Louis Armstrong’s 1969-1971 Tapes: Reels 81-85

Louis’s listening habits have been all over the place in the last couple of entries of this series, with a bunch of Broadway and film soundtracks, pop music from The Rascals, traditional jazz from Jimmy McPartland and Tony Parenti, and modern jazz from Woody Herman and Louie Bellson. We’ll pick up today with more like that before Louis eventually settles back into listening to his favorite artist–himself!

Reel 81
Accession Number: 1987.3.381

Reel 81 picks up where we left off, with the conclusion of Woody Herman’s 1969 album, Light My Fire, with the clarinetist putting his own spin on material like the title track by The Doors and “I Say a Little Prayer.” From there, Louis dubbed New Orleans clarinetist Tony Parenti’s album, Ragtime Jubilee. If you were with us last time, Louis also dubbed a Parenti album on Reel 80; here I go in speculation mode again, but one of the scrapbooks Louis made at this time (analyzed in detail here) includes a photo with Parenti, looking like it was taken in this 1969-1970 era:

LAHM 1987.8.53_025

This makes me think that Parenti laid a few of his albums on Pops during that visit or at least mailed him a few, and here they are, immortalized on tape (there’ll be more from Parenti in the near future).

Side 1 continues with albums from two pals of Louis, Illinois Jacquet and Joe Bushkin. Jacquet is up first with his 1968 Prestige album, The King, most likely another of the batch of 1967-1968-1969 releases Armstrong found himself catching up on at the start of 1970. Armstrong had a pretty complete run of Bushkin’s Columbia and Capitol recordings of the 1950s and now added his 1964 Repriese release, In Concert, Town Hall, to his collection:

LAHM 1987_2_23~176

After the conclusion of Bushkin’s album, it’s–surprise!–back to Tony Parenti for an album with “Downtown Boys” (Dick Wellstood and Sam Ulano). But then, after about a ten-tape run of other people’s music, Louis returns. If you listened to the interview we posted in this previous installment from The Dick Cavett Show, Louis mentioned that one of the ways he now spent his spare time was building his chops back up by playing along with his old recordings. Because he now used direct input from his turntable to his tape deck and no longer just placed a microphone in the middle of the room as he did in the 1950s (resulting in such priceless moments as the ones we showcased here), there’s no audio of him actually playing along with his tapes in 1970–but it’s still pretty cool to imagine him doing so as he started dubbing 1950s classics, Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy and Ambassador Satch, as seen on Side 2 of Reel 81. (Note Louis getting playful with his cataloging, referring to the vocalists on “Hesitation [sic] Blues” as “Velma + Popsie”! There’s also a mention of “Vel-Pops+Gang” on “Long Gone”; “The Faithful Hussar” is rendered in his own butchering, “Hussar Cussar”; and there’s an oddly reversed “Ramble Muskat” concluding the reel!)

LAHM 1987_2_23~177

This might be the only post in this entire series that features no distinctive collages on the tape boxes, as Louis just stuck new catalog numbers and the speeds of each reel on the outside of each box. We’re still sharing everything, but obviously, won’t have as much to say about the boxes as we have in previous posts:

LAHM 1987.3.381
LAHM 1987.3.381

Reel 82
Accession Number: 1987.3.382

Armstrong polished off Ambassador Satch on Reel 82, before sticking with two more Columbia LPs, 1967’s Louis Armstrong’s Greatest Hits (part of the iconic Columbia Greatest Hits series spearheaded by producer Bob Johnston in the 1960s) and Satchmo the Great, the soundtrack to the Edward R. Murrow documentary of the same name.

LAHM 1987_2_23~178

After the conclusion of Satchmo the Great, Armstrong sticks with Columbia for two volumes of George Avakian’s Louis Armstrong Story reissues. Armstrong doesn’t mention it by name but he opens with side 1 of Favorites, with “Knockin’ a Jug” (Louis could never remember the name of pianist Joe Sullivan, sometimes giving Frank Signorelli and in this case, listing Johnny Guarnieri!), “Body and Soul,” two takes of “Star Dust,” and “Black and Blue.” Then he switched to volume one of The Louis Armstrong Story, The Hot Five; he couldn’t remember the name of “Skid-Dat-De-Dat,” just calling it “Blues,” but otherwise it’s all here, as it put it, from “The Good Ole 78s.” (And even though the Hot Seven is not present, Louis lists trombonist John Thomas and two other names in slightly different form than usually presented, saxophonist “Stomp” Evans (usually given as “Stump”) and tuba player “Peter” Briggs” (usually just plain Pete). More curious cataloging is found when Armstrong gets to The Real Ambassadors. He must have remembered Yolande Bavan during the one live performance of that work at Monterey in 1962, but it’s Annie Ross on the recording, not Bavan:

LAHM 1987_2_23~179

Here’s the box for Reel 82:

LAHM 1987.3.382
LAHM 1987.3.382

Reel 83
Accession Number: 1987.3.383

Reel 83 is a long one, taking up four pages in Armstrong’s tape catalog! It opens with the conclusion of The Real Ambassadors, again, with Annie Ross, not Yoland Bavan; and it’s Jon Hendricks, not “Hendrix,” contrary to Louis’s catalog! More funny cataloging as Louis followed with a dub of Columbia’s The Bessie Smith Story Volume 1 (reissued in 1969) and remembered Fred Longshaw’s surname as “Bradshaw” (he also notes “Casey Jones,” but it’s actually the “J. C. Holmes Blues”).

