This is the final part in our series on Louis Armstrong and Guy Lombardo’s Mardi Gras production of the summer of 1966 at Jones Beach. In part one, we covered Louis at home in Corona, Queens as he was afforded the luxury of staying put for two full months instead of his usual road warrior lifestyle. Part two dealt with Mardi Gras itself, with many Jack Bradley photos of both the rehearsal and one of the evening performances.
Bradley also stuck around for the postshow dance sets from both Armstrong and Lombardo, shooting more film than usual for a spread in Jazz magazine. In the accompanying article, Jeann Failows wrote:
“At the show’s end, Guy plays a dance set for about forty-five minutes at the outdoor Maxwell House Pavilion. Louis then plays his dance set, joined by vocalist Jewel Brown, for an equal amount of time–but I have yet to see anyone dance. Mostly they do what his audience do the world over–they grin and beat time and enjoy the special kind of enchantment that only Louis Armstrong can project.”
Bradley brought color film to capture at least one marvelous shot of Armstrong and Lombardo together:
The rest of Bradley’s photos are black-and-white and quite lovely. Let’s enter the Maxwell House Pavilion from the back as Pops tears into “Hello, Dolly!” with its microphone-bending choreography:
The next photo features Louis singing for the standing room-only crowd. That’s Marty Napoleon on piano, Tyree Glenn on trombone, Danny Barcelona on drums, Buddy Catlett on bass, and Buster Bailey on clarinet:
I love the image of the child sitting on his parent’s shoulders to get a better look; seeing this was only 56 years ago, did anyone out there attend one of the Jones Beach performances? Write in to tell us about it!
All of these photos are marvelous but after Armstrong, my eye tends to go to drummer Danny Barcelona, who always looks like he’s having the time of his life:
It’s a cliche, but you can practically hear the music and feel the joy radiating out of this next image:
More “Dolly” shenanigans, this time up close:
The changing of the guard, as the All Stars leave the stage to make way for Lombardo’s orchestra:
Bradley wrote down the personnel on the back of the following photo: “Left to right (rear row) Lebert Lombardo (trumpet) James Ernest (trumpet), Lynn Welshman (trombone), Don Rose (trombone) (front row) Carmen Lombardo (flute), Cliff Grass (clarinet), Joe Cipriano (clarinet), Victor Lombardo (clarinet).”
As mentioned, Bradley was there on behalf of Jazz magazine and managed to snap a photo of Lombardo holding the March 1966 issue the publication, featuring a photo of Johnny Hodges and Lawrence Welk:
Armstrong back for more:
Though Armstrong only played a short 45-minute set, he still needed to pace himself so he featured a different All Star each time out. On this particular performance, it was bassist Buddy Catlett:
While Catlett took over the spotlight, Armstrong took a smoke break with Tyree Glenn:
Pops digging Buddy:
In the next photo, the bass is on the ground so Danny Barcelona is in the middle of his “Stompin’ at the Savoy” solo, with Armstrong and Glenn again resuming their conversation:
Still seated, but now providing some harmonies:
Back in the spotlight, Buster Bailey backing him up:
Vocalist Jewel Brown wasn’t a part of the Mardi Gras show but was featured every night during the dance sets:
Brown joins the other All Stars on stage for the finale, probably either “When the Saints Go Marching In” or a reprise of “Hello, Dolly!”
