The Blue Note: Seattle’s Black Musicians' Union A Pictorial History


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Other Seattle musicians including 493 member and bandleader Jimmy Adams, as well as Nisei vocalist and Japanese Columbia Records artist, Chizuko Miyagawa,( a.k.a. Harumi Miyagawa), were in Shanghai during this same time. Adding spice to the Shanghai mix were prominent musicians such as Chicago-based pianist and Erskine Tate sideman, Teddy Weatherford, along with Buck Clayton. Clayton led his 14-piece "Harlem Gentlemen of Jazz" from 1934-1936 at a Chinese-owned club and casino called the Canidrome. Expatriate White Russian jazz musicians like Oleg and Igor Lundstrem also worked at Shanghai's Paramount ballroom. All in all there was plenty of hot jazz in the "City of Blazing Light" for Whaley, Palmer Johnson, and company. With decent period wages of $50 to $200 weekly, the crew had plenty of money for a good time, in "Yellow Babylon." Guidebooks speculated "Joy, gin and jazz. There's nothing puritanical about Shanghai." Something of an understatement, given that sex and drugs including heroin could all be had from hotel room service.

Story #2

Traveling, dues-paying, bands were an important source of income for Local 493. When out-of- town black bands like these played Seattle, they usually fed the black union's coffers by paying work dues, bringing in much-needed revenue. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm were members of the American Federation of Musicians' union and were a rare all-female interracial band which played the Negro touring circuit throughout the country during the 1940s. During World War II the military draft decimated the ranks of the country's traditionally all-male big bands. This situation provided work for various "all girl" groups. Some of these included the International Sweethearts, as well as the black All-Star Girl Orchestra of Texas-born Eddie Durham. Both of these bands played concerts in Seattle in 1944. With parallels to "Rosie the Riveter" in Seattle's bustling World War II economy, the International Sweethearts toured frequently and were surely a source of race and gender pride to Seattle women in Local 493, the African American community, and others. The International Sweethearts originated from the Piney Woods School in Mississippi, traveling internationally as a swing big band from 1940-1949. The term "International" in the band's name served as a protective cover for band members who were black, white, Chinese, and Mexican. According to leader Anna Mae Windburn, "We had so many mixed girls, mulattas. . . ." as well as white alto player Roz Cron, who was coached to describe herself as "mixed." Such a covert line up resulted in frequent run-ins with the police, though not in Seattle. "So we had quite a time," Winburn noted, "we did a lot to break down prejudice in the South." The band also helped shatter the myth, commonly repeated in the literature, that female musicians couldn't play. Defying this stereotype, the Sweethearts swung hard. For example, this "all girl group" were popular favorites of the tough audiences at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, and from 1941 to 1945, they performed at the venue as much as, or more than, their male counterparts.
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