may be one small miniscule aspect of me wanting to do this besides the concept of family. I know we as a family because our lifestyles are so crazy, families don’t get to see each other, families don’t get to spend quality time with each other, to go to the park and look at the trees or play with the kids. You know those stupid little things that are so essential, we kinda got away from that. I try to bring a little bit of that to the forefront when I do these family days. The next family day is taking place in August and this will be my 6th year doing that so I’m pretty excited about it. We do that every year. I have an annual big birthday celebration, this year will be a yatch party. Also this year I’m planning to do a few events around the country. We’re looking at North and South Carolina, looking at Memphis, where we are going to do what I call sexy parties with a purpose. The donations from that party will go to an organization whether it’s a shelter, or children’s services, even a health facility. So that way the community that I’m in benefits from what I’m doing in that particular city and I think that has an impact as well. As much as I’d like to be the male Oprah Winfrey and have all the money in the world—if I had it, I’d probably be broke because I love to give. One of my biggest wishes is to provide a wonderful holiday season for kids who are less fortunate and don’t have and provide them with things that they could never get. I think if God blesses me so that I can have success, that to me is success. It’s not what you have, it’s what you give.


Parlé:  Any final things you want to say to the readers before you go off to your show?

Lenny Green:  Final words is just all praises and honor to God for blessing me with the talents that I’ve had and the many talents that I don’t know about. The other acknowledgments is to just praise my mom because the infrastructure of who we are definitely comes from our parents and my mom is definitely the backbone of me and she raised me and my brothers very well. I’m thankful of her. And I’m definitely thankful of the people, anyone who turns on their radio as often as they do and allows me to come into their life if it’s for 5 minutes or 5 hours. I’m thankful for them and I hope that I continue to reach and touch one person at a time. If I can do that and change a life for the better than I think my job is done. I’m just asking and praying for God to continue to use me as his conduit to do what I’m supposed to do for him and make my job fulfilled.


Parlé:  Thanks a lot Lenny.

Lenny Green:  You’re welcome man.


Our conversation began at around 6pm and ended at 6:59pm just in time for him to run from the conference room to studio down the hall where he jumped live on air for Kiss FM. That night like many nights, just the sound of his voice made the night of many in the Tri-state area as well as many other parts of the country. Between the music breaks and the daily news re-caps we often forget that he too has a great story to be told. But now the next time you hear his voice of even think about Kissing After Dark, you’ll remember just how deep Lenny Green really is.


Images by Peter Garcia for Parlé Magazine


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