Louis Armstrong’s 1969-1971 Tapes: Reels 106-110

Our previous installment was a bit of a transitional one, with Louis preparing for the recording of Louis Armstrong and His Friends, re-dubbing materials from tapes sent to him by engineer Tony Janak, and copying a tape trumpeter Jimmy Owens gave him at the May 29 And His Friends recording session. But this might be our most action-packed post in this series yet as it will include almost six hours of audio, plus we’re throwing in an entire scrapbook worth of photos at no extra cost. Let’s not waste any more time and jump right in!

Reel 106
Accession Number: 1987.3.406

Back when we covered Reel 83, we shared a letter Louis Armstrong wrote to bassist Arvell Shaw on April 20, 1970 in which we said, “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.”

Armstrong’s trips to Philadelphia began on February 26, when he filmed songs and panel discussions that would part of the March 9 and March 31, 1970 episodes of the Mike Douglas Show. Armstrong added in his letter to Shaw, “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.” Louis and Lucille then began returning to Philly once a week to record a full episode with Louis as co-host. The episodes were finally edited together and shown on television the week of May 25, airing a new show every day between Monday the 25th and Friday the 29th.

When the week was over, the Mike Douglas people gave Louis a scrapbook of photos from the week and eventually sent him tapes of the audio of each show in full, occasionally with short post-credits discussions and other off-camera bits of business. In June 1970, with the sessions for Louis Armstrong and His Friends behind him, Armstrong set about dubbing the audio of his week co-hosting Douglas’s show–and today we are sharing watermarked audio of all of it! (We’ve explained it in the past but in case this is your first time here, we don’t own the rights to these episodes so you’ll hear a subtle beep every 20-30 seconds throughout to prevent any unauthorized or commercial uses without contacting the original rights holders. We feel it’s a small price to pay to be able to hear content that has been languishing on Louis’s tapes and only made available to researchers who made the trek to our Archives at Queens College over the past 30 or so years!)

In this 1969-1971 time period, Armstrong also got inspired to create scrapbooks again; we’ve discussed a few of them in detail here and will be including all of the images in the Mike Douglas scrapbook in this post. Here’s the cover, which Louis numbered as Scrapbook 5:


 Here’s Douglas’s person inscription, made up entirely of song titles:


And here’s a great photo of Armstrong and Douglas to get the ball rolling:


We’ll dive right in with Monday’s show, which aired May 25, 1970. Here’s Louis’s catalog page:

LAHM 1987_2_23~227

And now the audio, which is broken into three parts. In the first part, Douglas opens by singing “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans,” which sets the scene for Louis to do a touching rendition of his theme song, “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South.” Louis and Mike then sit for a long interview that touches on a lot of subjects: Louis talks about how much he loves his audience and how much he enjoys performing; Louis’s astrological sign (cancer); red beans and rice; going to church and singing with his mother; telling a Bert Williams joke in church; New Orleans funerals; his mother Mayann’s cooking, specifically her use of fish heads; being raised around the Jewish Karnofsy family; watching Mardi Gras parades (includes a mention of Mardi Gras Indians); and more. (Perhaps now is a good time to mention that all of these tapes are fully transcribed and available on our Digital Collections site; here’s the page for this particular part.)

After a commercial break, Douglas introduces pianist Joe Harnell, whose band provides expert backing throughout the entire week, setting up Louis to do “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” (Louis Armstrong) and Louis and Mike to duet on “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.”

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 25, 1970 – Part 1

In Part 2 of the May 25 show (transcribed here), Douglas welcomes insult comic Jack E. Leonard, who it turns out got his start as a Charleston dancer in Chicago in the 1920s, leading to reminiscing with Louis about the Sunset Cafe, Erskine Tate, Brown and McGraw, Joe Glaser and more. Leonard then mentions that he first met Lucille Armstrong when she was dancing at the Cotton Club in the late 30s, leading to Lucille coming onstage and dancing the Shim Sham with Leonard as Joe Harnell plays “Makin’ Whoopee”! Here’s some photos from the scrapbook of this segment with Leonard:


Then Douglas welcomes Shirley Booth, then starring in Look to the Lillies on Broadway–but as we discussed in this post , the show premiered on March 29 and ran for 31 previews and 25 performances, possibly closing the night before the May 25 episode aired! As you’ll here, the show actually ends at the 27:30 mark but after some high-pitched beeping, a second segment with Booth appears, which might have been edited out of the final show or potentially only aired in certain markets:

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 25, 1970 – Part 2

And don’t let that false ending throw you as there’s a full third part featuring folk singer Tom Paxton, who performs and joins Armstrong and Leonard on the panel:

