Gerald Wilson: In His Time

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GW: I went to a lawyer friend of mine who's still here, he's right downtown. I said, we've been trying to amalgamate these unions. We didn't like the way things were going. The agents were very mean to the players, money problems, we didn't know what was going on with the union. He said slip in on a general meeting. Don't tell anyone you're coming. Take your group down there and when they say, "New Business, raise up your hand. Make a motion, 'I move that local 767 will have a special meeting for the specific purpose of discussing the amalgamation of local 767 to local 47.' I had a guy right there to second, Percey Mack David, fine musician.

After that, things began to change. We took the union over. The next election day, we were there. We voted one of our guys in as vice president. Fired the guy who was giving the musicians hell, fired him on the spot. Then we brought Benny Carter in with his stature and reputation, brought him in with us. We got everything moving and it moved.

I gotta give Detroit credit. Coming from the south, when I went to Detroit this was the way things were supposed to be. All the schools were integrated in Detroit, Michigan. The union was integrated, the union I belonged to, local 5. They made us join. I played with a young band and we were so good we played in parks and in big ballrooms, they made us join the union. $5 and you start. Detroit gave me all I needed to carry me on. Because I always felt something was wrong here. What was it? I had a great life, my mother was a school teacher. She taught music, she played music for the schools, she played for the church. She was a college graduate. She started all of her children on piano. The day I played my first song on piano, my mother had taught me. I can go into the piano here and get going and keep going. Detroit brought back to me what it was supposed to be. I stayed in Detroit five years, there was no riot or nothing in my school. All of my teachers were white and they taught me well. So that's the way I thought it was supposed to be.

Selected Discography

Gerald Wilson, In My Time (Mack Avenue, 2005)
Gerald Wilson, New York, New Sound (Mack Avenue, 2003)
Gerald Wilson, Theme For Monterey (MAMA, 1997)

Gerald Wilson Orchestra, The Golden Sword (Pacific Jazz-Discovery, 1966)

Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Portraits (Pacific Jazz-Capitol, 1963)

Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Moment of Truth (Pacific Jazz, 1962)

Gerald Wilson Orchestra, The Complete Pacific Jazz Recordings (Pacific Jazz-Mosaic, 1961-69)

Photo Credits:
Top Photo: Brian Leng
Bottom Photo: Pat A. Robinson


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