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Turning 85, Vegas Musicians Union Stays Upbeat On Labor Day

Cellist Hyman Gold serenades a couple in 1951 Las Vegas.
Hyman Gold Papers/UNLV Libraries Special Collections

Cellist Hyman Gold serenades a couple in 1951 Las Vegas.

When Hoover Dam construction workers wet their whistles or went out dancing in Las Vegas during the 1930s, chances are members of Musicians Local 369 provided the entertainment.

The local, founded on Oct. 13, 1931, played the taverns and dance halls that lured dam workers from Boulder City, where alcohol and gambling were frowned upon.

It went on to help put Las Vegas on the map as the Entertainment Capital of the World, providing the soundtrack to the Rat Pack and for lavish production shows, and keeping hotel lounges hopping with live music 18 hours a day.

Technology in the form of recorded music and the cost-cutting mindset of corporations that came to run the Strip squeezed the local and led to an eight-month walkout in 1989. A settlement of the strike provided severance to displaced union members but left the local a shell of what it once was.

Today as it prepares to turn 85, the local has 600 members and staffs four ongoing Strip shows, but that number will fall when “Jersey Boys” closes later in September.

Still Local 369 President Jack Gaughan remains optimistic, saying some residency headliners such as Céline Dion use union musicians and the local regularly gets inquiries about new shows.

As he prepared to mark Labor Day, Gaughan said even though his members don’t wear hard hats, they appreciate the sacrifices of all unions.

“Without the labor movement in the 1930s, we probably wouldn’t have a musicians union,” he said.

Jack Gaughan, president, Muisicians Local 369;  Mark Massagli, president emeritus, Local 369 

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