LAHM 1987_2_23~180

Sticking with George Avakian’s reissues, the classic Louis Armstrong Story Volume 3: Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines, but the cataloging also reveals a few more brain farts: what Louis lists as “Cornet Chop Suey” is actually “Weather Bird,” “Two Deuces” is accidentally listed as “Three Deuces,” and the song Armstrong couldn’t recall (“???”) is “Skip the Gutter”:

LAHM 1987_2_23~181

That’s two pages, but we’ve only gotten through one side. Below is page one of Side 2–though Louis second-guessed himself and crossed out the “2” to make it a “1.” This time, Armstrong dubs Louis Armstrong Favorites in full, with all those 1929-1931 OKeh classics (getting a pretty detailed cataloging but not without another humous mistake; I already mentioned Louis confusing Joe Sullivan with Frank Signorelli or Johnny Guarnieri on “Knockin’ a Jug”–here it’s “Johnny Sigmarelli”!)

From there, something different–another dub of Louis’s 1967 Italian sides (he lets us know it’s Clark Terry on trumpet, and Joe Marany [Muranyi] on clarinet). Then it’s onto V.S.O.P., a brand new (released January 1970) reissue of Armstrong’s 1931 32 sides, with excellent liner notes by Dan Morgenstern (Louis lets us know that its Joe Lindsey, his old friend New Orleans, “counting choruses” on “New Tiger Rag”):

LAHM 1987_2_23~182

All of those Columbia and OKeh reissues are classics but now it’s time for something legitimately exciting: an unissued set of the All Stars live at the Crystal Palace in Coloma Michigan on March 19, 1955, recorded right from the bandstand by none other than bassist Arvell Shaw! [Shaw wrote “Crystal Ballroom March 20, 1955” on the tape box but researching the newspapers at the time, it was actually the Crystal Palace on March 19.] As chronicled in our last post, Louis and Arvell had a falling out in the late 1950s and though they reunited for a few years in the mid-60s, they don’t seem to have been too warm towards each other. But after Louis agreed to sing at a charity benefit organized by Arvell in late 1969 or early 1970, the two men seemed to patch things up, eventually building up to Shaw rejoining the All Stars for Armstrong’s last public performance at the Waldorf-Astoria in March 1971.

In between, Shaw presented Armstrong with a copy of a tape he made when he was with the All Stars, the prime 1955 edition with Trummy Young on trombone, Barney Bigard on clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano, Shaw on bass, and Barrett Deems on drums. Armstrong was knocked out by the recording, dubbing it to Reels 83 and 84 and sent Shaw and his wife a letter of appreciation on April 20, 1970. For those following my guesses at chronology, this seems right as the last few posts featured tapes I claimed were made in late February/March 1970. As Louis details in his letter, he spent much of that month making the trip from New York to Philadelphia to film multiple appearances on The Mike Douglas Show, some of which aired in March, others of which were stockpiled to air in May. Thus, perhaps busier than he had been in sometime, we’ve probably reached April 1970 in our chronology, with Louis writing the following letter on April 20 (donated by Shaw himself to our Archives in 2002, just a year before he passed away):

LAHM 2002_25_1_Page_1
LAHM 2002_25_1_Page_1
LAHM 2002_25_1_Page_3

Since Louis’s handwriting might not be the easiest to decipher, here’s a transcription:

April, 20th, 1970
Dear Arvell and Madeleine ”
We received the tape-and it’s simply marvelous. We’re listening to it this minute while I’m writing this letter to “yall” You can bet this tape will be in my files for ever. You recorded it so clear “n” everything. A big kiss for Victoria. And Madeleine. And thanks again. If there’s anything in my files that you don’t have – just let me know. And I’ll – cut a copy for you the very first chance that I get. Lucille + I have been going to Philadelphia, one day a week as Co’Host on the Mike Douglas T.V. Show. They figured’ everyday for five days would be a little rough for My Buns. So they split it up to one day a week for five weeks, which will turn out just the same, when they splice that sh-t together. We enjoyed it very much. Since I hadn’t been out of New York for Two years because of my sick ass. You know I was very happy over it all. My First trip there was a Test. because I went by plane. And everything (to me) and my Dr. was just fine. So-slowly I will soon be back into the salt mine again. ‘On Stage’ Just like nothing happened.
So you all take care. Lucille sends love. And mine too.
Louis Armstrong

With the preamble out of the way, here’s the catalog page, with part one of the 1955 set appearing at the end of Reel 83 (for the discographers, it opens with a medley of “Shadrack” and “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In” and follows with “C’est Si Bon,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” and “The Boppenpoof Song” on this tape):

LAHM 1987_2_23~183

And here’s an audio sample, a beautiful version of “On the Sunny Side of the Street” with some different trumpet work towards the end–enjoy!

