“The World’s Greatest Photo Taker”: Remembering Jack Bradley Part 11–Louis Armstrong Day at the World’s Fair

Last week, we rolled our ongoing tribute to the late Jack Bradley into a long, multimedia celebration of Louis Armstrong’s December 3, 1963 recording of “Hello, Dolly!,” detailing the lead-up to the session, Bradley’s original apathetic reaction to it, and the single’s surprising rise up the charts, resulting in the temporary dethroning of The Beatles from the top of the pop charts in May 1964. Throughout the post, we relied on the voice, camera and collection of Bradley so definitely check out that post if you’re following this series–which has now reached its tenth part with no end in sight!

This will actually be a rare shorter entry, capturing the events of June 30, 1964 when the World’s Fair declared it to be “Louis Armstrong Day,” parading the trumpeter around nearby Flushing-Meadows Corona Park before the All Stars performed at the Singer Bowl, a venue that would be posthumously renamed Louis Armstrong Stadium thanks to the efforts of Lucille Armstrong.

Bradley was present, along with girlfriend Jeann “Roni” Failows, and the two wrote about the event in their August-September 1964 Coda column. Here are their words set to a selection of Bradley’s photos:

“Louis Armstrong Day At The N.Y. World’s Fair
“This, on the hottest day of this summer (97 degrees) beginning at 3 PM with Pops entering the fair in a white limousine provided for the occasion.

Photo by Jack Bradley. LAHM 2006.1.826

“With him were Brown Sugar (his name for his wife Lucille) and following him a few three-seater buggies, containing the All Stars, Doc Pugh and us. This was June 30.”

Photo by Jack Bradley. LAHM 2006.1.825

“First stop was at the African Pavilion where the dancers dance–Louis fed a giraffe and everyone gaped.”

Bradley and Failows didn’t mention it in their column, but in the African Pavilion, Armstrong stopped to try out a blowing horn. Bradley took the following photo but a similar UPI photo appeared in newspapers across the country with the following caption: “Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong seems equally adept at blasting music out of a South African bull horn as he does his own famed trumpet. The horn was offered to Satchmo by Ferdinand Mafata of Johannesburg during an impromptu session at New York’s World’s Fair. Occasion was the celebration of Louis Armstrong Day at the fair–an occasion marked by the awarding of a World’s Fair Medallion to the Jazz Musician–an honor given him at the 1939 World’s Fair 25 years ago.” Here’s Bradley photo of Armstrong and Mafata:

Photo by Jack Bradley. LAHM 2006.1.829

Back to Bradley and Failows:

“Back to the white car and entourage following – at a slow pace – while the ‘second line’ type tourists and Louis-lovers followed on foot to the Swedish Pavilion (air-conditioned) where the king and admirers partook of some lovely smorgasbord and a few “midnight suns” – traditional Swedish drink. Again, not mentioned in the column but at some point, Armstrong appears have Next an interview at the GE bldg and before we knew it it was time for the two concerts at the Singer Bowl. Pops was in top form – his chops gloriously ‘up’. He received a memento of the occasion and a speech and an Indian headdress was perched atop his head. He leaned down from the stage and beckoned to Lucille to take the memento and ‘put it in your purse for safekeeping, – and the Jazz began.”

Here are some Bradley photos of the above sequence of Armstrong wearing the Native American headdress:

Photo by Jack Bradley. LAHM 2006.1.829
Photo by Jack Bradley. LAHM 2006.1.1561-03
Photo by Jack Bradley. LAHM 2006.1.1561-05

Not mentioned in their column, but Bradley also took some photos of Armstrong seemingly backstage with some unidentified fans, one of whom seems to be playing a pan flute of some sort:

Photo by Jack Bradley. LAHM 2006.1.1561-09

Back to Bradley and Failows:

“It was good to see Big Chief again, doing ‘Ugly Chile.’ Rumors had it at this was Joe Darensbourg’s last night with the All Stars and no one knew yet who was to replace him. It turned out to be Eddie Shu.”

Bradley must have been running low on film or didn’t have a good angle because he didn’t take any photos of the actual concert, but did take two photos of Russell “Big Chief” Moore and Billy Kyle grabbing a bite to eat at the Fair:

Photo by Jack Bradley. LAHM 2006.1.1561-12
Photo by Jack Bradley. LAHM 2006.1.1561-13

Here’s Bradley and Failows:

“‘Hello Dolly’ was presented by Louis as we’ve not seen before. He did five encores and the five vocals and five choruses were each different and each knock-outs. He even dances – and when Louis – considered best dancers among musicians – dances – oh! If anyone still doesn’t know about Louis and Hello Dolly and what it represents to him and how it continues to inspire musicians all over the place – for shame! The large sign still flashed LOUIS ARMSTRONG AT THE SINGER BOWL TONIGHT; the Monorail still was marked LOUIS ARMSTRONG EXPRESS – but the day was over. Pops surprised Gene Krupa at Jazzland by bringing his flock there and was prevailed upon to join Krupa and band for a few ‘Hello Dolly’ chortlings.”

