Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What can you tell me about this photograph?

I have an amazing collection of photographs of Los Angeles musicians that I hope to share through this blog. Some of them are particularly intriguing because I do not know the names of the performing ensembles,  individual musicians, or anything else about the photographs.  I am wondering if you can help me identify the group and any individuals in this picture.  I assume it is from the 1930s.

Is it a family orchestra? What kind of music do they play? Can anyone identify the type of accordian? What about the other instruments? Did they ever appear in a Hollywood movie?  The photo indicates that it was shot at the Empire photo studio in Los Angeles. 

Any guesses?  I'd love to hear from you--particularly if you are in this photograph!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

International Sweethearts of Rhythm

The June 2011 issue of The Overture (the monthly paper of Los Angeles Local 47 of the American Federation of Musicians) has an article (p. 7) by Linda Rapka about saxophone player Rosalind Cron who played in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm beginning in 1942, the first white member of the group. The Sweethearts had black, white, Latina, Asian, Indian, and Puerto Rican women musicians, and has been singled out as being one of the first mixed race all-girl bands.*  Known as "Roz"  she was born in 1925 and grew up in Newton, Massachusetts.  She began playing the alto saxophone at age 9, joining the Boston Local 9 (now 9-535) while still a teenager. At 18 Roz went on tour with the Sweethearts and has some fascinating stories to tell about those days. The band was named America's No. 1 All-girl Band by Downbeat magazine in 1944. 

The six surviving members of the band, including Roz, were honored by the Smithsonian on March 29 and 30. In the interview with Linda Rapka, Roz said, "We were never accepted by male musicians...We were so good, and we knew we were good, but nobody else knew it until half of us were dead. That's the sad part of it all.  Nobody got any recognition outside of the black community. All these years, I've never met a white person who knew what I was talking about. But I will go into a black community and find grandmothers who had heard us."  The Sweethearts folded in 1949.  Now they are honored with a permanent place at the Smithsonian's American History Museum.  For more information at the Sweethearts of Rhythm at the Smithsonian visit and on National Public Radio at  Congratulations Roz and thanks to Linda Rapka for the "Membership Spotlight" article.

*I'm not so sure about the Sweethearts being the first mixed race all-girl band; there are plenty of earlier American girl bands with members of different racial and ethnic groups, including "mixed race" women jazz musicians who "passed as white" during "Jim Crow" days. There probably should be more research on this....However, the International Sweethearts was a great band and ground-breaking on several fronts.