Mutual Musicians Foundation

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Kansas City’s Local 627, African-American Musicians Union, founded in 1917, and known as the Mutual Musicians Foundation, still stands in Kansas City, Missouri's historic 18th and Vine district at 1823 Highland Avenue.

Today, the tradition jams on at the Mutual Musicians Foundation, located on the former site of Local 627 at 1823 Highland Avenue, in the heart of the historic 18th and Vine District. The Mutual Musicians Foundation, Inc., originally incorporated to manage the building and assets of Local 627, continued operating the building as a social club for musicians and fans after the merger with Local 34 in 1970. In 1979, the Foundation was prominently featured in Bruce Ricker’s film, The Last of the Blue Devils. A National Historic Landmark, the building is also entered in the National Register of Historic Places and the Kansas City Landmarks Commission Register.

Mutual Musicians Foundation ca. 2006

As they have since 1930, musicians gather at the Foundation Friday and Saturday nights after midnight to jam into the early morning hours. The Foundation also serves as a rehearsal space for members, a classroom for visiting students and a place for private parties. A living museum, the Foundation preserves and develops Kansas City’s rich musical heritage.

In Fall 2006, the City cracked down on the Foundation, which had been serving liquor without a license--for decades. The days when Kansas City was known as a "wide open town" [1] are long gone. As of February 2007, the Foundation is still open, but some fear that the change will endanger the jam session's survival. [2] If the Foundation got a liquor license under the current law, it could only serve liquor until 1:30 a.m.--but the jams usually don't get started until around 1 a.m.

On March 8, 2007, Representatives Mike Talboy and Leonard Hughes introduced a bill (HB 1058) in the Missouri House of Representatives that would effectively allow the Foundation to continue to serve alcohol after 3 a.m. [3] The legislation would amend existing state laws regarding liquor sales (Section 311.174, RSMo) to include the provision: "an entity exempt from federal income taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, and located in a building on the National Historic Register may apply for a license to remain open until 6:00 a.m. of the following day." [4]

In April 2007, Kansas City Star columnist Steve Penn wrote that Representative Talboy needs to hear public support to show the state legislative committee that this is important to Kansas City and to jazz. Penn quotes Talboy: "I’m going to try to rally support. The problem is, some people will look at this simply as an alcohol issue and not a historical issue." So Rep. Talboy asked people to send emails and letters of support with their stories about the Foundation and why it needs to be able to remain open (with financial assistance from selling alcohol). [5]

The Missouri House of Representatives passed "a provision to let the Mutual Musicians Foundation in Kansas City serve alcohol until 6 a.m." in May 2007. [6] The Missouri Senate then passed SB 299, which contained the provision for the Foundation, and the Senate President signed the bill on May 25, 2007. [7]

References[edit]

[1] Farnsworth, Elizabeth (1997-09-08). "Swing city". Online NewsHour. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 

[2] Zagier, Alan Scher (2007-02-14). "Booze ban threatens famous jazz hall". Boston Globe/Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-03-04. [dead link]

[3] Missouri House of Representatives. "HB 1058 Creates an exception to the requirements for liquor sales by the drink at certain Kansas City establishments.". Retrieved 2007-03-09. [dead link]

[4] Missouri House of Representatives. "Text of HOUSE BILL NO. 1058 94TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY". Retrieved 2007-03-09. [dead link]

[5] Penn, Steve (2007-04-03). "Lawmakers in tune with jazz site". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 2007-04-03. [dead link]

[6] Hoover, Tim (2007-05-17). "MISSOURI HOUSE Mutual Musicians Foundation provision also passes". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 2007-05-28. [dead link]

[7] Missouri Senate. "SB 299 Modifies various provisions relating to liquor control". Retrieved 2007-05-28. 

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