Heading: A New Generation and President
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Milt Abel & Bettye Miller Bettye Miller - Milt Abel Collection I Get A Kick Out Of You Bettye Miller Trio (Miller, Milt Abel, Al Bartee)

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Like the rest of America, Local 627 thrived during the 1950s. Jay McShann, Ben Webster, Jimmy Witherspoon, Lucky Enois and other nationally established musicians returned to Kansas City and revitalized the local scene. McShann settled down to raise a family and launched a long-term engagement at Johnny Baker's located at 55th and Troost. Webster left the Duke Ellington Orchestra to return home and take care of his sick mother. Webster became a regular fixture at the Zombie Club on 103rd Street east of State Line, where he played tenor saxophone while sitting in a rocking chair. Union officials welcomed these musical celebrities home to Local 627.

A new generation of musicians joined the union, further strengthening the ranks. These up-and-coming musicians, including Eddie Baker, Pearl Thuston, Bob Wilson, Larry Cummings (Luqman Hamza), Willie Rice, Richard Ross, Richard White (Ahmad Alaadeen), Eddie Saunders, Lucky Wesley, John Patton, Charles Kynard, Clarence "Big" Miller, Bettye Miller and Milt Abel, incorporated modern jazz styles into the Kaycee sound. The Scamps, The Five Aces and the Lucky Enois band picked up on the new sounds of rhythm-and-blues sweeping the nation. The Orchid Room and Municipal Auditorium became regular stops for Buddy Johnson, Charles Brown, Little Richard, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Bill Doggett, Lloyd Price, Guitar Slim, Paul Gayten, Chuck Berry and other touring rhythm-and-blues artists. Cashing in on the rhythm-and-blues craze, Jay McShann and Priscilla Bowman scored a national hit with "Hands Off" for the Vee Jay label. Little Willie Littlefield penned his best known recording, K.C. Loving, while a member of Local 627 from 1952-1955. "K.C. Loving" later became "Kansas City," an anthem that reestablished Kansas City's reputation as a musical destination.

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Swearing in of union officials, c. Dec. 1957 MMF Photo Collection, #18 K.C. Loving Little Willie Littlefield

Local 627 maintained tight control of the musical activity simmering in the 18th and Vine area and 12th Street, approving contracts and keeping tabs on members' activities. Ironically, the union discouraged members from participating in jam sessions, the well-spring of Kansas City jazz style. Errant members were called before the Board of Directors and fined for their violations of union regulations. Ahmad Alaadeen chuckled "they'd fine you for not paying your fine." Secretary-Treasurer Richard Smith and Vice President R.H. Coleman represented Local 627 at national conferences of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), filling the vacuum of leadership created by President Elmer Payne's ill health and personal problems.

On December 8, 1957, Richard Smith defeated Elmer Payne and became President of Local 627. Carroll Jenkins succeeded Smith as Secretary-Treasurer. In turn, Payne filed a claim against Smith for financial maleficence with the national union. In a meeting of the Board of Directors with representatives of the national union in attendance on January 2, 1958, Payne accused Smith of gambling with union funds. Board members lined up in support of Smith. The local's in-house publication "The Rhythm Beat" reported how all board members "made statements to the effect that Payne had grossly mis-represented the issues at hand, and had done Smith as well as the local a grave injustice by submitting this local to an embarrassing investigation of this sort on such flimsy, distorted and erroneous charges." After being exonerated by the national union, Smith led the union throughout the 1960s.

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