Officers and members of Local 71 (Memphis, TN) are proud that their building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in May. According to an announcement from the director of the National Park Service, it was designated under Criterion A in the areas of Entertainment/Recreation and Ethnic Heritage: Black for its association with the “Memphis sound,” the Southern strain of soul music that entered into pop culture in the early 1960s.
“The modest union building exemplifies this world-famous era because its membership included Stax Recording Studio musicians who produced the original austere style, featuring melodic unison horn lines, organ, bass, and a driving beat on the drums,” the announcement says.
Local 71 opened its doors to black musicians in 1949, more than a decade before some of the other AFM locals integrated. The brick building, designed by federation member, trumpet player, and architect Bill Gaskill, has been home to the local for more than 54 years.
Longtime Local 71 member and violist Karen Casey first came up with the idea of pursuing a historic designation for the building. Looking into its history, she discovered that the union is the oldest continuously operated musicians’ union in the country.
Local 71 President John Sprott hopes that the building’s designation as a historic place will help finance needed repairs. As a historic place, for-profit partners could earn tax credits in exchange for help with renovations. Local 71 Secretary-Treasurer Laurie Pratt hopes the building will one day be a tourist destination with a small museum inside.