Louis Armstrong’s 1969-1971 Tapes: Reels 61-65

In our last post on the tapes Louis Armstrong made between 1969 and 1971, Louis was deep in the middle of a run of listening to his own music–something that continues today as we examine Reels 61-65. (Catch up on the entire series here!)

Reel 61
Accession Number 1987.3.361

Picking up where we left off on Reel 60, Reel 61 continues with The Best of Louis Armstrong, a Decca compilation heavy on cuts from Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography with a smattering of his 1950s pop hits at the end. Armstrong’s draws our attention to “Potatoe [sic] Head Blues” being “Tallulah’s Favorite” (as in Bankhead). After that 2-LP set concluded, Armstrong switched over to Satchmo For You, a special Japanese-issued set containing reissues of Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy and Satch Plays Fats. Armstrong began with Handy, getting as far as “Chantez-Les-Bas” to finish out Reel 61.

LAHM 1987_2_23~135ing
LAHM 1987_2_23~136

For the collage on Reel 61, Armstrong cut up a photo of the Tomasso family of England, most likely mailed to Louis while he was convalescing after his intensive care hospital stay in 1969. We shared a virtual exhibit on the story of little Enrico Tomasso and his relationship with Louis back in 2020, but left out this collage–consider it a bonus!

LAHM 1987.3.361
LAHM 1987.3.361

Reel 62
Accession Number: 1987.3.362

Reel 62 opened with the conclusion of Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy before Pops switched to a compilation on the Dutch Amiga label, Louis Armstrong 1923-1927, covering his work with King Oliver, the Hot Five, Hot Seven, and various blues singers. (We don’t want to interrupt the flow so scroll to the bottom of this post to see images of some of the records Louis used for these reels.)

LAHM 1987_2_23~137

On Side 2, Armstrong stuck with the Amiga label for another compilation called Oldtime Jazz, the first side devoted to a selection of Armstrong’s 1927-1930 recordings and the second side a potpourri of sides featuring Tommy Ladnier and Sidney Bechet, Bix Beiderbecke, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and the McKenzie-Condon Chicagoans. Armstrong is pretty thorough for once in his discographical annotation of these sides!

LAHM 1987_2_23~138

The late Velma Middleton was on Armstrong’s mind while designing the collage for Reel 62, as he points her out both on the front image of her singing with the All Stars in the mid-50s and the rear image with some unidentified fans:

LAHM 1987.3.362
LAHM 1987.3.362

Reel 63
Accession Number: 1987.3.363

Armstrong stuck to his Amiga LPs for Reel 63, opening with another compilation, Pioniere Des Jazz, including sides by Clarence Williams, the ODJB, King Oliver, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, Bix Beiderbecke, and many more. Again, check out Armstrong’s detailed personnel listings below–in fact, he spent so much space listing the names, Side 1 took Armstrong two pages complete!

LAHM 1987_2_23~139

Page 2 of Side 1 continues the dub of Pioniere Des Jazz continued on Side 2, before Armstrong switched to another Decca compilation, Jazz Classics, this time focused on his 1930s and 40s big band recordings:

LAHM 1987_2_23~140

Side 2 has the conclusion of Jazz Classics and then a dub of another Decca LP, Rare Items, an important reissue of 1935-1944 sides with very influential liner notes penned by Armstrong’s friend Dan Morgenstern:

LAHM 1987_2_23~141

The front of Reel 63 includes one of my favorite photos of the immortal moment when Armstrong’s All Stars performed outdoors for the natives of the Gold Coast of Africa, soon to become the independent nation of Ghana, in May 1956. In this particular image, Armstrong is beaming at a dancer who looked just like his beloved mother, Mayann:

LAHM 1987.3.363

On the back of the box is a photo of Armstrong enjoying a meal in the mid-1950s with Lucille Armstrong, publicist Ernie Anderson, Velma Middleton, and Trummy Young:

LAHM 1987.3.363

Reel 64
Accession Number: 1987.3.364

We haven’t heard much from Armstrong’s Verve catalog in a while, something rectified with a dub of Verve’s Choice: The Best of Louis Armstrong at the start of Reel 64. That’s followed by an RCA compilation, In the 30s-In the40s, which spills onto Side 2.

LAHM 1987_2_23~142

It’s a bit headache-inducing to follow, but in the middle of the page, Armstrong does his best to notate the songs and personnel found on a Riverside compilation Young Louis Armstrong, including Pops’s work with King Oliver, the Red Onion Jazz Babies, and Fletcher Henderson. At the very end of the reel, Armstrong begins copying a Parlophone release (“SOLD IN RUSSIA” he tells us), His Greatest Years, a more complete reissue of the Hot Fives:

LAHM 1987_2_23~143

The front of Reel 64 contains a snapshot of Louis with Marcel Blache, one of multiple shots of the two taken most likely while Armstrong was in Europe in 1949. On the reverse of an identical snapshot found elsewhere in Armstrong’s collection is written, “Marcel Blache, Palais Du Rectorat, AIX en PROVENCE (Bouches du Phone) FRANCE.

LAHM 1987.3.364

For the rear collage, Armstrong clipped out another shot of him and Lucille at the premiere for Hello, Dolly!, this clipping coming from the December 17, 1969 issue of the New York Daily News:

LAHM 1987.3.364

Reel 65
Accession Number: 1987.3.365

The His Greatest Years compilation continues on Reel 65, a complete fun of Hot Fives and Sevens up to the start of the 1928 Earl Hines series. Armstrong’s cataloging is pretty straightforward, but he does like to always point out that him playing the “sliding whistle” on “Who’sit”:

LAHM 1987_2_23~144
LAHM 1987_2_23~145

Louis and Lucille appear on the front of Reel 65, Louis in his 1952-1953 pre-Swiss Kriss phase:

LAHM 1987.3.365

The women on the back of Reel 65 are sadly unidentified but the man dancing and seated with a girl on each arm is Louis’s adopted son, Clarence Hatfield Armstrong:

LAHM 1987.3.365

That concludes our look at Reels 61-65, but as promised, here’s the jackets for some of the rarer LPs Louis used on these tapes, many of them featuring an “x” or some other mark to note that he had dubbed them–enjoy!

The Best of Louis Armstrong:

LAHM 1987.3.807

Satchmo for You:

LAHM 1987.3.790

And here are the Amiga LPs, which interestingly only reside in our Jack Bradley Collection, but still maintain Louis’s distinctive “x” marks, meaning Jack either loaned his copies to Louis for dubbing or Louis gave his copies away to Jack after he finished making these tapes. First, Louis Armstrong 1923-1927:

LAHM 2005.1.28

Oldtime Jazz:

LAHM 2005.1.27

Pioniere Des Jazz:

LAHM 2005.1.29

And finally, we don’t seem to have a “sold in Russia” edition of His Greatest Years, but the whole series on Parlophone is part of our Jack Bradley Collection, so it’s possible this is what Louis was dubbing. Here’s Volume 1:

LAHM 2005.1.601

Published by Ricky Riccardi

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

One thought on “Louis Armstrong’s 1969-1971 Tapes: Reels 61-65

  1. Mr. Armstrong passed when I was a child, but did get a chance to see him perform and was so mesmerized by his greatness that years later in school when asked who I wanted to be when I grow up, my answer was “Louis Armstrong”. I used to play on a toy horn, holding a handkerchief to wipe my brow to emulate his style. I even wrote a script called “Satchmo, Junebug & Me” about our quest as youngsters to sneak into a club to see him perform for a writing assignment. Thanks for sharing and allowing my grown self to learn more about who I wanted to be when as a kid 😉

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