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 25, 1970 – Part 3

And from the scrapbook, a photo of this segment:


That takes care of Monday, May 25. The Tuesday May 26 show is a special one as the special guest is none other than Lucille Armstrong. First, Louis’s catalog page:

LAHM 1987_2_23~228

This time Douglas opens with “Birth of the Blues” before bringing Louis out to sing a righteous “St. Louis Blues.” Douglas and Armstrong converse about performing, the blues, and more before Lucille comes out and takes over with the definitive telling of how she met Louis during her years at the Cotton Club. She also gets serious and talks about Louis’s heart attack in Spoleto, Italy in 1959 (without directly calling it a heart attack), calling it the most important moment of the marriage. After that segment, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition perform “Something’s Burning” and Douglas interviews Cesar Romero–the magic of daytime television talk shows in the 1970s! Here’s the audio:

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 26, 1970 – Part 1

Part 2 begins with Douglas’s next guest, gossip columnist Earl Wilson, who talks about Louis going to see Ella Fitzgerald at the Waldorf in March 1957. After Kenny Rogers and the First Edition do “Camptown Races,” Lucille hosts a cooking segment, teaching her recipe for red beans and rice, joined by surprise guest Joe Williams at the very end. Finally, the episode ends with a beautiful performance of “I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You)” with Louis singing directly to Lucille (this clip will be featured in the upcoming documentary Louis Armstrong’s Black and Blues, which begins streaming on Apple+ on October 28–we’ve shared video of this moment and the entire cooking segment in our Virtual Exhibit on Lucille here). Here’s the audio of this portion of the May 26 episode:

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 26, 1970 – Part 2

That takes care of Reel 106, but to close it out, here’s the original box, with someone else’s handwriting on the front and back, though those are Louis’s labels, of course:

LAHM 1987.3.406
LAHM 1987.3.406

Reel 107
Accession Number: 1987.3.407

Side 1 of Reel 107 contains the complete audio of Armstrong’s appearance on the May 27, 1970 episode of The Mike Douglas Show, arguably the most memorable of the week. Here’s Louis’s catalog page to set the scene:

LAHM 1987_2_23~229

The theme for the opening of the Wednesday show was Chicago, so Douglas opens by singing “My Kind of Town” and Armstrong follows with his only surviving performance of “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town),” climaxed by a wild closing cadenza in which Louis crams in memories of Erskine Tate, Bix Beiderbecke and more into his vocal. After a break, Douglas mentions Armstrong getting an ovation at a Friars Club tribute to Tom Jones, which took place on April 17, 1970, helping us date when this episode was actually filmed. Douglas then asks Armstrong about his international tours, with stories of visiting the Sphinx in Egypt, wearing a catcher’s mask in Buenos Aires, stopping the civil war in Leopoldville and more. This part concludes with The Four Tops doing “Baby I Need Your Loving” (The Four Tops)”–here’s the audio (and here’s a link to the transcript):

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 27, 1970 – Part 1

In the second part, Douglas interviews actress Dina Merrill before introducing Shari Lewis and Lambchop, who do a weird, yet fabulous duet with Louis on “The Whiffenpoof Song.” After a panel discussion with all of the above, Douglas welcomes The Four Tops back, who mention how honored they are to be appearing on the same program as Louis, before they perform “It’s All in the Game” (memorably recorded by Armstrong with Gordon Jenkins back in 1951). Everything has been enjoyable up to this point but the real main event occurs at the end of this clip when Artie Shaw joins the panel and takes over as only he could:

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 27, 1970 – Part 2

The Artie Shaw Show continues in part 3, but now with Louis also getting some good stories in (Shaw also tells of Louis’s “White folks still in the lead” comment to Erroll Garner). It’s a fun segment (Shaw gets bleeped twice) and there’s a bonus: after the show ends at 26:15, there’s about five minutes of extra audio, including Douglas filming some promos, some chatter between Armstrong, Shaw, Douglas, Merrill and Lewis (Armstrong mentions living in Corona and drops Joe Bushkin’s name), and a bonus story about playing for royalty. Here’s the audio (and again, a transcription for this part can be found here):

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 27, 1970 – Part 3

Armstrong’s scrapbook didn’t include any photos from the May 27 episode but that will be rectified soon as we turn to May 28–here’s Louis’s catalog page:

LAHM 1987_2_23~230

Douglas opens the proceedings with “I Hear Music” before Louis sings “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” mentioning it was from his album of all “the songs Disney wrote,” Disney Songs the Satchmo Way. Then we get another of those wonderful long conversations between Armstrong and Douglas, touching on gold records, “Hello, Dolly,” playing on riverboats with Fate Marable, gambling, speakeasies in the 1920s, honky-tonks in New Orleans, people carrying guns, one-night stands, razor fights at gigs, taking care of his trumpet, lip solve, his mother and sister (of mother Mayann, Louis says, “she’d whip the hell out of us), King Oliver and more. Check the transcript here and listen below:

