“The Cats Was Blowing!”: Other Trumpet Players in Louis Armstrong’s Record Collection

“Listen to all kinds of music” was one of Louis Armstrong’s mantras, as evidenced in our first post about his record collection. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Armstrong listened to all kinds of trumpeters.

Then again, maybe it will be a surprise to some as he spent a number of years blasting bebop and “the modern malice” in the press, mostly for playing music for other musicians instead of the general public. But as a quite a musician himself, Armstrong listened and understood what the boppers were doing–he just wasn’t about to incorporate those sounds into his own music.

Bop will only be one type of music served on today’s installment of “Satch’s Tracks.” We could do a whole series of trumpeters Louis loved listening to, especially from the early days; we already did a post on Bix Beiderbecke, everyone knows he love of King Oliver and he owned just about every recording by his real all-time favorite, Bunny Berigan.

But today, we’re going to stick to the wonderful long-playing albums of the 1950s and just take a peak at some of the other trumpeters Louis was listening to. As always, we’ll include a link at the end so you can listen along on the streaming platform of your choice.

We’ll start our look with “Reel 158,” a reel Louis assembled in 1971 but which consisted mostly of a tape he originally made in the 1950s. After recording his appearance on a Johnny Carson special, Sun City Scandals, Louis switched to the earlier tape for what he described only as “Bop–Good Jazz” and dubbed singles by the Dutch Swing College Band (“Boogietrap” and “1919 Rag”), Birth of the Cool (“Jeru” and “Godchild”) and Bix Beiderbecke (“Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down” and “Sorry”). Even though the theme of this post will be the long-playing records, we’ll start our Spotify playlist with those tracks.

LAHM 1987.2.96

The next portion of the tape opens with Louis’s favorite trumpeter: himself. After dubbing All Stars concerts from New Orleans in 1952 and Symphony Hall in 1947, Louis gets down to business and records two albums by two of his close friends, Teddy Buckner’s A Salute to Louis Armstrong and Ruby Braff’s Hi-Fi Salute to Bunny. Here’s Louis’s handwritten pages (you’ll noticed he also dubbed Connee Boswell and the Original Memphis Five in Hi-Fi featuring the great Billy Butterfield, but alas, that recording is not streaming anywhere these days).

LAHM 1987.2.96
LAHM 1987.2.96

We still have Armstrong’s copies of both the Buckner and Braff albums:

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Two reels later, for “Reel 160,” Louis was still in a trumpet mood and created an irresistible combination of Bobby Hackett and Jack Teagarden’s Jazz Ultimate and Clifford Brown With Strings. They don’t come any more different than Bobby and Brownie yet there’s a warmth to both of these albums that Louis must have found undeniably appealing.

LAHM 1987.2.98

Again, we still have Louis’s copy of Jazz Ultimate:

LAHM 1987.3.924

Check out the back cover signed by Teagarden!

LAHM 1987.3.924

Unfortunately, we no longer have Armstrong’s copy of Clifford Brown With Strings but we do have his obviously worn copy of Study in Brown:

LAHM 1987.3.1069

And a 7-inch EP copy of volume 2 of Art Blakey’s A Night at Birdland–Louis clearly dug Clifford!

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Armstrong was also a fan of Harry “Sweets” Edison. Here’s his copy of the Verve LP Sweets:

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And though we no longer have the vinyl, this page from Louis’s 1950s tape catalog showed he also dubbed Edison’s classic LP with Ben Webster Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You to tape (we like sharing the complete pages to see what else Louis was listening to; in this case, this reel also included selections by Mitch Miller, an audition tape from a “Lady Songwriter,” the Decca LP Louis and the Angels and a live All Stars performance from the Brant Inn in Ontario that was finally released to the public on Dot Time’s The Nightclubs in 2018):

LAHM 1987.2.22-03~040

People always bring up Miles Davis and sure, he’s represented in Louis’s record collection, too. In our initial post on Louis’s records, we shared his copy of Miles Davis’s Porgy and Bess and earlier in this post, we mentioned that he owned some of the Birth of the Cool Capitol singles. He also owned the Prestige album, Miles Davis and Horns; here’s his copy:

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And speaking of Prestige, this one is not on Spotify so we can’t share the audio but it should be mentioned that Louis owned Tadd Dameron’s album Fontainebleu with Kenny Dorham on trumpet:

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But we’re going to close with an album by two of Armstrong’s disciples, but also rivals, Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie. Roy always had a competitive streak around Louis and Dizzy publicly bashed him for years in the late 1940s and early 1950s for his comments on bop. But by 1957, all had been forgiven and the three became good friends. Thus, when Louis was in his hotel room in Oneonta, New York in 1957, he was a fan when he grabbed his copy of the Verve LP Trumpet Kings and dubbed it to tape. Here’s his introduction:

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LAHM 2003.197.15

In that clip, Louis describes the photo on the jacket. We no longer have Louis’s copy but here’s what the cover looks like, as taken from Discogs.com:

Louis dubbed the full LP in silence, saving his reaction for the end. Here’s the final seconds of “Blue Moon” immediately followed by Armstrong’s spontaneous reaction:

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LAHM 2003.197.15

If you can’t make it out, he says, “Bravo, boys, bravo! [Pronounced “bray-vo”] The cats was blowing–God DAMN!” (Imagine staying in a hotel room in Oneonta, New York and hearing that coming from the other room?)

That concludes our look at some of the other top trumpeters found in Louis’s record collection–if you’d like to listen along to just about all the selections mentioned above, here’s a link to listen a 6 hour, 14 minute playlist on Spotify. The cats was blowing, indeed!

Published by Ricky Riccardi

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

One thought on ““The Cats Was Blowing!”: Other Trumpet Players in Louis Armstrong’s Record Collection

  1. Great music Ricky. I was pleasantly surprised by how many of CBC those records i have. Many on vinyl, including the Connee Boswell Memphis Five record.

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