Bing Crosby as Father O'Malley in "The Bells of St. Mary's" tells the mother of a student how he located the girl's father who was a pianist. "He's a musician, so he must be in the union. I went right to the top, Petrillo!"
In the middle of the 20th Century, the name "Petrillo" was well known in America. He was a labor leader who was often in the news because of so many battles he fought on behalf of his members in a rapidly changing world for musicians. Jimmy Petrillo was President of Local 10 of the Chicago Federation of Musicians for forty years from 1922 to 1962. He also served as president of the American Federation of Musicians for 18 years from 1940 to 1958. The Petrillo Band Shell in Grant Park was named in his honor in 1976.
James Caesar Petrillo was born near the corner of DeKoven and Taylor Street in Chicago on March 16, 1892. He loved to play the trumpet but he concluded in his early twenties that he did not have enough talent to make his living as a trumpet player. So starting in 1919, James devoted his life to organizing musicians into effective union locals. Petrillo once said many years later, 'If I was a good trumpet player I wouldn’t be here. I got desperate. I hadda look for a job. I went into the union business."