The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

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Today we pride ourselves on the absence of racial lines: show business in general and jazz in particular, we claim, acknowl­edges talent without regard to ethnic origins. Yet the freedom of which we so wishfully boast is often illusory. In the United States of America, the breeding ground of an art that more than any other has contributed to a diminution of anti-American emotions overseas, the domestic tension persisted as recently as 1955-7, years that produced the following occurrences:
A vote among members of Local 6 in San Francisco rejected a motion to amalgamate with the all-Negro Musicians* Local 669. San Francisco thus chose to remain one of about fifty locals in the American Federation of Musicians whose members were segregated by skin color. Even Chicago, Boston, Buffalo and New Haven kept their Negro musicians herded into small sepa­rate unions.
At a conference held in the offices of one of the two biggest television networks, the name of a distinguished Negro band­leader, who for years has nourished an ambition to launch his own series of programs, was submitted for consideration. After a brief discussion the suggestion was rejected on the grounds that the Southern affiliated stations would be displeased. A white bandleader of Jknmeasurably less musical stature and achievement was given the assignment.
At another network, a nationally popular Negro singer and instrumentalist was rejected in the casting of a big TV musical show because the role might have involved implications of social mixing and even dancing with the show's blonde leading lady.
In Birmingham, Alabama, playing before a segregated audi­ence, Nat Cole was assaulted onstage in mid-performance by a gang of hooligans representing a local White Citizens* Council.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, Louis Armstrong's raked combo was playing a dance when a bomb thrown from a passing car landed outside the hall.
In Houston, Texas, where he had insisted on playing to a non-segregated audience with his "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concert unit, Norman Granz, along with several members of his troupe, including Ella Fitzgerald and Illinois Jacquet, was arrested on trumped-up charges.