Monday, 23 March 2009

Josh White: Society Blues

by Elijah Wald

Josh would eventually appear on several network shows, but it would take many years; Oscar Brand recalls being forbidden to use him as late as 1963. At that time, Brand was the music director of Exploring, an NBC children's program. Though he had also been blacklisted, Brand was working only behind the scenes and therefore not attracting much attention. Getting a questionable performer's appearance on screen was trickier.

"I couldn't get Josh on for love or money," Brand says. "And the fellow who was running the show was an honest, straightforward, marvelous guy. I was able to get other people who were considered troublesome, controversial. I put Theo Bikel on it; Dyer-Bennet I tried to get on it, but he refused for the money I was able to offer. But Josh I couldn't get on. He was considered a troublemaker. I caused some difficulty with what they called the 'Continuity Acceptance People' -- that's a lawyer who has a copy of Red Channels."

Brand has no doubt that race played a major role in Josh's remaining persona non grata. "He was too proud," Brand says. "An uppity Negro. That was the description of Josh White. And they knew who Josh was. He wasn't small enough; like I got Phil Ochs on. Now, Phil was much more radical than Josh, but they didn't know Phil Ochs."

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