Music for the people
Ever been to the Durham Farmers’ Market and in the distance hear the sound like a blues band with a very exuberant singer?
Head on over toward the food trucks on Hunt Street, and see Lenny “Mojo Hand” Green singing and playing, while being accompanied by a sound system.
And if he’s not there, which sometimes he isn’t during the winter months, his larger-than life sculpture and the sound system will be.
Green’s venue is in front of Vega Metals at 214 Hunt Street on Saturday mornings. Since he works full time for the U.S. Post Office at the Raleigh Processing and Distribution Center and also has a 14-year-old son he wants to spend time with, he’s limiting himself for now to his Saturday morning gig at what’s known as “The Art Market at Vega Metals.”
Mojo’s real name is Linwood Green, and his stage name is “Lenny,” but when he’s singing the blues, he goes by Lenny Mojo Hand G.
All those different names? That the Gemini in him, he said.
Since he was a kid growing up, he’s liked music and singing and DJ work. He started off singing gospel music and harmony, but during the ’60s, the Motown Sound got to him, along with a little Jimi Hendrix.
After high school he joined the U.S. Army and served for three years, but when he came back to Durham in the ’70s, Motown had faded and disco was the in thing. He worked as a DJ at local clubs, and in the late ’70s and early ’80s, he worked as a roadie and MC for some local bands, and started his own band that he called the Unity Band.
“When that fizzled out, I got back into the visual arts,” Green said.
Then one day about a year and a half ago, he ran into a friend at the Durham Farmers’ Market who asked him what he was up to.
“I said, ‘Well, I want to get back into the arts,’” he said. “’I want to do some the street musician thing. I want to play the guitar and sing the blues.’”
She said, “I know this gal at Vega Metals and they’re looking for a street musician.”
Green headed on over there, and soon he was playing Saturday mornings in front of the shop, trying to attract some attention from the people buying food at the farmers’ market.
Cecelia Henaine De Davis, the manger of the Vega Metals gallery, who has a jewelry studio there, said that having Green playing music and singing in front of their place has made a world of difference. Before, the street wasn’t blocked off there, but now other artists set up in front of their shop and the food trucks park there as well.
“He’s a gift to the community,” she said. “It’s a joy to have him here.”
People at the farmers’ market sometimes think a whole band is playing only to find out it’s just Green, she said.
“It helps to turn people’s faces around to look this way because of music,” she said.
Besides singing, he’ll holler out, “Good Moooorning,” she said.
His music and presence brings people together, and it creates a sense of community, she said.
“He’s all heart,” she said. “We kind of adopted him. He’s our guy.”
“I’m sort of like, in the old days they called ‘a caller,’ ” Green said.
Last year, the owners of Vega Metals, Cindy and Francis Vega and Neal Carlton, decided to create a metal statue of him that they’ve attached to the front of their building. It shows Green playing a red guitar.
He selected the photo, they digitized it and created a pattern and cut out the outline from a piece of metal, and then Green, who also loves to paint, airbrushed the sculpture to look just like him.
Green says he’s blessed. He’s always had a job that pays the bills and in his spare time, he’s been able to work on his art and music.
“My goal now is to continue to improve my craft and continue to please the city of Durham with my music,” Green said. “We have a beautiful city here and people should come out and enjoy the downtown area more often and get fresh food from the farmers’ market.”