In 1917, the African American musicians of Buffalo organized local 533 of the American Federation of Musicians. The Colored Musicians Club was also organized, and purchased the building on Main Street which housed the union offices for decades and is now a museum. It was 1969 before local 533 was merged into the previously all white Buffalo local of the Federation.
The club was a vital part of Buffalo's musical life in those earlier, segregated days, as it afforded a refuge and jam space to the musicians who, allowed to play in the white hotels and clubs, were generally not allowed to dine there. Over the years, nearly every major musician from Louis Armstrong to John Coltrane joined in the sessions at the club in addition to whatever gigs had brought them to town.
Signs of the continued relevance of the club building include the epigraph written on the organ by Dr. Lonnie Smith just this past May, and the Sunday night jams that continue in the present.
Lil Armstrong maintained her membership in the local and club long after she had left Buffalo, and was a regular visitor.
Aretha Franklin paying her dues! 1961
Sepia Swing Shows, not to be missed.
The second floor club space, where jams still happen and where you can hold a membership,
(photo from Anna Everett)