For decades, Los Angeles had two music unions — one for white musicians — Local 47 and another for blacks, Local 767. It affected all aspects of working-life for players looking for gigs across L.A. and beyond. According to the late pianist Marl Young, one of the organizers of the effort to integrate the locals” . . . . [A]ll the contracts for employment of musicians in the broadcast and motion picture studios were negotiated by the then all-white union. The black union, Local 767 merely adopted the scales negotiated by Local 47, if and when a black musician got a studio call.”
It would take years of negotiations, set-backs, re-deployments, losses and gains to finally integrate the unions fairly. The amalgamation of the two unions became official April 1, 1953. It would be a story told and retold by the musicians both black and white — among them Red Callender, Buddy Collette, Bill Douglass, Gerald Wiggins, Gerald Wilson, Bobby Short George Kast, Gail Robinson, Seymour Sheklow, Roger Segure, Joe Eger, Henry and Esther Roth, — who pushed back and risked their own employment opportunities to make it happen.
I was privileged enough to be able to interview Buddy Collette several times over the decades, about this and other subjects, before he passed away in 2010. He often said his involvement in this action alone was his proudest moment — beyond any jazz “side” or any any transporting solo.
A few more from Vine Street soon . . .