Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Clef Club, 1910-11


He also began to effect major changes in the working conditions for black musicians. It was a common practice, heretofore, for the large hotels and restaurants in the city and by out-of-town resorts like the Poinciana Hotel in Palm Beach not to pay black musicians and singers for their services directly. As Tom Fletcher remembered it, they would be hired for some menial job, like dishwasher or floor sweeper, with the expectation that they also perform for the guests for tips. Europe began to require the employers of Clef Club musicians to pay them a fixed salary and to include nothing other than entertaining in their duties. Moreover, if an engagement were out of the city, then the musicians were to receive their salaries plus transportation, room, and board. To increase name recognition, he also encouraged club members who had their own established combinations to bill themselves as "So-and-So and his Clef Club Orchestra and Entertainers." A standard dress code was instituted stipulating tuxedos for engagements booked in advance and dark suits, white shirts, and bow ties for pick-up dates. "No one is sent on a job if not dressed correctly," Fletcher recalled. By the early spring of 1911, Europe was leading a Clef Club dance orchestra himself.
From A Life in Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe, by Reid Badger, Oxford, 1995.
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