In honor of Black Music Month, today we're sharing a post from May 2017 highlighting Bubby Johnson's Plantation Orchestra and the Musicians' Protective Union Local No. 543, American Federation of Musicians of Baltimore, Maryland.
James Edward "Bubby" Johnson and his Plantation Orchestra is one of the most under recognized, yet important groups to emerge from Old West Baltimore. They performed at venues such as The Strand, The New Albert, Alcazar Ballroom, Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State College, and the Southern Hotel, just to name a few.
The Musicians' Protective Union Local #543 was organized in Baltimore in 1918. This African American music union negotiated contracts for African American musicians and was once located on Dolphin Street and, at another time, located on Pennsylvania Avenue and other locations as well. At one point, Bubby Johnson was the Vice President of the Musicians' Protective Union.
During the Depression era, these musicians often hocked items of clothing and material at pawns shop on Pennsylvania Avenue to make ends meet and to afford musical instruments that were paid for on account at Hammann's Music Store on Liberty Street or at Fred Walker's on Howard Street. Many of the orchestra members often were interchangeable with various groups, locally, regionally, and nationally.