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This is the tenth in a series of programs and titled seeds of discontent. Presenting the program tonight is hard for you and your assistant professor in the School of Social Work. Wayne State University Professor Smith. Thank you and welcome to tonight's program on the Negro in America. Our specific topic will be the negro entertainer and the entertainment field. The negro entertainer represents many important things to American society and the American Negro. Therefore we have used this as a starting point and looking at the many different attitudes and reflections about American society and the problem of the Negro on last week's program. I interviewed Odetta a leading Negro folk artist her reflexions music and commentaries on the field of entertainment as it applies to the American Negro provided valuable insights into the problems of the star negro performer. We saw that in some respects the opportunity structure was better for the Negro.
Yet even for the established performer there were many subtle and insidious forms of racism which prevented the full realisation of one's talent work and resulting economic gain. And our closing remarks we made some conjectures about what this meant to the motivational system of the Negro at the bottom. Our obvious conclusion was that it led to an overwhelming sense of frustration anger and discontent. For tonight's program our intent had been to step outside of the entertainment field by having no data. Dick Gregory and others discussed the problems of the negro and the total society. During the past week however we located another entertainer a Mr. Leslie Grant basis for Odetta who voiced additional insights and reflections on this important aspect of Negro life. We are therefore postponing our program on the entertainers view of the problems of the negro and the larger society. Until
next week I now present Mr. Grey knowledge who would tell you about his experiences and his reflections on the field of entertainment. Well thank you my musical and show business experience goes back to well when I was about 14 I started professionally with my own groups. Round Muncie Indiana in Louisville Kentucky I lived my father having been a Methodist minister. We traveled quite a bit. I got most of my training and influence and encouragement to be a musician from the family. And of course the experience in the church. I think this is a common experience to a lot of people that are in show business now. When I went into the army in 51 and didn't get to play I realized how important was for me and then other people to really to if they can express themselves musically. So I came back to like
I would Gar I mean went to New York City and went to Manhattan School of Music and got my bachelor's and since then I've been participating in all sorts of musical endeavors. You know you during a few years how many states would you estimate that you traveled with in this country. Quite a few of the states in this country now some I haven't been like in Oregon Montana. But let's see now our current tours. I'm working with Adela now for the past four years and starting in in September. We usually start doing a college concert tours and they take us to all of the states. A few of the Southern states like Texas is Alabama. That would be about it for the South Missouri. We've been to
but we do spend a lot of time out of the country like in the summer. So now we play a few clubs we come to Detroit to work here in a club. But most of the places we go are for concerts usually sponsored by colleges it's in the community. You have been. In the business then for a number of years and I'd like for you to just think back now over. Who the supposed asked necking down if you will. And look there be a field of entertainment as it applies to the American Negro. Now it has been said and whether in reality or America. That the entertainment field. Has been much better for the Negro. I think it has been said so much that people sometimes may not look behind the scene and see what is really happening.
