Tag Archives: Union Local 274

Jazz at Fay’s Theatre

Opened on August 31, 1914 as the Knickerbocker Theatre, the 2,500-seat venue was renamed Fay’s Theatre in 1918.

From West Philadelphia Collaborative History:

In its jazz heyday, Fay’s served as a symbolic place for local African Americans, if not a literal one. Fay’s booked performers like Duke Ellington—popular and highly visible members of the larger African American community—who were part of an emerging Black identity evolving in the African American press. Part of the emerging identity was a deep concern with issues of developing critical citizenship, fighting oppression, and gaining civil rights. Fay’s Theatre embodied this, having been dedicated to Florence Mills, who was remembered by the Philadelphia Tribune as a Black singer whose success in the mainstream allowed other Black musicians to succeed.

Fay’s also maintained a friendly and equitable relationship with local Black musicians. Fay’s often included performances by the Local 274, members of an African American musicians union, created to protect its members from the unethical and racist behaviors of many theater owners across the city. They performed there frequently. Famously, during a musicians’ strike in 1935 when most of the musical venues in the city went dark, shows at Fay’s kept going, thanks in part to their willingness to raise worker wages in accord with the requests of the Local 274.

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Philly Celebrates Jazz 2016

April is Jazz Appreciation Month. The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection got the party started early with the Philly Celebrates Jazz kickoff on March 28th.

#PhillyJazzMonth Banner

Mayor Jim Kenney proclaimed April as Philadelphia Jazz Appreciation Month. He also honored Philly native and Grammy Award-winning bassist and composer Christian McBride who was given an inscribed Liberty Bell, the equivalent of the key to the city.

Mayor Kenney - Christian McBride

Kenney said:

Christian McBride is an ambassador of Philadelphia to the world, not only through his music, but also through his work as an educator and advocate for music education. Christian’s story and accomplishments demonstrates the power of arts education, in our schools and communities, and the impact it can have on a person’s life and how we can encourage and build the next generation of musicians, artists, and creative thinkers.

The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts was also recognized on its 50th anniversary. The Clef Club was the social arm of Union Local 274, the black musicians union.

David Oh - Derek Green - Don Gardner - Lovett Hines - Proclamation

Philly Celebrates Jazz includes live performances, film screenings and art exhibitions. Now on view at City Hall are two photography exhibitions, Live Philly Jazz – Through the Photographic Lens and The Clef Club at 50, a retrospective curated by Don Gardner, Managing Director of the Philadelphia Clef Club, and Artistic Director Lovett Hines.

Art Exhibition

For a full calendar of Philly Celebrates Jazz events, visit http://bit.ly/PhillyJazzMonth.

Club Harlem

Under the proprietorship of Stan Cooper, this West Philly jazz spot was hot in the 1950s. It played host to jazz and blues greats such as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Hodges, Ella Fitzgerald, Lucky Millender, John Coltrane, Dinah Washington, Bull Moose Jackson and Erskine Hawkins. Nat King Cole played several gigs here in 1951.

Club Harlem folded in 1952 following a dispute with Union Local 274, the black musicians union.

Club Harlem - Union Local 274 - Collage

Union Local 274

Founded in 1935, Union Local 274 was the second largest black American Federation of Musicians local. Black musicians were barred from the then-segregated Local 77.

Local 274 members included James Adams, Bill “Mr. C” Carney, Trudy Pitts, Duke Ellington, Benny Golson, Count Basie, Jimmy Smith, Sonny Stitt, Art Blakey, Sarah Vaughan, Max Roach, Clifford Brown, Shirley Scott, Philly Joe Jones, Jimmy and Percy Heath, Jimmy Oliver, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Doggett, Jimmy McGriff and Nina Simone. The Clef Club, its social arm, was the place for weekend jam sessions. The bar and performance space was open to jazz musicians and enthusiasts.

In his autobiography, I Was Not Asked, noted educator and music scholar Dr. George E. Allen wrote:

Many Philadelphia African American jazz musicians attributed their success to the atmosphere and fellowship at Black Local 274. For aspiring musicians, the Local was a training ground for developing their reputation and experimenting with new musical concepts. Local 274 was also a place where African American musicians sought refuge from racial prejudice and discrimination. In the union club during the jam sessions, musicians were encouraged to pursue musical careers through the applause of grassroots Philadelphia African Americans who loved and respected them and the visiting jazz musicians who were playing in the local clubs. Many members of Local 274 joined because of these benefits. The atmosphere inspired both African American and white musicians. They learned by listening to the music performed at the Union and socializing with the many musicians who congregated there.

Local 274 resisted forced amalgamation, or integration, with Local 77. As a result, the American Federation of Musicians cancelled its charter in 1971. But the story didn’t end there. Historian and archivist Diane Turner wrote her dissertation on Local 274. In an interview with ExplorePA.com, Dr. Turner said:

Local 274 saw what was happening to other black Locals and refused to join 77. But she says Jimmy Adams…the local’s president at the time…realized a merger might be unavoidable:

Do we want 77 to have control over what we built? It took us years to build through dues, our property and so forth. So he came up with the idea to start a cultural wing of Local 274 and incorporate it, and transfer all of their assets and property into the Philadelphia Clef Club.

In 1966, Adams incorporated the Philadelphia Clef Club. All Local 274 assets, including the union hall, were transferred for $1.00.

Union Local 274 Headquarters

The Philadelphia Clef Club for Jazz and the Performing Arts will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016.

Philadelphia Clef Club Celebrates 20 Years on Avenue of the Arts

The Philadelphia Clef Club dates back to the golden age of Philly jazz. In 1966, it was formally organized as the social arm of Union Local 274, the black musicians union, whose members included Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Bill Doggett, the Heath Brothers, Jimmy Smith and Nina Simone.

Over the years, the Clef Club has had five locations, including Broad and Carpenter Streets, and 13th Street and Washington Avenue. The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts moved into its current location on the Avenue of the Arts in 1995. This construction fence told part of the story of the house that jazz built.

Construction Fence

For information about the 20th anniversary schedule of events, visit www.clefclubofjazz.org.