When we last left the story of Louis Armstrong and Jack Bradley, “Louis Armstrong Day” had taken place at the World’s Fair in June 1964 shortly after “Hello, Dolly!” hit number one on the pop charts. In early September, Louis returned to the Bronx amusement part Freedomland, where he had performed with the All Stars back in the summer of 1961 (as chronicled in this previous post). Here’s an ad for the engagement clipped by Bradley:
We went into the history of Freedomland in that previous post (and will include another plug for Michael Virgintino’s book Freedomland U.S.A.: The Definitive History ) so we’re going to jump right in with the photos–and if you haven’t scrolled down yet, we have a LOT of photos from our engagement including some we feel are among the best Jack ever took of Louis (and many in color, too!). Here’s a few of our favorites featuring the All Stars: Louis, Russell “Big Chief” Moore on trombone, Eddie Shu on clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano, Arvell Shaw on bass, Danny Barcelona on drums, and Jewel Brown on vocals:
Louis and Eddie Shu take a smoke break, most likely while Big Chief Moore was featured:
For many children visiting Freedomland, this was their first live encounter with Louis Armstrong–did anyone out there see Louis at Freedomland in 1961 or 1964? Leave us a comment! In the meantime, here’s a Bradley photo capturing the view from the children at the front of the stage:
With Jewel Brown clapping along in the background, the following photos were most likely taken during “When the Saints Go Marching In”:
It might be foolish to attempt to guess the song being performed in a photograph but the next series of photos seem to depict “Hello, Dolly!’ in full flight, especially Armstrong’s microphone work and his urging the audience to clap along:
If you look at the bottom left corner of the above photo, you’ll see Lucille Armstrong in a white dress and sunglasses talking with some folks. Here’s a Bradley photo focused on Lucille, two children, and the great cornetist Ruby Braff:
Braff wasn’t the only great musician to visit Armstrong during this run at Freedomland. Here’s Armstrong walking through the park with another marvelous trumpeter, Johnny Windhurst, as Braff walks alongside Bradley’s then-girlfriend Jeann “Roni” Failows:
In the next photo, Armstrong looks right into Bradley’s lens, as Windhurst and Failows walk behind him. The man on the left is British trombonist, vocalist, and broadcast Campbell Burnap and the man holding Armstrong’s trumpet case and personal bag is longtime valet Doc Pugh:
Since he’s not exactly facing the camera in the above photo, here’s a better shot of Burnap in between Windhurst and Braff:
Jack Bradley’s collection also includes a handwritten note that was passed to Louis (“Rhythm Jaws”) from this fan club of Burnap, Braff, Failows and Bradley (Bradley seems to have misdated it June 1965, unless Burnap returned to the United States and I’m unaware of it):
Sticking with the theme of Louis’s visitors and switching to black and white, here’s Windhurst using a phone booth, as Braff patiently waits outside holding two beverages from Freedomland’s Brass Rail steakhouse:
Windhurst waiting outside of Louis’s dressing room:
And finally getting in!
In the following photo, Braff and Windhurst (in the center) are joined by trumpeter Nat “Face” Lorber, pianist Dick Wellstood (with mustache), and clarinetist Kenny Davern (seated next to Braff) among those waiting to see Louis:
When it came time for Bradley to take some group photos with the man himself, not everyone pictured above was present, but here’s a wonderful one with our man Dan Morgenstern–still with us in 2022–beaming in the center:
Nat “Face” Lorber is there again, as is Dick Wellstood with his mustache, and Jeann Failows behind Dan. The rest are mysteries, but we can get close to solving the mystery by checking out Bradley and Failows’s October-November 1964 Coda column:
“The Labor Day weekend found Freedomland looking more like a ghost town than anything else – with the exception of the Moon Bowl where the great Louis Armstrong held sway. These were 4 glorious days of music and Pops and old friends. There was Johnny Windhurst, Ruby Braff, Dan Morgenstern, Danny and Blue Lu Barker, Dick Wellstood, Max Kaminsky, Slim Thompson, Creole Pete, a tenorman from Fats Domino’s group, Kenny Davern, Nat Lorber, Charlie Gang Gang, Leon Vogel and Mr. and Mrs. Ernst Steiner and Mr. and Mrs. Klaus Nagel from the Hot Club of Zurich.”
When I showed this photo to Jack Bradley in 2015, he vaguely recalled the Hot Club of Zurich connection, identifying those folks as one of the couples on the right. I found one photo of Leon Vogel online and though his head was turned, he appeared to have worn glasses so I believe he is one of the fellows on the left. “Charlie Gang Gang” was Henry “Red” Allen’s nickname for Mike Zaccagnino, who wrote about jazz in Record Research and Coda, among other periodicals; I don’t know what he looked like so perhaps he is also on the left side of the photo.
