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Arts & Culture
Peabody Award-winner Trey Kay brings us stories exploring all sides of the cultural issues that too often divide us.

'If They Can't Dance, We're Not Going To Play'

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Trey Kay and Rita Crisafi
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WVPB
John Smith fretting a five-string bass at the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

Fifty years ago, a band of Black musicians stood up to racism and now they’ve been honored for that action.

Bass player John Smith is the surviving member of “The In Crowd,” a Charleston, West Virginia band that played popular tunes in the 1960s. One night at the Charleston Athletic Club, a multi-racial couple was refused service and the band took a stand.

Smith says, “If they couldn’t dance, we wouldn’t play.”

There were consequences for that action, but now, finally, Smith and his deceased colleagues have been honored for the role they played to push back against racial discrimination.

For this episode, host Trey Kay talks with John Smith at the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. They sat in on a practice session of the Charleston-based band The Carpenter Ants. Practice gave way to conversation as musicians from different generations talked about their experiences past and present. They reflect on a golden era of the local music scene and the unity AND division they’ve all experienced.

This episode of Us & Them is presented with support from the West Virginia Humanities Council and the CRC Foundation.

Subscribe to Us & Them on Apple Podcasts, NPR One, RadioPublic, Spotify, Stitcher and beyond. You also can listen to Us & Them on WVPB Radio — tune in on the fourth Thursday of every month at 8 p.m., with an encore presentation on the following Saturday at 3 p.m.

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Trey Kay
John Smith on his front porch swing at his home in Rand, WV.
Young John Smith in the Army
John Smith
Young John Smith playing guitar while serving in the Army in Germany in 1959.
Michael Pushkin
Trey Kay
Michael Pushkin, President of Local 136 of the American Federation of musicians, at the Levi Baptist Church in Rand, WV, apologizing to John Smith and the late members of "The In Crowd" for the actions the union took fifty years ago.
Carpenter Ants at WVHoF
Trey Kay
The Carpenter Ants practicing at the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in Charleston, WV. Charlie Tee (vocals), Michael Lipton (guitar), Ted Harrison (bass) and Jupie Little (drums).
Barbara and  John Smith grooving to the Carpenter Ants at the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.
Trey Kay
Barbara and John Smith grooving to the Carpenter Ants at the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.
John Smith and Ted Harrison
Trey Kay
Carpenter Ants bassist Ted Harrison showing John Smith his five-string bass at the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.
Barbara, Trey & John at WVHoF
Brian Smith
Trey Kay with Barbara and John Smith at the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame


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