Louis Armstrong’s 1969-1971 Scrapbooks: Scrapbook 1, Part 3

In case you’ve missed them, Part 1 of this series opened with a page-by-page breakdown of the first half of a scrapbook Louis Armstrong began compiling in 1969. The shorter Part 2 continued through the middle pages, focusing on a number of photographs of Louis with Israeli trumpeter Yakov Uriel. This post will conclude this look at “Scrapbook 1,” but we’ll examine a few more of Armstrong’s 1969-1971 output in the future.

We open with another faded news clipping that required more detective work to figure out. The heading of “The Voice” made me think of the Village Voice but the caption mentioned Louis and Lucille at a birthday for a name that I found simply indecipherable. I Googled variations on what it could have been until I struck paydirt: Corien Drew! Who is Corien Drew? In 1959, Corien and her husband Kenneth established Queens’s first black newspaper, “The Corona East Elmhurst News,” which was later renamed the Queens Voice. It’s nice to know that Louis was a subscriber and supported the local black press but alas, his Scotch-tape methods of preservation let us down now and we’re unable to get a good look at the photo of Louis and Lucille. Below, though, is something much easier to decipher: get well wishes sent from New York City Mayor John Lindsay to Louis when he was at Beth Israel Hospital on March 13, 1969.

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The next page opens with two snapshots, one of just Lucille in what looks to potentially be a hospital (maybe Beth Israel again) and a beautiful shot of Louis holding a baby in the backyard of his Queens home. We unfortunately don’t know the identity of the baby, who would be about 50-years-old today and might not know that they were immortalized in such a fashion!

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At the bottom of the page is another Scotch-taped photo that has been washed away over the decades but this time, Louis saved the date–April 30, 1970–and the logo of the periodical: Jet. Thanks to Google digitizing each issue of Jet, we’re able to resuscitate the image, which was taken on Ella Fitzgerald’s opening night at the Waldorf-Astoria on March 30:

I enjoy doing some detective work to learn more about what is happening on each of these pages, but the following image stumped me until our readers came through in a big way! Thanks to Scotty Barnhart, Dan Barrett and Geoffrey C. Ward for identifiying that that is indeed trumpeter and Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen and extra thanks to Scott Lebensburger for nailing the details of the photo, taken at the Persian Room of the Plaza Hotel as reported in the June 13, 1970 issue of the New York Times. In the background are the “Brothers and Sisters,” a “singing and dancing group of nine girls and eight boys” according to John S. Wilson. Thakns again to all of those who helped to solve the mystery!

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We do know the circumstances behind the next photo, which was taken at the Rainbow Room in New York City on June 11, 1970 at the launching of the 1970 Summer Festival season. The New York Convention and Visitors Bureau sponsored the event and dubbed Louis and Lauren Bacall as the Summer Festival Host and Hostess. Here they are, along with A&P grocery heir Huntington Hartford (thanks again to Geoffrey C. Ward for the identification).

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All these mysteries make my brain hurt so it’s nice to have a “good old good one,” as Louis might say, on the following page: Louis and Bing Crosby performing “Now You Has Jazz” in the 1956 film High Society, backed by Edmond Hall and Barrett Deems..

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Nine days after the Rainbow Room “Summer Festival” event, Louis once again found himself utilized by his home state when New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller announced the formation of a Committee of Arts and Entertainment at his midtown office on June 20. Here’s committee members Arthur Godfrey, actress and philanthropist Dina Merrill, Gov. Rockefeller, Louis, and author and animal rights activist Cleveland Armory at the event.

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Here’s another of Louis and Gov. Rockefeller with two unidentified women.

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And one more; that’s Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall President Gustav Eyssell on the left, but the man next to him and the woman on the far right are unidentified.

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It’s been a while since we’ve seen one of Louis’s collages. The next two pages of this scrapbook are Scotch-taped extravaganzas made from what appears to be a German card sent to Louis from his friend in West Berlin, Winfried Maier. We’re happy to report that Winfried is still with us and for his 80th birthday, he donated his incredible Louis-in-Berlin collection to the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Thank you, Winfried!