I do know what Creole Pete Robertson looked like and he appears in the following photo with Armstrong and Failows. For those who don’t know, Robertson was born in 1905 and grew up in New Orleans before opening and operating Creole Pete’s restaurant in Harlem until 1959, before closing that location and opening one in Long Island. His sons, Pablo and Walter, were college basketball stars at Loyola, with Pablo going on to play seven years with the Harlem Globetrotters in the 1970s.
Also hailing from New Orleans, the legendary Danny Barker and his wife Blue Lu, pictured here with pianist Billy Kyle:
When Armstrong and Barker reunited, Bradley evidently chose to take a candid rather than a posed shot and ended up getting one with a deeply serious expression on the trumpeter’s face. It’s a shame that a better photo of the two titans of New Orleans music together does not exist, but photos of Armstrong grimacing are hard to come by, so for posterity, here ’tis:
That would seem to take care of everyone listed in Bradley and Failows’s column except for Max Kaminsky and Slim Thompson, and “a tenorman from Fats Domino’s group,” whom I’m assuming is the legendary Herb Hardesty; read on, as Thompson and possibly Hardesty appear later in this post.
Louis’s adopted son Clarence Hatfield Armstrong lived in the Bronx and attended multiple shows with his wife/caretaker Evelyn and her son, Sonny Armstrong. Here they are as part of a group photo (if anyone can identify any of the others, let us know!):
Here’s a shot of just Louis backstage with Clarence and Sonny:
And for the sake of completeness, some more photos of Louis backstage; in 2015 Bradley simply identified them as fans but if anyone out there knows who they are, please reach out:
Failows seems intimately familiar with the man in the next photo and she seemed to know everyone on the jazz scene; who could it be?
This little boy actually appears in multiple Bradley photos over the years but Jack couldn’t remember who he was–is he out there reading this?
Let’s leave the backstage area and explore the actual amusement park a bit. Bradley caught Arvell Shaw ordering an Italian ice:
Failows took over the camera to take this lovely photo of Kyle enjoying an Italian ice alongside Bradley:
Clearly the ice wasn’t very filling as Bradley grabbed a photo of Kyle finishing what looks like maybe a hamburger (for sale at the stand in the background of the above photo):
Kyle and Failows check out an arriving steamboat:
Kyle also managed to visit the Chicago section of Freedomland:
Kyle then manned the camera to take a photo of Bradley and Failows in front of the “Chicago Police Keep Out” barricade:
It looked like a quiet day at Freedomland in the above photos as Kyle, Shaw, Bradley, and Failows seemed to enjoy it all in peace….but naturally, matters were different when Louis Armstrong tried walking through the park, as captured in the following Bradley sequence. In the first photo, a mob begins to form around Armstrong, who smiles graciously as he greets his fans; that’s Armstrong friend Slim Thompson in the white shirt leading the way:
In the next photo, the fans seem to be getting more enthusiastic, but Bradley caught Armstrong with another serious expression, perhaps thinking to himself, “I wonder what it would feel like to walk across a public space without drawing a crowd….” (And the man directly behind Armstrong here and in the above photo, could that be Fats Domino’s tenor saxophonist Herb Hardesty?)
In the final photo, Armstrong still seems a bit wary as folks of all ages continue to stare:
Needless to say, Armstrong was most comfortable onstage so we’ll conclude this post with another selection of action shots taken at both afternoon and evening performances. First, two atmospheric shots of the Moon Bowl from the back of the crowd:
Jack got a little closer to get these two photos of Louis playing and singing:
Jack eventually got close enough to take a few posed photos of Louis and his trumpet. Jack eventually cropped them and sold them to Joe Glaser to use as publicity photos. Here they are scanned from the original negatives and uncropped, with a couple of young fans peaking at the bottom of the frame:
Bradley returned for the evening show, still capturing some wonderful glimpses of Pops even with diminishing light:
Here’s Jewel Brown in action from a similar angle:
Billy Kyle, Eddie Shu, Big Chief Moore and Louis having another smoke break:
And one final intimate glimpse of Pops at Freedomland as captured by Bradley:
Though the above photos do showcase some of the great musicians who made time to see Armstrong at Freedomland–Braff, Windhurst, Wellstood, Barker, Davern–it really wasn’t a lot compared to the amount of jazz musicians in the New York City area at that time. That was Bradley’s takeaway in 1964 and he was still miffed about it when discussing it in the 2000s. Here’s the rest of his Coda column about the Freedomland engagement, which puts a punctuation mark on how Bradley felt about Armstrong:
“Too bad that when Pops finally is playing in NY at a place where the only admission is one buck and is fairly convenient to get too – only a handful of musicians came to dig. There are thousands of musicians here in NY and quite a large percentage of them profess to love Pops – they even have certain expressions on their faces, which only come into play when his name is mentioned. What goes? They could all have learned a lesson or two from the King. He is playing greater than he ever did. So for four memorable days we were there – listening to Pops – looking at him – watching him play with the tots who came backstage for autographs – laughing with him – hearing about the old days. We are the lucky ones.”