Phil Carreon


(This one is iconic)

My Grandpa Phil was on tour with his band, Phil Carreón and His Orchestra (there are many iterations of this band name, but I believe this was the one he was touring). They toured the southern half of the United States — through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and even further East. They traveled to Louisiana for a gig, and my Grandpa showed up with his band for sound check. Everything was going according to plan, until the owner of the club told my grandfather that they wouldn’t let one of his main trumpet players into the venue or play the show that night because he was Black.

My grandpa tried to reason with the club owner. He was always an ace at that. There were few people who, after a conversation with my grandpa, remained angry about a situation or at odds with him. He was excellent at winning people over — a master at de-escalation. He was charming, genuine, and friendly, and just one of those people everyone liked.

Except this time. The club owner resisted a tree’s worth of olive branches my grandpa extended to get his bandmate to play that night. For context, my grandfather built his band’s entire Latin Jazz sound around a hard-hitting big brass section. It was his signature. It’s what made his Orquesta and various other bands different from the rest. The absence of a trumpet player was a sucker punch to the face.

My grandpa huddled his band and told them the news. They were pissed and wanted to boycott the show, but my grandpa had a different plan in mind.

Their set time rolled around and the band took the stage like normal. As if nothing happened. As soon as the curtain rolled up, the band turned around and started performing the opening song with their backs to the crowd in protest of the racist club owner.

I’m not sure if they finished the set, but realistically, they didn’t. Realistically, the band probably had to book it out of there because, well…standing up to racism is hardly ever peaceful, especially as a young, proud Chicano in the ‘40s. But he believed in honor and protesting racism, especially for his friends. It’s stories like this that make him a legend.

Biography provided by: Mary Carreon- Granddaughter of Phil Carreon