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Oscar Peterson battles all shades of racism

The Story

Racism comes in all colours and forms. Having endured discrimination first hand, Oscar Peterson finds himself combating a new shade of racism as well. When Herb Ellis joins the Oscar Peterson Trio in 1953, Peterson gets hate letters from black musicians and fans condemning him for playing with a white guitarist. Peterson dismisses the comments saying he has no time for what he calls "stupid racism." He maintains that he hired Ellis on the basis of his musicality and the person he is on the inside. Peterson is fond of saying talent comes in a "variety of packages -- black, white, brown, yellow, tall, short, fat, thin, monster-like or gentle."

Medium: Radio
Program: Project '66
Broadcast Date: March 6, 1966
Guest: Oscar Peterson
Host: Jed Adams
Duration: 2:40

Did You know?

• Herb Ellis made a point of staying at the "black" hotels with Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown whenever the trio was on the road. He later said it wasn't about making a statement but simply a matter of staying with his friends.
• The trio broke up in 1958 when Ellis left to kick a drinking habit. Peterson replaced Ellis with drummer Ed Thigpen rather than another guitarist.

• Both Ellis and Brown said being members of the Oscar Peterson Trio was one of the most demanding and rewarding gigs of their careers. Peterson demanded and received nothing but the best from the trio.
• Peterson moulded his trio after the Nat King Cole Trio which also featured a bassist and a guitarist.
• The legendary Oscar Peterson Trio reunited 20 years later.


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