Marl Young. Lucy's Piano Man

From West Adams Landmarks of African American History. A Publication of West Adams Heritage Association:

Desi Arnaz first asked Marl Young (1917 - 2009) to play the piano for the studio audience warm-up band for The Lucy Show. 

Young was instrumental in the merger of the all-black and all-white musicians unions in Los Angeles in the early 1950s and two decades later became the first black music director, in 1970, of the major network television series "Here's Lucy."  A pianist and arranger who arrived in Los Angeles from Chicago in 1947,  Young became involved in the efforts of the black musicians union in L.A. Local 767, to unite with the white Local 47 in 1951.  “Segregation was a way of life,” Young recalled in an interview with Overture, the Local 47 newspaper. “It was just the way things were, but times were changing.  There was a group of us that got together and said we wanted to end segregation in Local 47,” Young said. “The purpose of each Union, as stated in the by-laws, was to unite all the professional musicians of the Los Angeles area.”

 From "Star Notes," the We Love Lucy newsletter of Spring 1993:

“Later, Desi, Wilbur, Julian and I were sitting there, and Desi started talking about getting a band together to play during the audience ‘warm up’ sessions before the filming of the Lucy segments. His band had always played at their earlier shows, and he intended to continue the tradition.  At least two of his original musicians, Tony Turnin and Bill Shaeffer, were still with the company and would be part of this warm-up group. Desi knew I was versatile, so he suggested I be part of the band… just like that, just as casually as if he were asking someone to lunch.  He indicated he also wanted to feature a new guest-vocalist in the warm-up shows every week, and that he needed a pianist who could work with these singers. I jumped at the chance.  The punch line is that I stayed with the show 12 years, but the idea of using guest singers evaporated, and they never did present even one.  That just shows how luck works!"


Of course, Lucy and Desi’s relationship was unraveling about this time. She planned to leave television for a while and do ‘Wildcat’ on Broadway. One day she called and asked me to help her prepare for the show. I worked with her and worked with her,  made her do all sorts of things that one might do on a live stage that one might not necessarily do on a television show or in a movie – like sing and walk at the same time.  I knew this musical was important to her, so I became something of a stern taskmaster.  Before we were through she was calling me the meanest piano player she had ever met.  But she worked like a Trojan. Finally it was time for her to go back east and start rehearsals for the show. One day, out of the blue, my phone rang.  I picked it up and a voice said, ‘God bless you…’ I said, ‘Who is this?’ and she said, ‘It’s Lucy! God bless you. Everything you made me do, they have asked me to do, and after working so hard with you, it now comes easy…’ I felt very good about that – and about the fact that she cared enough to call me long distance and tell me." 



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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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