Key West has its own ‘American Idol’ contestant

Les Greene (right) of Key West and the band Patrick and the Swayzees will appear on ABC’s American Idol on Sunday night.
Les Greene (right) of Key West and the band Patrick and the Swayzees will appear on ABC’s American Idol on Sunday night. ABC

Les Greene didn’t realize he could really sing until he was asked to join a Key West band, which has become a fan favorite for its rockabilly and R & B renditions. He went to an open mic in April 2015 and the host band asked him to do a few songs.

“A few songs turned into a set list and I became a member of the band,” said Greene, 27.

As lead singer of that band, Patrick and the Swayzees, which attracts big crowds who dance to party hits of the 1950s and ’60s, Greene is known for his high energy. He jumps off stage, leaps in the air and dances with the crowd while singing his heart out on songs such as “C’mon Everybody,” “Runaround Sue” and “I Got a Woman.”

“It’s my cardio,” he said with a laugh. “Then when I’m out of breath we’ll do slower songs, like ‘Earth Angel.’ ”

Now, Greene is getting national exposure through the hit show “American Idol,” and is set to appear in Sunday night’s show on ABC.

“I”m really overwhelmed and really happy,” he said, of his time auditioning for the celebrity judges. He chose “A Change is Gonna Come,” the Sam Cooke classic.

“That’s my song for everything,” Greene said. “It’s just so relevant no matter what time you are in. That song speaks to everyone.”

John Vagnoni, owner and general manager of the Green Parrot, 601 Whitehead St., which will host a viewing party for “American Idol” starting at 8 p.m. Sunday so locals can cheer on Greene, is among the many Key West residents excited to watch.

“We’ll turn the sound up for it on Sunday night,” Vagnoni said. “It’s awesome, just great for him and great for the town.”

Greene is exuberant on stage, Vagnoni said, so much that he has had to warn him to be careful with his leaps into the crowd and when he walks on the railing that separates the audience from the band.

“It’s a nail-biter up there while he’s performing, he said. “He interacts with the audience and jumps off the stage.”

Greene, born and raised in Baltimore, also spent a lot of time growing up in his parents’ native Guyana in South America. After working as a massage therapist and on cruise ships, Green settled down in Key West.

Greene credits his excitable stage presence to nerves.

“I still have stage fright it’s just not as bad as it used to be,” he said. “I’m just a jittery mess 90 percent of show day.”

So once he hits the stage, Greene has plenty to share with the crowd.

“This pent-up energy, it’s time to release it,” he said. “It’s like two hours of sweat for me.”

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen