In late 1950 while attending UCLA, I met a graduate student and professional singer by the name of Estelle Edson. The subject of her graduate thesis was “The Negro in Radio.” Ironically, she discovered that there were scarcely any blacks working in the broadcast industry in any capacity.
Because I was a musician, she felt that I would have some insight as to the role of the black musician in the broadcast industry. As far as I knew, there were no blacks working regularly in the industry, especially on the networks – ABC, CBS and NBC.
She asked me if the fact that the Musicians Unions were segregated contributed to the scarcity of blacks in the industry. It certainly could have been a contributing factor in that all the contracts for employment of musicians in the broadcast and motion picture studios were negotiated by the then all-white union, Local 47. The black union, Local 767, merely adopted the scales negotiated by Local 47, if and when a black musician got a studio call.
With the exception of New York and Detroit, the largest cities – Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco – had segregated musicians’ locals. At Ms. Edson’s request, a group of 767 members prevailed upon our officers to have a meeting at the local to discuss this matter. The meeting was attended by Local 767 President Leo Davis and other Local 767 officers. Also in attendance were such Los Angeles prominent black musicians as John Anderson, Red Callender, Buddy Collette, Bill Douglass, Percy McDavid, Gerald Wiggins, Gerald Wilson, Bobby Short, Ernie Freeman, and others.
Prior to this, meetings of black and white musicians were held in halls and private homes to discuss the matter of amalgamation. Black musicians Collette, Freeman, Douglass, McDavid, John Ewing, Jimmy Cheatham, Anderson and others, joined by such white musicians as George Kast, Gail Robinson, Seymour Sheklow, Roger Segure, Joe Eger, Henry and Esther Roth, Erica Keen, Emma Hardy Hill, and with the support of Josephine Baker, made concerted efforts to arouse public interest in this fight.
In 1951, as the amalgamation effort developed, this group was joined by, among others, Benny Carter, Estelle Edson, Russell McDavid, Joe Mullendore, Mike Ortiz, Allen Robinson, Al Woodbury and myself. Musicians from this interracial group held regular and frequent meetings and were responsible for devising the strategy and approach necessary to achieve our goal. By mid-summer of 1951, amalgamation was the number one issue at the monthly Local 767 meetings, and there was always a quorum.
As a result of the Local 767 election of December 1951, the pro-amalgamation forces won a five to four majority on the Local 767 Board of Directors. We had run William “Buddy” Collette for President, but incumbent President Leo Davis was re-elected.
Secretary Florence Cadrez, the incumbent, won over Estelle Edson, by then a Local 767 member. Paul Howard (no opposition) won as Treasurer, and Harvey Brooks was re-elected Trustee. The amalgamation faction elected Bill Douglass Vice President. John Anderson and Russell McDavid as Directors, and Benny Carter and me as Trustees. Both Harvey Brooks and I wanted the Chairpersonship of the Board of Trustees. We agreed to flip a coin and Brooks won (remember this!).
After the inauguration of officers in 1952, the Local 767 membership chose a committee for the purpose of initiating amalgamation discussions with Local 47. The Committee members were Benny Carter, Paul Howard, Bill Douglass, Buddy Collette, Estelle Edson, President Davis and me. We selected Benny Carter as our Chairperson because of the high esteem in which he was held by musicians all over the United States.
On February 7, 1952, the Local 767 Committee met with the Local 47 Board of Directors. Chairperson Carter read a statement expressing the wishes of Local 767 to establish one Musicians’ Local in the Los Angeles area. In reply, Local 47 President John teGroen, speaking for his Board, stated that in the event Local 767 dissolved, the members of Local 767, under Federation Law, could apply for membership in Local 47 on the same terms as any other member of the Federation. The Local 767 Committee stated that the terms outlined by Local 47 were not acceptable and proposed that the matter of the amalgamation be negotiated by the two locals. Local 47 then suggested that Local 767 come back with concrete proposals to resolve the many, complex and mainly financial problems.
An Overture article written by Local 47 Secretary Maury Paul from the Board Room stated the Local 47 Board’s position on the amalgamation. In brief, the Board of Local 47 felt that the matters of life membership and death benefit rights of incoming 767 members were paramount. The Local 47 Board also felt that property rights of Local 767 members in the assets of Local 767 and its corresponding corporation, The Rhythm Club (which owned 767’s real property), must be handled in such a way as to avoid any lawsuit by dissatisfied Local 767 members.
Under the original proposition of Local 47, which called for the dissolution of Local 767, life members of Local 767 would lose all seniority and would have to start all over to obtain these rights in Local 47. Also, under the Local 47 proposal, members of Local 767, who were 40 or over at the time of amalgamation, would lose their Local 767 death benefit rights. We knew that, since the Local 767 Bylaws required the written consent of nine-tenths of our membership to dissolve, we would never achieve the task of dissolution, even if we wished to pursue this path toward an amalgamation.
I volunteered to try to write a proposal that would solve the problems of life membership seniority and death benefit insurance, and at the same time avoid the impossible task of dissolution. The proposal was finished the first part of May 1952 and adopted by the Local 767 Amalgamation Committee. It was presented to the Local 47 Board of Directors on May 13, 1952. Local 47’s Board Minutes from the May 13, 1952, meeting follow:
“Committee from Local 767, under the Chairmanship of Benny Carter, appeared to discuss an amalgamation of Local 767 with Local 47. Marl Young, speaking for the Committee, presented the following proposals.”
PROPOSAL FOR AMALGAMATION PRESENTED TO LOCAL 47 FROM THE COMMITTEE FROM 767
May 13, 1952
Whereas, members of Local 47 and 767 have been working in the jurisdiction for many years, and whereas, no additional musicians would be brought into this territory by a joining together of the two organizations, and whereas, in addition to the assets to be considered, the members of Local 767 would, immediately upon this joining together, begin paying dues and taxes to the resulting organization, we feel that merger would be the proper procedure to amalgamate the two locals.
In order to effect the aforementioned principle of merger, we of Local 767, taking cognizance of the fact that the problems are, in the main, financial, present for your consideration the following proposals, which we feel, will not result in any financial loss to either organization.
(a) An amount equal to the sum that 767 has in its death benefit fund as of the date of merger shall be set aside to provide insurance coverage for one year from the date of merger for all those members of 767 who were eligible for the death benefit under the bylaws of that organization.
(b) After one year from the effective date of merger, all the members of Local 767 who were not over 40 at date of merger, will be covered by the $1000 death benefit now in effect in Local 47.
(c) After one year of the effective date of merger, all those members who were over 40, at the date of merger, will continue to be covered by the $400 death benefit for the duration of their membership in the resulting organization.
(d) All of those who are life members in Local 767 (and all those eligible as life members under Article 2, Section 10, Parts A and B, of the bylaws of Local 767) as of the effective date of merger, shall be covered by the $400 death benefit now in effect at Local 767, for the duration of their membership in the resulting organization.
After one year from the date of merger, the residue of the fund referred to in Section (a) will be used for the purpose of providing insurance for those referred to in Section (c) and Section (d).
Those members of 767, referred to in Section ( c), shall pay the sum of $8 a year to the above-mentioned fund that is set aside to provide for the insurance coverage of those mentioned in Sections (c ) and (d). Those members will pay the regular fee of $9 dues per year to the resulting organization. We trust that Local 47 will give the above proposals immediate and careful consideration and inform this committee as to Local 47’s disposition thereto.
Chairman of Committee
(June 1952, Overture, Page 25)
The reader will note that “merger” was stated as the “proper procedure to amalgamate the two locals.” This was critical because in the process of merger it is not necessary for either of the two amalgamating organizations to dissolve in order to accomplish a legal merger. In the other amalgamation process, consolidation, both organizations must dissolve and then form a new organization. The rest of the proposal dealt with the transfer of Local 767 assets to Local 47, the matter of life membership seniority, and the very serious financial problem of death benefit rights. On July 8, 1952, the Local 47 Board rejected the 767 proposal by declaring the following:
At this point the amalgamated effort seemed stalemated. On August 5, 1952, a Local 47 committee favoring the amalgamation of 47 and 767 appeared before the Local 47 Board of Directors. The committee included George Kast, Ed Lustgarten, Sam Albert, Al Lustgarten, Gail Robinson, Allen Robinson, Arthur Shapiro. Julius Kahn, Joseph (Sasha) Borisoff, Joe Chassman, Sam Fordis, Seymour Sheklow, Joe Egger, Emma Hardy Hill, Herb Lessner, Eddie Gorosbayne, Chick (Leonard) Dhalsten, Paul Powell, Rudy Schrager, Armand Roth, Milton Fehr, Lisa Minghetti, Harold Schneier, Sidney Greene, Saralee Konigsberg, Edith Rapport, Dan Scharlin, Alex Reisman, Philip Bass, Samuel Ross, Ralph Schaeffer, Charles Gould, Roger Segure, Milton Kestenbaum, and Joseph Reilich.
