Michael Vernon Greenwood was born under the sign of Aquarius in the front room of the family home in Potters Bar, England. His father was a Yorkshire engineer and the son of a textile baron, and his mother a Cumbrian farmer’s daughter.
His parents were restless souls, and much of Mick’s early childhood was spent on the move. A month before his 12th birthday, he emigrated with his family from the leafy London suburb of Thames Ditton to the small rural town of Halifax, Pennsylvania, situated twenty miles up the Susquehannah River from Harrisburg.
He found the transition from his regimented life at a boys English prep school to American high school liberating in more ways than one. “The culture shock was my saving grace at the time,” he says. “I remember a junior asking me to a high school dance, and making the discovery that girls had these wonderful entities called breasts, and that put a whole new tangible perspective on things.”
Predominately self-taught, Mick found an affinity with the piano at around 4 years old, and at 14 got what he wanted for his birthday, a Kent electric guitar with a Sears Roebuck amp. After an initial disappointing cacophony, the guitar stayed in its case until Mick broke his right wrist on the wrestling mat at school. Wearing a cast, but still able to hold a pick between his thumb and index finger, he decided it was time to pick up the guitar and teach himself a few basics, and with practice he then started writing songs, and later formed his first high school band, The DearSirs.
After graduating from Halifax High, Mick went to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, ostensibly to pursue a career in law. Approaching 18, he was now becoming more prolific as a songwriter, and playing with several bands including Charlotte’s Web. His solo performances took him further afield to clubs like New York’s Bitter End, where he was to meet the legendary John Hammond of Columbia Records who became instrumental in launching Mick’s recording career.
Greenwood returned to England in 1970 and made his first highly-acclaimed album, Living Game, which became Cashbox’s import of the week and was released throughout the world. Recorded at CBS London and Sound Techniques, Chelsea, this was the first time Mick had entered a recording studio. The sessions went so well that the musicians involved became his backing band on the road. The album features ex-Fotheringay’s Jerry Donahue, Pat Donaldson and Gerry Conway, along with keyboards/arranger Tony Cox, and Fairport’s Dave Pegg. Plus contributions by top jazz musicians–Lynn Dobson, Karl Jenkins, Bud Parkes, Derek Wadsworth and Dudu Pakwana.
After appearing with the band on programs like The Old Grey Whistle Test, and performing solo at venues such as the Cambridge Festival, there were some personnel changes, and The Cockington All-Stars emerged. Named after the farmhouse in Devon where Mick wrote new material and the band rehearsed, the lineup included Barry de Souza, Dave Peacock, Jerry Donahue and Tony Cox. With this collection, he returned to Sound Techniques to make his second album, To Friends, which was again highly-acclaimed and acknowledged Mick’s change in direction. The record also features excellent backing vocals by Barrie St. John, Doris Troy and Jimmy Helms.
Mick and the band toured the States, playing Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Palladium with Hot Tuna, and Atlanta’s Coliseum with The Byrds, as well as clubs like The Earl Of Old Town in Chicago. His recollections of a crazy life on the road, “I drove this old black Lincoln down from New York City to Carlisle, Pa. Running late, we all poured out of the limo and went straight on stage, following a set by John McLaughlin. I was returning with my band to play my graduating class at Dickinson, and the reception was blinding.”
Back to the UK, and more touring with bands like Soft Machine and Curved Air, and performing at the Hammersmith Odeon with Jose Feliciano. The band underwent further changes with the addition of drummer Alan Eden and ex-John Mayall guitarist, Roger Dean. Mick then spent a little time away with an ancient tribe of musicians called Jajouka in the Moroccan mountains, visited previously by Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and Ornett Coleman, before writing material for his third album, Midnight Dreamer.
This time around, Mick was holding the reigns of producer along with his engineer Vic Gamm at Sound Techniques. This now celebrated album with Mick on vocals, piano, keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, also features Pat Donaldson on bass guitar, drummers William A. Murray, Gerry Conway and Barry De Souza, and backing vocals from Barry St.John, Sue Glover, Liza Strike, Bonny Hamilton and Kay Garner. Also featured are Kenny Wheeler on trumpet, Chris Hughs on Tenor Sax, Graham Smith on harmonica, and a further brass section comprising Eddie Mordue, Rex Morris, Duncan Lamont, Wally Smith, Rick Kennedy, Chris Smith, Creg Bowen and Johnny Huckridge. Superb arrangements by Steve Hamilton and Richard Hewson (who arranged the strings on The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby).
Through a chain of events, Greenwood became involved with the same record company and management as Fleetwood Mac, was inadvertently caught up in the political and legal wars of their separation, as witnessed by the tabloid coverage of the Old Bailey case. Even though the album was recognised, sadly the launch of Midnight Dreamer suffered as a result.
Mick withdrew to a house in the country with his half-Danish wife, Janie, and continued writing, recording and getting involved with film projects. The death of his mother in Florida had a profound effect on him, yet the birth of his daughters soon after was a source of great joy. Unfortunately, his marriage ended in divorce, but Mick regards his time spent raising Susie and Katie as one of the most important and rewarding periods in his life. “We’re a great team” he says.
He recorded some tracks for EMI with bass player Pat Donaldson, drummer Dave Mattacks, guitarist Martin Jenner and backing singer Barrie St.John. One of the tracks entitled A Little Magic became top-drawer for Elton John, and EMI also entered the song into the Castlebar International Song Contest. Although contests are not Mick’s thing, especially with regard to music, he chose to perform his RTE televised song on grand piano with full orchestra and backing singers, and won the prize that had long eluded EMI.
Asked to perform at an outdoor rock festival with The Enid, Mick formed a thirteen piece ensemble for the occasion, from which he would hone down a tight four piece rock band to be known as Eureka! Members of the band: Mick on vocals, guitar, and keyboards, Robin Heggie on bass, Chris Musto on drums, and Andy Cunningham on guitar and vocals. With award-winning engineer Craig Thomson, who worked on Def Leppard’s Pyromania with ‘Mutt’ Lange, Mick produced some recordings of the band for A&M via Warner Brothers.
Greenwood has also produced tracks for other artists, including Maggie Bell, Claire Hamill, Moveable Feast and September Train. Within the realm of music for film and TV, he’s had commissions from the BBC, Channel 4, Central and other independent production companies.
During his period with Warner-Chappell, he also recorded tracks with Liam Genockey, Colin Gibson, Weslie Magoogan, Annie Kavanagh and others. Previously recorded yet unreleased material will soon become available, along with a brand new album that Mick is currently working on, so watch this space!
For the last decade, Mick has also been working in audio and production for NBC, ABC, CBS, the BBC and others, and his hands-on working experience in media together with a love of photography has prepared him to make the transition into feature film and other projects via GML Music.
All enquiries are welcome.