At the end of our last post, Louis Armstrong concluded a ten-day run at Caesar’s Monticello in Framingham, Massachusetts on January 30, with Jack Bradley a constant presence throughout the run, shooting dozens of photos of Louis onstage and off. At the end of the engagement, Armstrong headed back to New York, where he was due for rehearsals for an appearance on NBC’s Bell Telephone Hour that would be filmed live on the evening of February 2, 1965.
Having spent so much time with Bradley and his girlfriend Jeann “Roni” Failows in the preceding days, it was only natural for Armstrong to invite them to the rehearsal and to the taping. Bradley realized this was a special opportunity and brought along his camera, with the results making up the foundation of this post. Bradley also copped a copy of the daily schedule; here’s how it went down:
We’re assuming Bradley took most of the following photos at the January 31 evening rehearsal at Dance Players Studio (the February 1 rehearsal appears to have been in NBC’s Brooklyn studio and we’ll have some of those images below). Judging by the photos, Louis was in great spirits as Jack only captured a couple of images of the weary and exhausted side of Armstrong that we saw during the Suzy Cute commercial shoot of early January 1965.
Without further ado, we’ll open with Louis lighting up before joyously making music with his All Stars, Russell “Big Chief” Moore on trombone, Eddie Shu on clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano, Arvell Shaw on bass, and Danny Barcelona on drums:
Seeing Danny Barcelona and Billy Kyle in the above photo, let’s share some of Bradley’s photos of the All Stars, who all also seemed to be having fun. Here’s Danny again:
Russell “Big Chief” Moore:
We’ll stick with Big Chief Moore for a moment as this Bell Telephone Hour would be his last hurrah with the All Stars. Traveling around the United States and around the world nonstop in the wake of the number one hit “Hello, Dolly!” was exciting, but ultimately too grueling for Moore, who was a dedicated family man. He put in his notice and would be replaced by Tyree Glenn shortly after, also in February 1965. Perhaps Bradley was already aware of this because on the same rolls of film as all of the above photos, Bradley shot this photo of Moore sitting on a mattress–had Bradley followed Moore home after the rehearsal?
It seems so as the last image on this particular roll of film is a beautiful portrait of Moore and his family:
Here’s to Big Chief Moore, another great who gave a year of his life to the All Stars (not to mention several years with Armstrong’s big band in the 1940s):
Back to the Bell Telephone Hour, the reason for all of this rehearsal was to sculpt a medley of five All Stars specialties, which normally ran between four and six minutes apiece, into a nine-minute medley. Bradley took handwritten notes on the final run of tunes:
The next step was the rehearsal at NBC’s Brooklyn studio. Besides the mini-All Stars set, Armstrong would take place in the finale, singing “Hello, Dolly!” with a full cast of dancers, singers, an orchestra conducted by Donald Voorhees, host Jane Powell, and special guests Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Jack Haskell, and Max Morath. Armstrong wore a suit but went sans tie for the rehearsal. Bradley didn’t have the best seat in the house, but managed to still snag some atmospheric shots:
Finally, on February 2, it was time for the taping. It’s not known if Bradley was there at the dress rehearsal or the live taping at 10 p.m. (I would bet on the latter), but either way, he got some precious glimpses into Armstrong’s magical way of connecting with the camera and the audience watching at home:
That concludes our selection of Jack Bradley photos, but we couldn’t let you get this far into this post without a parting gift: a watermarked video of the complete February 2, 1965 episode of the Bell Telephone Hour from our Archives. Enjoy!
This was yet another packed post but hopefully it serves as a valuable glimpse into the amount of work it Louis Armstrong had to put in for just a single television appearance–think of the dozens he made over the years!
At this point, after a memorable, well-documented week together, Jack and Louis actually had a long break as Louis went on the road and didn’t return back home until the spring. The Bell Telephone Hour didn’t get a lot of coverage in Bradley and Failows’ Coda column, but here’s an excerpt showing they were still documenting Louis’s every move, even when they couldn’t be with him:
“After Framingham [the All Stars] returned to New York to rehearse for a few days for the Bell Telephone Hour, which they did live on Feb. 2. Louis had nine minutes although the numbers were pretty well chopped up, half choruses etc. Then Louis and crew flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia on Feb. 5 back to NYC for 8 hours before departing for Iceland where they did 3 days. (Feb. 7 to 9). Then to get the icicles off their chops they trillied down to the Virgin Islands. Next Miami which began a series of one nighters bringing them to Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Buffalo, N.Y. on Feb. 28. Then, God willing, a few days rest. It has been widely reported that Louis and the All Stars have been scheduled to tour Warsaw, and Moscow, starting March 15. However, there is no definite word on this at this time.”
A tour of Warsaw and Moscow did not pan out but Louis did breech the Iron Curtain by touring Prague and East Berlin. First, though, he made headlines in Denmark with his comments after witnessing “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama. Jack made sure to clip out every mention he could find:
And while Armstrong was conquering the Iron Curtain countries, Bradley was saving those clippings, too:
Using the above clippings, Bradley wrote an enthusiastic recap of Armstrong’s activities in the June-July 1965 issue of Coda:
“King Louis Armstrong scored another overwhelming success during his March tour behind the iron Curtain. Stopping over in Copenhagen on his way to Prague he told reporters, who asked him his thoughts on the crisis in Selma, ‘They would beat Jesus if he was black and marched. Maybe I’m not in the front line but I support them with my donations. But maybe that is not enough now. My life is music. They would beat me in the mouth if I marched – and without my mouth I would not be able to blow my horn….Tell me, how is it possible that human beings treat each other this way today. Hitler is dead a long time – or is he?'”
“In Leipzig more than six-thousand fans came to hear Satch. After the show was over the applause roared on for eight minutes with the fans crying ‘Satchmo’ – he finally appeared, clad in his dressing gown. On many occasions he would have to sign autographs for virtually everyone in the audience and he told us that many people requested as many as 8 separate autographs. Satch likes to please the people and he patiently inscribed his signature to the person who asked for it. The spelling in some of those countries was so wild that he had them letter the names for him then he copied them. Sometimes this task took him two hours. Wherever he is, he tries not to leave the theater until all who want to hello him or have his autograph are accommodated.”
After that historic tour, Armstrong returned to the United States in April to film multiple episodes of The Hollywood Palace before getting an ultra-rare six week vacation, the first part of which was taken up with his getting major dental surgery and subsequently recovering from it.
But by May 22, Armstrong felt well enough to welcome Bradley and Dan Morgenstern to his home in Corona. They cracked upon a bottle of Slivovice plum brandy and the memorable results will be covered in our next installment of this series.