Archive for November, 2012

Solidarity Forever… Pending a Viable Alternative

November 26, 2012

When asked why anyone would live in Minnesota, a place that routinely charts temps of -20 in winter and +100 in summer, the answer always includes its rich cultural environment. Historically, the business and community leaders here have been totally in sync, and the result has been a wealth of theater, art and music at all levels. This is why recent news is so disturbing.

As of this writing the musicians of both the Minnesota Orchestra  and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, two world-class ensembles, are living (and not working) under a lockout. Of course, so are the players of the National Hockey League (apparently it spreads like the plague), but while hockey players and owners are squabbling over how to divide up millions of dollars, these accomplished musicians are literally fighting for survival—their personal survival as working musicians, and the survival of artistic integrity they feel would be seriously compromised under the contract being offered them.

I joined the Baltimore union for a gig when I was 17. I dropped it when I quit playing, and I rejoined in 2007 for my jazz funeral band. Obviously, I must see value in representing myself as a union musician and in supporting working musicians in this way. There are a wide range of opinions on unionism and organized labor in general, so I’ll just say this: employers are focused, well-organized and highly motivated to keep wages low. How, without some position of strength in numbers, does an individual wage earner or contractor negotiate for equity? The lockout situation here in Minnesota is sad, but we’re not alone. Arts organizations around the country, including many major orchestras like ours, are in similar turmoil.

So what has sparked all this rumination on unions? I have to hold Sam Towers responsible. He recently uncovered a personal cache of materials that had been hidden away for more than 35 years. It consisted mostly of receipts from Fred Walker, but also included 7 issues of “‘The Baltimore Musician’—Official Journal of the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, Local No. 40-543 of the American Federation of Musicians” — dated between 1976 and 1978. Almost as much as Joe Vaccarino’s great book, these 6 to 8 page journals provide their own interesting glimpses into Baltimore music.

The issue featured here is the first of the batch, and it’s one of the more interesting. Dated May 1976, it is filled with familiar names from the BaltimoreJam experience and Baltimore music scene. The names include people suspended for nonpayment of dues, reinstated for repaying dues, and a lot of changes to the membership directory by people you will recognize. This issue even has my own address change when I moved  to Minnesota. Roger Pace is listed under his real name of Paesch. There is a formal announcement by Denny Picasso that he is no longer affiliated with Music Men, Inc. (Gary Chalmers’  booking agency … the story behind that announcement must be interesting). I even spotted an address change for my Parkville Elementary School band teacher, Mr. Clarence Ogilvie (I think he played bassoon).

So with thanks to Sam, and a shout out to Jough Loosmore (he’s currently a Director At large of Local 40-543), here are all 8 pages, scanned as PDFs. Click on each individual link to access the full-size PDF of that page.

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976,_page 1

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 2

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 3

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 4

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 5

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 6

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 7

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 8

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Amplified Blasts From the Past

November 21, 2012

Those of us who know Mr. Sam Towers will know him to be an outstanding musician on both guitar and bass. What I didn’t know until recently is that he is also either: a.) an archivist, or b.) a pack rat. Recently, Sam had the need to dig into some old files and boxes he hadn’t touched in almost 40 years. In the process he uncovered a trove of Baltimore musician history that just has to be shared, so we’re going to share it here.

This first installment starts with a receipt for an amplifier. Not just any amp, but a classic favorite for guitar since it’s release in 1952, two years before Fender began selling Stratocasters. The Fender Twin Reverb.

For perspective I looked up a vintage original 1967 Twin. This one was listed as “near mint” condition and was selling for $2,500.00.

1967 vintage Fender Twin Reverb guitar amp

If you’re willing to sacrifice authenticity and go for re-issue, you can get this 1965 vintage re-issue for $1,350 at Guitar Center.

1965 vintage re-issue Fender Twin Reverb guitar amp

Sam has an incredible stack of receipts from Fred Walker’s … most written in Mr. Walker’s own hand … but this is the only one from Jimmy’s Music Shop, 127 West 48th Street, New York, NY. Musical instruments of all types were always known to be about 1/2 price in New York, even compared to someplace close by like Baltimore. I drove to NY to buy a trombone in 1972 for that same reason.

Here’s Sam’s 1967 receipt for a Fender Twin Reverb. It must have looked a lot like the vintage original Twin above (but probably without wheels) … maybe Sam can tell us if his amp was black face or silver face.

receipt for a 1967 Fender Twin Reverb guitar amp from Jimmy's Music Shop on 48th St. in New York

A Quick Look @ Jam 5

November 13, 2012

It’s hard to believe that it was just a few short weeks ago. Here are a few early photos in, no particular order, with thanks to Marja Jordan and Ray Attridge.

Chauncey Harris

Chauncey Harris

George Reeder

George Reeder

2 Tenors

Ed Hall & Steve Scheinberg

Tony Montone

Tony Montone

John Schafer

John Schafer

Tony Montone, Rody Barthelmes, Walt Bailey

Tony Montone, Rody Barthelmes, Walt Bailey

Bob Funk and Larry Bonacorsi

Bob Funk and Larry Bonacorsi

Terrance and Phil McCusker

Terrance and Phil McCusker

Rody Barthelmes and Frank Invernizzi

Rody Barthelmes and Frank Invernizzi

Challenge Authority …

November 5, 2012

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