So in my talk with you I'd like to go inside of them and tame it feel and just get your impressions of this whole concept of entertainment as as as as one of the ways our forum grew and some of the particular problems that he might face as a Negro in. The entertainment field does offer many opportunities. However most of them are rather limited in my opinion of the put it this way. If you are an established artist on an international level or you're working with a group that sort of travels on this plateau things are quite different than they are for. Well the I told the so called high tenor musician who sorts of plays around whenever wherever and whenever he can play. I can think of an example just right here last night not
mentioning Danes we work in a club for some people that are very wonderful to us their respect for entertainers and the people that work for them. Actually it's with them because there they realize that they're their club is is is supported by the name people that attract the people that come out you know to you know to hear the entertainment. Just one lesson it came to my mind last night. We have some friends that are working in another sort of coffee house here in town and I wanted to get a message over to them. I sent a friend over you know and my friend couldn't even get in. You know they wouldn't be called up and the man said Well this is no answering service you know he wouldn't even call into the telephone could have been an extremely big emergency that happened here and right just last night yeah. I don't know if this is has
as much to do with prejudice as it has to do with with a certain lack of respect that you get from many club owners which is the reason that I came out a nightclub several years ago and started playing in the concert field because your treatment as a human being as a musician is 100 percent better because of the the respect that people have for you. You know people that own nightclubs traditionally only have only one music to when they have to have it they're not usually music lovers you know who are presenting something that they feel is great but they don't feel like they're presenting a public service by presenting some great artist. Usually there are people who have a bar and their whiskey dealers and they know people like a little music so they get a group as cheap as they can and they treat them pretty badly pretty badly. They say you know it has been said by looking at the
concept of equal work equal pay. And I don't know if I can say equal talent or no but certainly it has been said by a number of musicians in the past that they felt that a given white group who might have. Had one town. On par with say a given negro group. I could find no things much easier. I'd only from the point of your being able to get bookings but also from the point of view of the salary that they can demand from what has been your experience in this area. There are people that you might have you know well it's very interesting. I can use an example that everyone knows about this sort of points out of the general situation not only in this country but all over the world. With the advent and the popularity of rock n roll music
exemplified by people people like the Beatles for instance in trying to analyze it a few years ago when its at its peak it finally dawned on me that the exciting thing about these groups is that. They sound as black as they can and look as white as they can and that seems to be the magic combination. Now you can't really reverse this except I remember being in Miami Beach a few years ago and I was rather startled to realize that when we go out to the different clubs the white groups I would hear were playing rock n roll and colored music you know music from really you know the South and sound and you can now do it it's hard to tell the difference when you're singing the blues and the color trios and things around were so professional and so slick and singing all the little pop tunes and
imitating the big bright singers you know. And things have changed the way people the white youth have taken over the a large part of of the music field imitating the American Negro. And it's a great compliment in one sense in another of the economically economically there's just no comparison. You see I have thought about it many times. In a city like Detroit a city like New York or any city they want the music but they also know their neighborhoods and it's there are very few small neighborhoods that want to contain a five or six very young Negroes you know around very young people. Now they want the music but they don't want the
person. Also it's very obviously what happens is that there's natural affinity that people have for each other. And when the music gets going you know there's an admiration there from the kids and there are communities in different cities that I notice in California for instance a lot of jobs they will not hire a negro sideman. This is been true for a long time. It has changed a bit in the last few years. Even the musician's union itself which was always separate and always there was a separate right local and a separate kind of local has just about integrated all of their locals now which in its way works a little hardship on on the colored Hokus because there are no more jobs. In other words they call it local. The negro local
would control the jobs in the Negro area and the jobs that would predominantly call for Negro musicians there are still many types of music that people consider is played better by Negroes. On the other hand the white locals would have many more types of jobs. So when they hear the integrating it the Union men more or less that the big white local just sort of absorbed the negro local and took that little area of control away from. From the group that was working as the the officials and so forth of the local then. So you have a move there that everyone would say is beneficial people are for integration. But when you get close to the problem it did destroy a few executive positions for instance. They might take a one or two token men from the Negro loco into the white local as have representatives and so forth. But it's
nothing to compared with when they have their own set up and their own organization. And actually it represented an economic thing they you know with the traveling tax like you have all these bars around and so forth and you know because they're getting money from the US and they still need negro to go into the negro neighborhood. You see let's let's pursue this is a matter of economics just just a bit further. Economically I suppose in looking back through the years I've heard of a number. Of Negro entertainers who who were able to to play quite a bet now have salaries were paid commensurate with their talent and their drawing power. Ours doesn't it appear that perhaps more would have been able to invest in their own enterprise.
