[78-L] 78-L The Petrillo we loved to hate

Jack Daney2 jackson1932 at cfl.rr.com.invalid
Thu Sep 22 17:18:55 PDT 2016

> Date: Thu, 22 Sep 2016 11:04:55 -0700
> From: Michael Biel <mbiel at mbiel.com.invalid>
> Subject: Re: [78-L] The Petrillo we loved to hate
> To: "78-L Mail List" <78-l at klickitat.78online.com>
> Message-ID:
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> The first article was pure bull crap.  Imagine thinking that killing off
> the big bands in favor of the vocal soloist was beneficial to
> musicians!!!!  Those funds for live concerts were a scam, and it was
> discussed in the press at the time.  But there is a lot of good info in
> both articles, and I need to find those books!
> Mike Biel   mbiel at mbiel.com  
> =========================================

Au contraire. The article told it the way it was. I can't defend or criticize Petrillo as he was pretty much before my time as a musician. I became a professional at age 16 in the fall of 1949  playing and writing for big bands. According to "historians" who don't know feces and who weren't here, the big band era had died four years earlier. Again, not so. Certain\ly it was not what it had been and many bands had gone or were going down but there was still a huge public interest and bands like Ralph Flanagan and IIRC Ray Anthony  in 1950 were still packing them in everywhere they played. And five years later the Archer chain of many ballrooms in the midwest were still in business drawing dancers. I was there as a player and observer.

I can't imagine where you got the idea that killing the big bands in favor of vocal groups was Petrilo's intent.  If I understood correctly and this is actually what you meant it is an unfortunate statement. Good, bad or whatever, Petrillo did have one major failing that all humans share, he was not clairvoyant. Major actions will always have unforeseen consequences. He was, however, definitely  at fault in not accepting singers, harmonica players and whatever else  as musicians as the AFM later did. Had they been unionized, the ban might well have had a better outcome. 

There can be little doubt that the rise of singers and vocal groups hurt  the bands but if one wants to accurately place blame, my negative vote goes to television, the ephemeral and ever worsening taste of the public with respect to music and in particular, Mitch Miller who probably did more to  destroy worthwhile pop music than any combined number of labor leaders, benevolent or not. And, I've often thought, with or without the ban the end result of the decline of the bands and the rise of the singers might well have happened anyway. It's no secret that the decline in the public's taste in damn near everything, not just music has been a continuing downward spiral over the years and there seems to be no end in sight short of armageddon.

One thing I learned early in my music life is that  the world and mentality of the professional musician is a foreign concept to the general public and especially politicians. It has always been a situation where the twain shall never meet. Politicians (who generally have the worst taste in music and the public will never understand the world of the musician). For many years the view of musicians by the uninformed was, 'They love to play. Give them a sandwich and they'll be happy." 

To reiterate, I don't know if Petrillo was a crook or a saint but I do know that he fought the good fight and certainly appeared to be concerned about our welfare. As a result of that and the efforts of many well-intended,  very capable and dedicated musicians and musicians committees that followed we are a lot better off than we might have been but there is and always will be room for much improvement. With the exception of the top recording and theater musicians the rest of us are still behind the curve but it could have been worse and may well soon be thanks to anti-unionism by the greed mongers and those who just don't know any better and the attitude that all recorded music should be free for the taking.

 As a closing thought, I've long been intrigued by the fact that despite record company execs in the days of the big bands constantly pandering to the lowest common denominator, the bands that survived the longest (with the exception of Lombardo who was obviously in league with the devil) were the best, Woody Herman, Basie, Ellington, Kento\n, James, etc. 

> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject: Re: [78-L] The Petrillo we loved to hate
> From: Julian Vein <julianvein at blueyonder.co.uk.invalid>
> Date: Thu, September 22, 2016 12:04 pm
> To: 78-L Mail List <78-l at klickitat.78online.com>
> On 20/09/16 01:48, Rodger Holtin wrote:
>> Petrillo's Big Ban Era
>> Some of you will find this as fascinating as I did. Reading stuff like
>> George T. Simon's big band books, and almost any other books or articles on
>> the big bands, one would conclude that James Caesar Petrillo was a first
>> class jerk and his strikes in 1942 and 1948 were simply foolish.
>> With that as backdrop, I went looking for articles that would share all the
>> positive things that came about as a result of Petrillo's strike against the
>> record companies.
>> Rodger
> =============

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