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Louis occasionally skipped around when compiling this scrapbook, such as grabbing the 1969 telegram from Mayor Lindsay we saw earlier, but for the most part, we’ve been to provide an accurate chronology of when he was working on this artifact. Our last part featured many images and objects that dated from March and April, while this part has continued from April through June 1970. But with the next two glorious images, we’re in the summer of that year, shortly after the world celebrated (what everyone believed to be) Louis’s 70th birthday on July 4.

Perhaps the grandest celebration of this milestone took place at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 10, 1970. When it was over and Louis was back to relaxing at his Queens home, he proudly affixed two photos from that event on the following two pages of his scrapbook, capturing memorable duets with two of the greatest, Bobby Hackett and Mahalia Jackson.

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The summer of 1970 is also when British photographer Chris Barham took a series of photos of Louis and the neighborhood children of Corona, Queens. Barham sent Louis prints of each one and this one made the scrapbook. Upon Queens College receiving the Archives after a donation from the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, these photos were rediscovered and immediately used in publicity materials, almost instantly transforming them into the realm of iconic images. On a sad note, Mr. Barham passed away last week at the age of 87 but it’s safe to say that these images will last forever.

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We’re staying in Queens for the conclusion of this scrapbook, an appropriate place given the “That’s My Home” theme of this site. Sometime in late July or early August 1970, Louis was visited by Beryl Bryden, described by Max Jones as “singer and British washboard queen.” Bryden brought her camera and took some precious shots of Louis and Lucille at home. She sent a set to Louis, who used them to fill out the rest of his scrapbook. Here’s Louis standing at the front door of his home:

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Upon her return to England, Bryden shared some memories of visiting the Armstrong’s with Max Jones, who wrote them up in a Melody Maker column, “Beryl–on a New York walkabout.” Bryden was visiting with John Hammond and Pug Horton at CBS when Lucille Armstrong picked her up in Manhattan “in her silver-blue Cadillac.” Here are Bryden’s words interspersed with more of her photos:

“We reached the house and went upstairs. Lucille said to go on up to Louis’ den where he was expecting us. As I entered I heard myself singing ‘Some Of These Days.’ He had put on a record of mine I had asked the Artone company in Holland to send him.” [Note, the record was Greatest Hits and Louis dubbed it to “Reel 79” of his 1969-1971 series.]

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“Louis, who doesn’t have air-conditioning in his room because it affects his throat, likes to sit on his balcony surveying the world with his tapes playing in the background. We were invited to join him, and plied with drinks.”

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“Louis is looking thin, of course, but pretty fit and full of beans. He was practising trumpet about one hour a day and beginning to rehearse for his Las Vegas opening this month. [September] He told me he hopes to be over here next year.”

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“He’s got the most wonderful loo and bathroom with sunken bath and a restful, cream-coloured bedroom with he calls his wall-to-wall bed….It was a marvellous visit, and I saw the Armstrongs again on another day in New York.”

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With that charming image, shot by Lucille, Louis was out of pages–but he still had the inside back cover and used it to feature Lucille in another snapshot that looks like it was taken in a hospital or office building. Perhaps not the greatest photo to end on but closing with a tribute to Lucille is most appropriate.

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With that, Louis’s Scrapbook 1 was finished. He affixed another square of white athletic tape to the back cover, scrawled the number “1” on it and saved it on a shelf “for posterity.”

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But he wasn’t finished and compiled additional volumes in the two years before he passed. Keep watching this space for future page-by-page examinations of Louis Armstrong’s scrapbooks.

Published by Ricky Riccardi

I am Director of Research Collections for the Louis Armstrong House Museum.

2 thoughts on “Louis Armstrong’s 1969-1971 Scrapbooks: Scrapbook 1, Part 3

  1. That one photo with Doc Severinsen and Pops with several people from behind them is one Doc might be able to shed some light on. I can put you in touch with him if you like. Thx! Scotty B.

  2. Hi, Ricky–
    It looks like Scotty Barnhart beat me to the punch, regarding the flamboyantly-dressed cat with Louis (the “show-biz looking singer or emcee”). Yes, he’s Carl “Doc” Severinsen, a great and highly-regarded trumpet player. Doc led the brilliant house band on the “Tonight” show for many years, when the show was hosted by Johnny Carson. If Scotty can put you in touch with Doc, that would be great. Doc might recall the occasion, and the location.

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