I aside from. Very good goatees recent adventure. I don't know what you want in recent years that that has been able to to invest and to carry in business going to what. What are some of the factors involved here. To your point back to the Harvard one is the peculiar structure of the music business itself. The performer black or white has never been the one that made the money compared to the money that's made you know the same he's drawing the money in the money he's making the money but the money that goes up to see if it's a regular music to the publisher to the managers for expenses and so forth. The performer is still the lowest man on the totem pole on the economic totem pole within the music structure. You understand what I mean here. Along with that. Is the fact that I'm sure it cannot be denied that in a business
sense most performers do not have a business sense or are not aware of the copyright laws of this and that law. There are few other people however that I'll point out to you. One is Miles Davis who after having a bit of success and sort of having some personal problems in making his when he came back he turned into business as we say with his own lawyers with his own with his he really in after a few years he was able to Rob instead of renting an apartment by his own townhouse in New York City for instance to invest so that he has at least a thousand dollars a week coming in without touching his home one. That way he can demand better fees he can pick and choose his jobs and people like Cannonball Adderly of people. Well another guy that most people don't know
about the fella named John Levy who is a fine bass player who. Who was the bass player for George Schering enjoyed sharing had his first big hit over by a burglar and things like that. Georgia Lee and John. Twenty five hundred dollars to set up his own booking office and from that quite a dynasty of within the business that most people don't realize because in the back of the business but your big ol is like can Cannonball Adderly. He had Dakota State and he had oh so many Nancy Wilson he had for a long time. And from this experience you're handling the business from not only the neutrals point of view but from the performers point of view as a musician himself. He was able to to handle his business over the years and create a strength that is lacking in
so many people. There is a trend and there has been for several years for performers both black and white to delve into this area to hold back from an offer of a recording from a recording company until they can have one that will allow them to put their songs that they compose into a publishing company of their own rather than to one that the company controls because very few people even musicians realize that if you don't file certain forms after you record. One of your own compositions. And he said becomes a big hit and everyone starts playing it and everybody you know other bands try playing the tune. The publisher makes 35 cents for instance of every time this thing is played on the air. That money will come to you if you feel that a certain phone call a certificate of use after you record the tune. Now most people most owners don't even know this unless they're really show business lawyers So this
is this is a problem and that. There is not so much peculiar to the negro as a guess as peculiar to the business. That's right I want to be able I would first play that particular there I would. As far as the business is concerned that really can't be covered until one gets a good working knowledge of the business is there like a seven or eight billion dollar a three billion dollar a year business in this country and more people like Belafonte has broken through with the help of one of its early managers who was a. Wall Street broker and a good transcends the area of show business. You know we as musicians tend to live in that world of fantasy because we were creating fantasy in a sense or reflecting on reality through the fantasy of song and and so forth and so on. And very few of us have had the training
or have the knowledge to handle our own business adequately all the time if you are for performing. So this whole side. Group of people the managers the accountants lawyers are really the publishers the record company makes 94 percent profit off of being here under their regular contract. Now people that have the the strength to do it all negotiate their own contracts. They they get advice. It takes longer. The record company really has to want you to even bother with it under that same thing though as I think about it there are several small companies that have come up recently like these are new who own companies but to show you what could be done different lawyers who would set up like ESPN an example of one as a record company that started by choosing artists that couldn't get recorded like Archie Shepp and
people like that from the new jazz way and offer them a contract of unheard of in the business saying I will share 50 percent. You know you come we work out our whole special deal which is gotten them a lot of coverage in Europe and so forth and so on and the little record companies are doing great. So things are looking up and they see very definitely as the individual artist becomes aware of what he needs to know I would say this has a lot to do with education. You see. Well in your travels let's move from the dynamics or the structure of the of the entertainment field. And look at another aspect which is connected with that. Public Accommodations for you or yourself or your musicians what kind of special problems if any of your head in this particular area.