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 28, 1970 – Part 1

That concludes Armstrong’s big portion of the show until the end, but he stays on the panel for the next two guests, Anna Maria Alberghetti, who sings “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and “Who Can I Turn To”,” and Monty Rock III, who sings “My Way” after a long conversation:

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 28, 1970 – Part 2

Next, Studs Terkel joins the panel, then promoting his book on the Great Depression, Hard Times (here’s the link to the transcript). Louis closes the show with a beautiful vocal on “I Surrender Dear,” calling it his “torch song,” but again, stay to the end for more bonus audio where you can hear the producer go over the plan for the next show with Louis:

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 28, 1970 – Part 3

The photographer was busy during the May 28 show as we have three photos to share the first of Armstrong, Douglas, and Alberghetti:


Next, the same trio joined by Monti Rock III:


And finally, that quartet plus Studs Terkel:


And finally, the box for Reel 107, with the same handwriting as Reel 106:

LAHM 1987.3.407
LAHM 1987.3.407

Reel 108
Accession Number: 1987.3.408

Side 1 of Reel 108 finishes up The Mike Douglas Show odyssey with the audio of the fifth and final show, which aired on May 29, 1970. Once again, here’s Louis:

LAHM 1987_2_23~231

After the opening of the show–which is repeated once for some reason–Douglas comes out and sings Simon and Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).” Before Louis sings “Blueberry Hill,” he introduces Zutty Singleton and his wife Marge in the audience, another chapter in their renewed friendship during this era. In the interview segment (transcribed here), Armstrong talks about his five most admired people: Lucille, Dr. Gary Zucker, Joe Glaser, King Oliver and his mother Mayann. (He also gets deep into the telling of his favorite joke but backs out at the very end when he remembers the punchline includes the word “ass”!) The segment ends with Louis performing “Hello, Dolly!,” clearly having saved his biggest hits for this final show:

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 29, 1970 – Part 1

The second segment opens with Sammy Davis Jr., who reminisces a bit with Louis before performing “Spinning Wheel.” Armstrong then gets a surprise phone call and it’s Pearl Bailey; Armstrong surprised Bailey when she was the co-host of Douglas’s show in March (you can hear the audio here) and this was Bailey’s turn, doing her best to sing “Dolly” over the phone (don’t miss Louis’s reference to Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson as “one of them boys!”) In the next interview segment, Armstrong talks about getting ready to perform again in public and reminisces about Joe Glaser with Davis (Davis is also fiery here about not getting to go to Vietnam with a Bob Hope USO show). Here’s the transcript–and here’s the audio:

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 29, 1970 – Part 2

In the final portion, talk show fixture Stan Kann does a segment with funny gadgets, including the only recorded example of Louis playing Theremin! New Orleans clarinetist Pete Fountain then performs “Jean” alongside tenor saxophonist Eddie Miller before joining Armstrong and Davis on the panel. After a commercial break, the show concludes with a jam session featuring Joe Harnell’s band, Fountain, Miller, Davis on a bunch of instruments, and Armstrong on vocals. After “Indiana,” Armstrong’s long-time opener (it must have pained him on some level to not be able to play his trumpet), Armstrong and Douglas duet on “Basin Street Blues” before a wild closing “When the Saints Go Marching In” on which Louis lets us know that his friend Zutty Singleton is in the front row again.

(On “The Saints,” Davis plays drums, sings, dances, and during Miller’s solo, plays some trumpet; according to a student of Pete Fountain, Armstrong chewed Davis out afterwards backstage for hogging the spotlight and stepping on Miller’s solo! Though they apparently got along during the filming of A Man Called Adam, Armstrong hadn’t ever forgiven Davis for the shots he took at Armstrong during the Little Rock episode in 1957 and perhaps that resentment bubbled up backstage in 1970.)