The committee asked for permission to use Local 47’s mailing list for the purpose of mailing a circular presenting their favorable views on the proposed 767/47 amalgamation. This letter “To the Members of Local 47” endorsed the Local 767 proposal and stated that the 767/47 merger would not put Local 47 at any financial risk. It also stated that a united local could better fight the anti-union factions of this area. In the meantime, on July 14th, the 767 membership had dissolved our amalgamation committee and the 767 Board of Directors assumed the task of carrying on the negotiations. In a letter dated August 22, 1952, the 767 Board rejected the Local 47 counter proposal and requested that the Local 47 Board submit the 767 proposal to the Local 47 membership on August 26 the Local 47 Board voted to put the 767 proposal on the ballot for their December 15, 1952, election. (September 1952, Overture, Page 24).
It was at this time that we asked for and received the help of Lester Bailey, the Executive Secretary of the Los Angeles NAACP, for the purpose of arousing public interest in our cause. We also received great support from the People’s Daily World and two Black community newspapers, the Los Angeles Tribune, Alamena Lomax, publisher, and especially the California Eagle, Chazz Crawford and Wendell Green, columnists.
Even though we were successful in getting our proposal on the Local 47 ballot, we were faced with the problem of retaining a majority on the 767 Board at our December 2, 1952, election. We felt that by far the strongest presidential candidate we could run would be Benny Carter. However, incumbent President Leo Davis proved to be a formidable foe and he won over Benny by a mere 15 votes.
To say that we were crushed is a colossal understatement. We just knew there were at least 16 members who would have supported Benny if they had just thought to come to the union and vote. The opposition also re-elected Florence Cadrez, Secretary, Paul Howard, Treasurer, and Harvey Brooks, Trustee. In addition, our director candidate, Russell McDavid, lost to Baron Morehead. We re-elected Bill Douglass, Vice-President , John Anderson, Director, and myself as Trustee. Buddy Collette also won as Trustee.
This election gave our opponents a one-vote majority (5-4) on the Board of Directors, but we had a one-vote majority (2-1) on the Board of Trustees. This latter majority was important in that the 767 membership had changed its mind again and, before the 767 election, had put the matter of the amalgamation into the hands of the Board of Trustees. Besides our being personally discouraged by the 767 election results, we were extremely concerned as to whether the outcome of our election would have a deleterious result upon the coming Local 47 vote on our amalgamation proposal.
We needn’t have worried. The Musicians for Amalgamation at Local 47 put on a continuous and masterful campaign. As early as April 10, 1952, in a letter printed in Overture, these members of Local 47 had urged that an amalgamation be favorably considered. They advocated the merging of the financial resources of the two locals, and immediate full membership for 767 members upon the date of the amalgamation. This letter, listed in the Overture as having been signed by Alexander Koltun, Seymour Sheklow and Robert Konrad (because of space considerations), was actually signed by 350 members.
An October 1952 Overture article (Page 22) asked Local 47 members to accept the merger proposal presented to the Local 47 Board meeting of May 13, 1952. The article outlined the many advantages of having all of the musicians of the Los Angeles area gathered in one organization. Finally, in a hard hitting article titled “MUSICIANS OF LOCAL 47, AMALGAMATION WITH LOCAL 767 WILL NOT COST YOU ONE CENT,” the committee pointed out that immediately upon amalgamation, 600 Local 767 members would start paying dues and taxes (now called work dues) into the treasury of Local 47. This letter also dealt with the philosophical factors of wiping out segregation and living up to our stated (but not yet realized) American traditions, (November 1952 Overture, Page 2). These musicians also published pamphlets, held unofficial discussion meetings with prominent speakers, and, in short, conducted a proud, professional campaign.
Without this dedication on the part of our white brothers and sisters of Local 47, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO AMALGAMATION, at least not at that time.
The Musicians For Amalgamation also sent out a position paper with the sample election ballot urging a Yes vote on the 767 proposal. We got an unexpected break when the Local 47 position paper, written by Secretary Maury Paul (in which we expected that he would urge a NO vote on the proposition) turned out to be relatively neutral. He summarized the Local 47 Board’s position, but also stated that ridding the Musicians’ Union of the “blight of segregation” might outweigh the cold financial facts involved in the amalgamation. He left it up to the Local 47 membership to decide the matter.
The Sunday night (Dec. 14, 1952) before the 47 election, in an effort to increase public interest in our cause, Ms. Edson and I took news releases about the election to every newspaper, every news service, and every radio (and television) station in the Los Angeles area. We literally stuffed a release in commentator Chet Huntley’s hands five minutes before his KABC broadcast. Several minutes later we turned on my car radio and were thrilled to hear him mention the Local 47 election and the vote on the Amalgamation Proposal. This gave us a great feeling but we knew that the real and decisive work which would determine the outcome of the vote on the amalgamation proposal had been done by our friends at Local 47.
The night of Monday, Dec. 15, 1952, when we knew they were counting the ballots at Local 47, was a long and nervous one. No sleep. Finally, in the wee, wee hours of the morning of Dec. 16, 1952, we received a telephone call from George Kast. He gave us the vote on the amalgamation proposal. No – 1,375. Yes – 1,608. WOW!!