Bradley captured the audience giving the All Stars a nice ovation:
By this point, Armstrong had performed a half-hour set with the All Stars during Mardi Gras, teamed up with Lombardo’s Orchestra for the finale, and played an entire dance set at the Maxwell House Pavilion. With the performance portion of his evening finished, Armstrong wasn’t quite through for the night as it was now time for him to sign autographs for his fans:
Here he is signing one of the Mardi Gras programs, as we shared in our last post:
The line stretched down the hallway and probably a lot further than depicted here:
A special guest showed up in the form of trumpeter Johnny Windhurst, who you might remember was also a welcome presence in our post about Armstrong’s engagement at Freedomland in 1964:
Always glad to see another trumpet man:
Bradley didn’t get any photos of Armstrong’s adopted son Clarence, also a backstage mainstay at Armstrong’s New York engagements, but he did get one of Clarence’s wife/caretaker Evelyn Allen:
We don’t know who the following two women are; most likely just fans but if anyone can identify them, please let us know:
The following beautiful close-up of Louis isn’t identified as being from Jones Beach on the print, but Jack included it in his Jazz magazine spread, so it’s quite probable it came from there:
That actually gives us an excuse to share two more of our favorite Bradley photos. These also never had any descriptions on the prints and I’ve been unable to locate the negatives (though I might have missed them if Bradley cropped tight), but they seem similar enough to the above images that it’s worth including them here because they really don’t fit in with any other post in this series:
That concludes our three-part look at Jack Bradley’s photos of Louis Armstrong taken at home and during his Jones Beach run in the summer of 1966 but we’ve made multiple allusions to Jazz magazine and feel the most appropriate way to close is with the entirety of the article. Here’s the cover, followed by Failows’s text, and closing with scans of the original spread so you can see which photos Bradley chose. Enjoy!
LOUIS ARMSTRONG and GUY LOMBARDO by JEANN RONI FAILOWS
Photos by Jack Bradley
The setting is New Orleans–old and new–with songs to match. The famous band of Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians play the new compositions written by Carmen Lombardo and John Loeb. (Loeb was once a protégé of Mrs. Waller’s son, Fats.) Louis and his All-Stars play mostly standards.
The book is by Sig [Herzig] with June Taylor responsible for the staging and choreography. With 200 singers and dancers, Mardi Gras flaunts eye-filling effects and color, as well as street calls, honky tonks, pirates, Carnival time and the violent overthrow of Storyville. Included, too, is a “jam session” with the celebrated Marie Laveau, once the most powerful of all voodoo queens. The most feared of the witches and hobgoblins, mothers and nursemaids of early New Orleans would terrify their unruly off-spring with the mere whisper of her name.
Certainly, Louis Armstrong is a natural choice to star in such a vehicle. His music, name and fame are synonymous with the Crescent City. He is the King of Jazz and was, in fact, King of the Zulu Parade at Carnival time in 1949–the realization of a boyhood dream. A treasured letter he wrote to me just prior to Mardi Gras Day reveals his high feelings about that honor: “‘When we leave here we will trilly down in dear of New Orleans, So’s I can get ready for the Mardi Gras down there. I’m gonna be the King of the ‘Zulus’ Parade on that day. ‘Oh Girl’, I’m really going to have a Ball. They feed the King nothing but Champagne on that day. ‘Lawdy’ I’ll just about have Champagne running all out of mine ‘yars’ (ears to you) after the Parade’s over. Ha, Ha. Honest–I can hardly wait.'”
To the astonishment and dismay of jazz fans Louis has often stated that his favorite band is that of Guy Lombardo. It has been difficult to understand his enthusiasm for a conservative orchestra that seems to bear little relationship to jazz. Louis has said, ‘Now you dig that Sweethearts–and that first chorus of When You’re Smiling; it reminds you of Guy Lombardo. Crawford Wethington, who sang with my band then, was the nearest thing to Carmen Lombardo.’
It seems perhaps less of a mystery when one considers Louis’ extreme regard for the melody. He says, “. . . when you get all those weird variations and they lose the lead what good is that to an untrained ear! It’s a mistake not putting the lead to the public. There is no point in playing if you can’t let someone outside of yourself know what is going on.”
Guy tells us, “The melody is the most important component. People want to know what the band is playing at all times. Next important is the rhythm. People want music they can dance to. However, to keep the music sweet and mellow we subdue the drums and let the other rhythm instruments, like the piano, carry the burden.