There are no recordings of the World’s Fair performance but as mentioned in our “Dolly” Virtual Exhibit, Dot Time Records released an All Stars set from Sparks, Nevada in June 1964 that features an early live performance of “Hello, Dolly!” with encore after encore. As mentioned above, Joe Darnesbourg left the All Stars after June 30, so this recording gives us a good idea at how “Dolly” probably sounded at the Singer Bowl that evening:

Louis and Lucille must have been gratified to finish the gig and have about a five-minute drive back to their home in Corona, Queens, but the next day, it was back on the road to perform in New Hampshire, followed by a couple of dates in Plattsburgh, New York, where Louis celebrated his July 4 birthday, and one-nighters in Lenox, Massachusetts and Lambertville, New Jersey. Glancing at Lucille Armstrong’s 1964 Date Book shows a rare day off on July 7 but with her husband riding high from the success of “Dolly,” Joe Glaser managed to fill the evening with an appearance at the Metropole at 48th St. and 7th Ave.

The Metropole–and famed across-the-street bar the Copper Rail–were regular haunts for Bradley and Failows but were not able to attend Armstrong’s rare appearance. They did still manage to write a report about it in that same August-September 1964 Coda:

“July 7 was Louis Armstrong Day at the Metropole. We are sorry to say we missed this but were still out of town after Newport and learned prior we couldn’t get anywhere near the place without reservations. For a month prior to Louis night we had made repeated attempts to get the needed reservation but in every instance were turned down. (Their reply ‘We aren’t giving any out yet’). Louis played with the All Stars for two shows-11:15 PM and 1:15 AM-and as expected the crowds were fantastic with lines going around the block and many policemen on hand.”

“Admission at the door was $2.00 plus another $2.00 at the table size cover charge. We have many friends who were unable to even get near the front door for a glimpse of Pops on this evening. One musician we know – who was asked to fill in for a set with the Newport All Stars – was refused admission unless he, too, paid the admission fee at the door. He didn’t hesitate to tell them what they could do with their $2.00. On this same evening Pee Wee Russell’s clarinet was stolen from the dressing room – with dozens of police inside and out.”

“The Copper Rail (across the street) was jumping – and Louis had ordered a dinner there beforehand. The mob scene at the Metropole, however, made it impossible for him to cross the street – but ‘soul food’ he wanted and ‘soul food’ he had for Doc Pugh picked up the food and toted it to the Metropole dressing room. Nevertheless – we hear that Pops rose above the confusion and played his music as only he can.”

Bradley did manage to at least clip an article about the Metropole evening from the July 8 New York Journal American:

LAHM 2008_5_33-23

It was then back to the road for Armstrong and the All Stars, barely taking another day off for the next month and heading out west and into Canada. By August 9, they had made their way back east to perform for one night in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Bradley and Failows were there but as far as I can tell from combing through their collection, Bradley didn’t bring his camera (I could be wrong; Bradley identified a number of photos as being from Lambertville in August 1964 but it wasn’t until prepping for this series that I discovered they were actually Framingham, Massachusetts in January 1965–we’ll get to them in a few weeks.).

Here’s Bradley and Failow’s report from Hyannis: “This was August 9th and was the highlight of the entire summer for us – Pops was superb. The place was sold out for weeks in advance and we saw many of the faithful there. Backstage we ran into Bob [Wilber] who was vacationing in the area and Bobby Hackett, who has always been a ‘backstager’ where Louis is concerned. When we told Pops we were living in a tent, he went into the maddest eye-rolling vocal of ‘I Get Ideas’ with stunning scat lyrics – just for the two of us. (For the following week each time this night was mentioned, Bobby Hackett would look at us with a bewildered expression and exclaim “Did you hear Louis – did you hear what he did?????? Wow!” There are no words.) 

Though there are no photos from Hyannis, our Archives does have a reel-to-reel tape of a complete All Stars performance from Ottawa on August 5, just four days earlier. As a gift for our loyal readers who make it to the end of these posts, sit back and relax and enjoy audio–watermarked for copyright purposes–of the the first three songs of the All Stars’s second set in Ottawa, with Pops is incredible form on “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue,” “A Lot of Livin’ to Do”,” and “Royal Garden Blues.” (The rest of the band is Russell “Big Chief” Moore on trombone, Eddie Shu on clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano, Arvell Shaw on bass, and Danny Barcelona on drums.)

Click here to create a free account and listen to the rest of this tape on our Digital Collections page
LAHM 1992_007-03

After more East Coast travels in August, the All Stars settled back in in New York for a return appearance at the Bronx amusement park, Freedomland. This time, Bradley brought his camera and took dozens of wonderful photos onstage and off–which will be the subject of our next post in this series.

Published by Ricky Riccardi

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

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