After the election the old 767 Board of Trustees (Harvey Brooks, Benny Carter, Marl Young) recommended that the Local 767 membership vote at a special election on the merger proposal approved on Dec. 15, 1952 by Local 47.
The day before the Local 767 election we gave an affair for the amalgamation and were honored by the presence of such entertainers as June Christy and Nat King Cole.
This Local 767 special election was held on the first Monday in January 1953. The 767 membership approved the merger proposal by more than a two-thirds margin. The next day, the new Board of Trustees (Harvey Brooks, Buddy Collette, and Marl Young) met to elect a Chairperson. I was elected Chairperson by the vote of Buddy Collette (no coin flip this time).
On Jan. 23, 1953, Local 47 President John teGroen and I, representing Local 767 as the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, appeared before President James Petrillo and the AFM International Executive Board (IEB) for the purpose of consummating the merger of Locals 767 and 47. During this meeting the question arose as to whether the 767 proposal met all the legal requirements of a merger. At this point, Assistant to President Petrillo, Rex Ricardi, stated that it was the position of the Federation that the proposal did meet all the legal requirements of a merger. The IEB then took the following action: “President teGroen of Local 47, and Marl Young, representing Local 767, Los Angeles, California, appear and discuss the proposed amalgamation of the two locals. The matter is left in the hands of the President.”
On Jan, 26, 1953, John teGroen and I again appeared before the IEB. Minutes of this meeting follow: “In connection with the proposed amalgamation of Locals 47 and 767, Los Angeles, Calif., the Board rescinds its previous action in placing the entire matter in the hands of the President and appoints a committee to meet with the locals in Los Angeles in order to assist in carrying out the contemplated action.”
The committee referred to in the above minutes included Federation Treasurer George Clancy, Secretary Stanley Ballard, IEB member William Harris and IEB member Herman Kenin (Chairperson). The three 767 trustees, Vice-President Douglass, along with Local 47 officials had several meetings with the IEB committee working out the many details necessary for a smooth transition from two locals to one unified Los Angeles Musicians’ Local.
On Feb. 13, 1953, there was a joint meeting of the 767/47 Boards chaired by Herman Kenin. At this meeting it was agreed that “members of Local 767 who had been out of 767 for more than two years must pay a full initiation fee to Local 47 and a full initiation to the Musicians’ Club of Los Angeles, a Corporation, upon completion of the merger between the two locals.” Also at this meeting Local 47 Counsel Lawrence Grannis reported that “the title company would not insure title to 767’s property until a membership meeting of the Rhythm Club voted for the transfer of title by a simple majority.”
This Rhythm Club meeting, held in early March of 1953, elected the following officers as its first order of business: President, Marl Young; Vice-President, Bill Douglass; Secretary, Estelle Edson; Treasurer, Paul Howard, The meeting also approved the transfer of the Rhythm Club (767) corporation property, (the building headquarters at 1710 S. Central, etc.) to the Musicians’ Club (47) Corporation. John teGroen and Maury Paul attended this meeting. IEB member Herman Kenin addressed the meeting and congratulated the members of the Rhythm Club/767 on their successful merger.
Over the next several days, there were meetings between teGroen, Paul, Edson, Howard, Douglass and the 767 Trustees to make sure that all of the many matters involving the merger were dealt with. We set April 1, 1953, as the target date for the merger. We also agreed that when a 767 member appeared to get his/her card in Local 47, that he/she would sign the necessary waiver approving the transfer of all 767/Rhythm Club property to Local 47/musicians’ Club. A few days before April 1, 1953, Rhythm Club Secretary Edson and I, as Rhythm Club president, along with Musicians’ Club Secretary Maury Paul, signed the final documents effecting the transfer of Rhythm Club property to the Musicians’ Club and the merger between Locals 767 and 47 was complete.
On April 1, 1953, Local 47 started accepting Local 767 members as part of the membership of Local 47 and segregation was forever banished from the Musicians’ Union structure in the Los Angeles area.
Minutes from the I.E.B. Meeting of June 25, 1953
In connection with the merger of Local 47 and Local 767, Los Angeles, CA the following resolution is presented:
“WHEREAS, on April 1, 1953, Local 767 and 47 of the American Federation of Musicians, with the approval and consent of their respective memberships, consolidated their two locals under the name of Local 47 American Federation of Musicians; and
“WHEREAS, all of the assets, real and personal and wheresoever situate, of Local 767 have been transferred to Local 47;
“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the said merger of the said locals is hereby approved, consented to, and in all matters ratified. On motion made and passed the resolution is adopted.”Back to top