The production of Mardi Gras marks the first professional appearance of Louis and Guy on the same stage. Since their earliest encounters they have remained a two-man admiration society. Louis happily recalls that “about five years back Guy and I were both playing in Atlantic City and I sat in with his band. We really had a ball.” Guy tried to get Pops for last year’s Mardi Gras, but Pops was all wrapped up due to advance bookings. The musical was an obvious one for Louis, and Guy told us, “The only reason I repeated the show this year was because I was fortunate enough to get Louis. If it wasn’t for that we would have done something else this season.”
Guy, who used to play the violin, opened at Al Quarterback’s Granada Cafe in Chicago in 1927 with nine pieces which included brothers Lebert on trumpet and Carmen on sax. In those days Louis and his drummer Zutty Singleton were also in Chicago, playing with Carroll Dickerson’s house band at the Savoy.
Zutty recalls that head Pops were “hanging out with ‘Muff’ Henry,” Guy’s guitarist, and when they visited the Granada to “dig the band, Pops was impressed by those smooth syrupy saxophones.” He was also impressed with Sweethearts on Parade, penned by Carmen. Three years later Louis recorded his own classic version of the tune. At the time Dickerson’s sax section tried to emulate that of Guy’s. Incidentally, Zutty mentions that when Guy’s band played a one-nighter at the Savoy he broke all attendance records.
A list of Louis Armstrong credits and honors is too lengthy to enumerate. A musician since childhood, he is the epitome of the professional jazzman. His incredibly beautiful recordings have sold well into the millions. His career has been a truly phenomenal one and more than any individual he has popularized jazz the world over. He continues to delight and astound audiences everywhere.
Before Mardi Gras Louis had never played an engagement which permitted him to commute from home for as long a period as two months. His Corona, Long Island home (which he shares with wife Lucille—he calls her “Brown Sugar”) is only three-quarters of an hour’s drive to the Marine Theater at Jones Beach.
Louis’ first few weeks in the shop were quite a grind, for he had just completed a string of long, endless one-nighters to go directly into rehearsal. His years of experience, coupled with his unusual stage of good health, enabled him to pace himself magnificently. Timing is one of his middle names. He usually gets out of bed around four in the afternoon and, after getting himself together, he grabs his Selmer trumpet for some practice. Dinner is at 5:30 and the fare is usually of the down-home variety, which he has always loved. The soul food consists of red beans and rice, ham hocks (he calls them “trotters”—abroad he orders Eisbeins), salad, corn bread or biscuits, and coffee–topped off by a cigarette. When a recent visitor from New Orleans commented upon such a diet for a successful man like Louis, Pops grinned, “Man–this is the food I was brought up on!”
At about 7:30, Bob Sherman, Louis’ valet and Man Friday, drives Pops to work. Louis arrives at the theatre a little after 8 though he doesn’t appear on stage until after 10.
Louis and the All-Stars make their grand entrance in Act 2, Scene 3. A floating barge pulls into front stage center with the band blowing Tiger Rag. This is Lucky Laffity’s bar on Basin Street and our man Louis is attired in a bright blue suit, the jacket trimmed in white, topped by a blue derby. They play for about a half-hour from their usual repertoire. The scene ends with the invasion of Carrie Nation and her troupe of do-gooders, armed with hatchets, clubs and righteous indignation, and singing the rousing Down With Whisky. They tear the joint apart and this is the supposed end of Basin Street. Louis and the band cut out for New York.
In the finale, Louis sings Come Along Down, accompanied by his All-Stars plus the Lombardo orchestra, as on their Capitol single. Then the musicians join forces for a South Rampart Street Parade.
At the show’s end, Guy plays a dance set for about forty-five minutes at the outdoor Maxwell House Pavilion. Louis then plays his dance set, joined by vocalist Jewel Brown, for an equal amount of time–but I have yet to see anyone dance. Mostly they do what his audience do the world over–they grin and beat time and enjoy the special kind of enchantment that only Louis Armstrong can project.
After all the excitement of the evening, Louis enjoys a leisurely drive home. It is about 2 in the morning and he is through for the night.