• U.S.

Music: Petrillo Strikes

2 minute read

When the American Federation of Musicians elected James Caesar Petrillo its president (TIME, June 24), U. S. radio and phonograph men thought nervously of Chicago. As longtime boss of the Chicago musicians’ local, Jimmie Petrillo has nourished a violent and magnificent dislike for anything that keeps his musicians from getting jobs. Or, at least, from getting pay checks.

Chicago was a pioneer with the “standby” system, by which outside union men playing in its radio stations must either join the union local or pay a thumb-twiddling local musician to stand by. Jimmie Petrillo forbade Chicago men to make phonograph records which might be broadcast.He saw to it that political campaign trucks resound with live musicians, not recordings. When a giant panda was to be welcomed by a troop of Chinese Boy Scout buglers, Petrillo demanded that eight union men be hired as well. Italian as were his sympathies, he hit the ceiling when the Italian Consul arranged for amateurs to play at an Italian celebration.

Last week, five days after officially taking office as A. F. of M. president, Jimmie Petrillo was laying about him with Chicago vigor. In an attempt to bring two radio stations to heel, he cracked the whip over the three major networks. The stations were St. Paul’s KSTP (NBC affiliate), Richmond’s WRVA (CBS). Each was embroiled in a local musicians’ strike, because it declined to pay a minimum yearly sum, or guarantee a minimum number of jobs, to local musicians, whether needed or not.

Most union musicians on the radio are paid by networks or sponsors. But many of Boss Petrillo’s men play without extra pay in the dance bands picked up, usually after 11 p.m., in hotels and nightclubs, and fed to the networks as “remotes.” Last week, after NBC and CBS refused to deprive KSTP and WRVA of these remotes, Boss Petrillo instructed dance bands not to make such broadcasts. MBS came under the ban when it helpfully piped its remotes to the other networks.

Jitterbugs and night owls twiddled their dials, got, instead of their accustomed Gene Krupa, Eddy Duchin, Tommy Dorsey, et al., a new crop of studio musicians—trios, quartets, unknown bands, variety shows. No one liked this much, but at week’s end no one had moved to break the deadlock.

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