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Book Reviews

Central Avenue Sounds

By Published: March 8, 2004
Nearly every musician interviewed discussed his/her opinion of the integration of musicians' unions 767 (black) and 47 (white). Some like Buddy Collette and Marl Young, were strongly in favor of it, and were even the movers and shakers behind the amalgamation, whereas others were bitterly against it, claiming it increased competition, making less jobs available, and eliminating duplicated union management positions. Young's perspective differed from the other accounts represented as he was involved in the legal and business aspects of the amalgamation. Being a law school graduate, he carefully studied the by-laws of both unions, thereby insisting the two merge rather than consolidate, it means jobs are not lost or benefits weakened. One illustration was the death benefit. Under 47's rules, members' heirs were entitled to a $1,000 death benefit if they joined the union before he or she were 40. 767's provision was similar, but the benefit was $400. But with many of 767's members over 40, Young proposed during the first year if any former 767 members over 40 died, their survivors would receive $1400, but if the member died thereafter, survivors would receive the standard $1,000. Even more remarkable was the integration of the musicians' unions took place a year before the Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education.

The downside of an oral history format is that the interviewees at times wandered off, and other times their words seem to lack coherency at the subject being discussed. But as a whole, Central Avenue Sounds presents a once maligned aspect of music and Los Angeles history that finally has seen the light. Although this is not the first book on an era of this area, it is the first book to present a cross section of those who influenced the course of American popular music, beyond Central Avenue stretching to the world.

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