This also varies. Now with with myself I can remember back not too long ago when you said we'd be in Kentucky or somewhere in the south. How is realize younger it still happens to groups I think sometimes you drive in a filling station and need gas in the manse there where you have some gas but you got to put it in a yourself an uncertain of all of that you know and as far as accommodations are concerned it used to be quite a problem just is just as far back as when I was working with common McRae we drove. You know we had to drive from Ohio to Oklahoma. There was a desperate need at that time to have a directory of Negro motels and things because you just knew you couldn't you couldn't get in. You didn't want to go through a hassle which is when the main things that I've
tried to avoid. Now that's when you travel around sort after like you know traveler driving across country the way you get by is of course is traveling first class making reservations in advance. All for your whole itinerary which is the way we do. We still get some funny looks sometimes in low places but things have changed to the extent where you have your reservations. They don't know you know when it's made it's made from the office like anybody else. When you get there they kept turning you away. Really Care on the other hand if you don't have a reservation they can just tell you we're full you know we just don't have the space that you need. Right. We run into individuals now sometimes I see. Now in terms of the northern area here we've talked to some about the South. The peculiar problems or
particular problems in the northern areas which you might remember off. The same thing prevails there are certain when you travel in first class again are you second class or if you just you say you want and you want the nicest hotel you can find if you want to sleep and rest. You run into individual situations with with people the policies have changed even in the presence north and south say you have a credit card and you go to places like Holiday Inn. You make your reservations there and and you get your gas there and it's always sir yes sir thank you very much. And there has been no problem whatsoever with us. However I know a friend of mine who is well known saner as you know cargo not so long ago and he happens to have an interracial family. And in a place where ordinarily wouldn't have minded if they didn't want that the manager just couldn't
go for it. From his own point of view. So he had to stomp around and raise a little sand because the man just couldn't see an interracial couple. We run into things like right here in Detroit I remember when we were here before we were staying in one of the big motels. And everything was fine until we got ready to leave and they would not honor any credit where credit cards are any of our personal checks and we had to have it. I had just. Up around that time but they wouldn't do it we had to get the club over to come over and take our personal checks and give us cash for our hotel bill and they had a little sign of the destiny we on of this credit card and the man said No we just had you know we've had too much trouble with you you can attain arose he said you know I sing. So that still is happening. Well it has a kind of go around and one one
final question. It's often been said that to a great extent the American public does accept the performance that the music of the negro. But in terms of accepting him socially. There may not be very much difference between the ordinary person Street as opposed to a musician. What is been your experience in this area. This tour that to be true. Sometimes I personally wonder about this whole middle class set up the fact that those of us that make a certain amount of money have a certain amount of education moving to certain areas to improve our living conditions become very much like an R in effect middle
class. You know Americans and on this level on this professional level there's a lot less of the hassle that you'd find from you know from the other levels. I think it's because I don't know some people are proud to know that baseball players are musicians and the guy was a teacher and the guy that's a doctor in to see him. It's an example of like how liberal he hears you know or something but he really doesn't want to get exposed or or invite in what is his fantasy about you know the the horrible. The possibility of violence to him and so forth and so on and the lack of education I was tramping around the streets of Detroit this morning I was reminded how well one of the level of tension still exists here. I happen to be with a with of folksingers a friend of my from Miami that has
been a time for her to get something again all of a sudden I heard her say we're married you stay in the car and I'll go get the food you know and this is the reverse of when it was when I was traveling in the South when you know we had to stay in the car and one of the fellas to go get the food. So firms are changing some for the better and some just backwards you know anything. Mr Leslie green eyes and his reflections on the field of entertainment. His remarks require no explanation. It is hoped that community workers working with negro you throughout the many ghettos of this country will present as balanced and as clear an interpretation of the field as Mr. Graham. It is only by knowing the total ramifications of the business that the aspiring young negro can make up his mind about what is really available and at what cost. The stereotype of natural rhythm and sound has been
perpetuated too long. Much more needs to be done in the field of entertainment otherwise eventually the field as an opportunity structure will become a total lie for many Negro you. At the present time there is merely discontent. If I were to own a desire not expanded. And if the gap between the negro as a performer and the negro as a social being is not closed in terms of some basic realisation and they accept and have a man as a man much of the spiritual and poetic beauty pumped into the mainstream of American society for so many years by American Negroes may lose its meaning and still more bitter social conflict. Next week Mr GRANAZ Odetta and Dick Gregory will discuss the problems of the negro and the total society from the point of view of causes. What is and what is not being done. You have just heard Harvard Smith Jr. assistant professor in the School of Social Work Wayne
Seeds of discontent
Episode Number
Episode 10 of 26
Producing Organization
Wayne State University
WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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For series info, see Item 3313 and 3314. This prog.: Negro bassist Leslie Grinage gives an inside look at the problems facing Negro performers.
Social Issues
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Producing Organization: Wayne State University
Producing Organization: WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-15-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:15
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Chicago: “Seeds of discontent; Episode 10 of 26,” 1968-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 21, 2022,
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APA: Seeds of discontent; Episode 10 of 26. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from