“On the Sunny Side of the Street.” LAHM 1987.3.383

Still no collage, but after that version of “Sunny Side,” what more do you need?

LAHM 1987.3.383
LAHM 1987.3.383

Reel 84
Accession Number: 1987.3.384

Reel 84 opens with the rest of the 1955 Crystal Palace show, opening with the earliest live recording of the medley of “Tenderly” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” weighing in at 8 minutes and 54 seconds (and running out of tape before the conclusion!). After a tape flip, the set continues with “Muskrat Ramble,” Barney Bigard’s feature on “Sweet Lorraine,” Billy Kyle’s feature on “Perdido,” Shaw’s feature on “Blues for Bass,” a medley of “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” and “(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue” and Trummy Young’s feature on “Margie,” with just enough tape remaining for Shaw to wrap it up. To give another taste, here is Shaw’s own feature on “Blues for Bass,” though he got a little too close to his own microphone, distorting the sound. Still, the excitement shines through with Louis sounding great and the crowd truly going wild for a bass feature!

“Blues for Bass.” LAHM 1987.3.384

Back to Reel 84, Louis followed the Crystal Palace recording with some other interesting odds and ends, including audio of Barney Bigard on an episode of pianist Art Hodes’s Jazz Alley television show in 1968 and audio of Duke Ellington and Mary McCarthy on the August 26, 1969 episode of The Dick Cavett Show, both most likely more gifts of Tony Janak, the engineer who often sent Armstrong tapes of television broadcasts from this period.

LAHM LAHM 1987_2_23~184

Side 2 continues with more of Ellington on Cavett, a fascinating discussion as McCarthy talks about being an atheist and Ellington talks about his religious background. I almost moved on but a quick Google search shows the audio or video has not turned up so we might as well share it here! It’s timely, too, because Cavett opens by telling the story of Ellington getting rejected for a Pulitzer, something Ted Gioia has been spearheading to rectify in 2022. There’s music, conversation, you name it–enjoy the watermarked audio here!

Duke Ellington on “The Dick Cavett Show,” August 8, 1969

After that, Armstrong made a dub of the 1960 Ira Ironstring LP The Best Damn Dance Band in the Land (I had to look it up myself, but the fictional “Ira Ironstring” was actually Alvino Rey using a pseudonym to record a series of popular, affectionate Dixieland parodies for Warner Brothers when he was still under contract to Capitol).

Reel 84 concludes with a dub of Jazz Odyssey Volume 1: The Sound of New Orleans, a 3-LP boxed set issued by Columbia in 1964. Armstrong only dipped his toes in the water at the end this reel, only listing some of his songs, but he’d spend more time with this excellent set on the next reel.

LAHM 1987_2_23~185

Still no collage but a slightly different box with “Mr. Louis Armstrong” written on the back so something, perhaps the Jazz Odyssey set, was sent to Louis on type but what exactly was originally sent and by whom remains a mystery.

LAHM 1987.3.384
LAHM 1987.3.384

Reel 85
Accession Number: 1987.3.385

I might be on to something because Jazz Odyssey: The Sound of New Orleans takes up both sides of Reel 85, but we don’t have the LPs in our Archives and Louis seems at a loss for many of the tune titles so perhaps someone sent him the set on the aforementioned tape and he was left to guess the song titles as he listened in real time. Still, it’s pretty great seeing Louis notate the names of “All of the Old Timers,” including at least one who is not on this set (I don’t believe guitarist Lorenzo Staulz ever recorded, but someone on this set conjured up memories of the musician Louis played with in Kid Ory’s band in New Orleans so he’s listed on the top of Reel 2, too). If you’d like to follow along with the original track list, here it is courtesy of Discogs–and here is a Spotify playlist I made with 47 of the original 48 tracks that appeared on this set (for the completists, “I Ain’t Got-en No Time To Have the Blues” by the Louisiana Five is the missing track, available on YouTube here):

LAHM 1987_2_23~186
LAHM 1987_2_23~187

Shamrock tape is something different, but still no collage–something that will be rectified with Reel 86 in our next post!

LAHM 1987.3.385
LAHM 1987.3.385

The collages will return next time, as will the Jazz Odyssey recordings and more surprises–til then!

Published by Ricky Riccardi

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

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