At that point on the show, after the commercial break Douglas sang a song for Armstrong as they showed photos from throughout the week–but Armstrong seems to have taped over it, instead dubbing “It’s So Nice When You’re Nice,” a demo recording by his old friend/arranger/collaborator Horace Gerlach six straight times! There’s just enough time to hear Douglas cut a promo at the very end but that last segment that aired is no longer part of the tape. But other than that, here’s the grand finale:

Louis Armstrong on “The Mike Douglas Show,” May 29, 1970 – Part 3

Somehow there are no photos from this episode either but there’s one great shot with Armstrong and Douglas that serves as a fitting close to this portion of today’s post:


That’s a lot of audio and photos but we’re not through yet! In our last post, we mentioned Louis getting a reel from trumpeter Jimmy Owens and sensing an empty second side, he filled it up with recordings by Dean Martin and Lara Saint Paul. The same thing happened here as, faced with an empty side of this last Douglas tape, Armstrong filled up Side 2 with the rest of Lara Saint Paul’s album, plus two songs by Emily Lontano’ a series of demo recordings by Larry Steele; demos by old friends Lorenzo Pack (another airing of “This Black Cat Has 9 Lives”) and The Jones Brothers of Boston (“I Hear the Sound of Music” and “I Want to Be Loved”; “This Black Cat Has Nine Lives” (Lorenzo Pack); the Irma Curry-Don Elliot album Love is a Necessary Evil; a single by British vocalist Beryl Bryden; Hot Lips Pages’s “Miss Martingale”; a single by Angelo Cernido; Louis and Billie Holiday’s V-Disc of “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans”; and finally, an unissued duet with Velma Middleton on “Mack the Knife” that shows up on multiple tapes. Here’s Armstrong’s rundown of all of the above:

LAHM 1987_2_23~232

Armstrong again just used the tape box sent to him by Mike Douglas’s crew for Reel 108:

LAHM 1987.3.408
LAHM 1987.3.408

Reel 109
Accession Number: 1987.3.409

After all of that, it’s back to a sense of normalcy with Reel 109, the first time in a long time that we find Louis grabbing a reel he originally made in the late 1950s and outfitting it with a new number and catalog page. This one opens with four songs from Ella and Louis Again, dubbed from acetate discs given to Louis after the July 23, 1957 session. Armstrong writes “Oscar Peterson Plays Basie” on his catalog page, an album that does not appear on this tape, though it was in his collection; however, he’s on the mark with Dave Brubeck’s Brubeck Time, which takes up the rest of Side 1 and all of Side 2:

LAHM 1987_2_23~233
LAHM 1987_2_23~234

With the re-cataloging of his 1950s reels comes the return of Armstrong’s collages, a welcome sight! This one must have been falling apart in 1970 as you can spot the original “5” taped on the front, which is how he numbered tapes in the 1950s. Now it’s been covered with Armstrong’s white athletic tape and a new number, but the photos are from the original boxes and come from one of Armstrong’s visits to France in the 1950s. That’s Mezz Mezzrow on the left with the glasses, trumpeter Arthur Briggs in the fedorsa and French critic Maurice Cullaz that Louis is talking to (thank you to Jean Labaye for the identifications!).

LAHM 1987.3.409

Another photo from the same gathering in France:

LAHM 1987.3.409

Reel 110
Accession Number: 1987.3.410

Reel 110 was originally sent to Louis by voiceover announcer Norm Bobrow of Seattle, a demo reel of the best of his work, including a duet he performed with Louis on “Lazy Bones” at an undisclosed venue. Bobrow’s portion only took up about 15 minutes so Armstrong filled up the rest with other material that was sent to him in this period. First were recordings of his protege Chris Clifton, a trumpet player who had just left Lil Hardin Armstrong’s band in Chicago to join the Tuxedo Brass Band in New Orleans. Clifton sent Armstrong three spirited tracks, “Skokiaan,” “Dinah,” and “St. Louis Blues,” performed with the likes of Percy Humphrey, Captain John Handy, and other stalwarts of that scene in New Orleans, if my ears are correct. Armstrong then dubbed live recordings of Peter S. Ferrara (Louis mistaken writes “Ferraca”), who performed Dylan-esque versions of material like “Cocaine Blues” and “Rocky Raccoon,” in between telling stories of hippies, protests, and other allusions to that turbulent era. I’m guessing “Mgr [Manager] Hal Stone” refers to Ferrara but I’m not sure. A strange little reel:

LAHM 1987_2_23~235

Peter S. Ferrara (or Ferraca)’s live recording of “Rocky Raccoon” opens Side 2 before another mysterious entry, “George W. VanDer Plnea,” (?) follows with some traditional jazz standards rendered in frankly pretty amateurish fashion. Pete Fountain follows with his 1964 album Pete’s Place, perhaps something he laid on Pops during their mutual appearance on the Mike Douglas Show (note that what Armstrong heard as “Are You Lonesome Tonight” is actually Fountain’s “Fascination Medley”).

But prey tell, what’s this at the end of the real? Another talk show appearance! This time it’s The David Frost Show from June 9, 1970 but filling in for Frost was guest host Orson Welles. It’s a wonderful appearance, but Armstrong ran out of tape pretty early on. Because we’ve already shared enough audio for a year in this post, we’ll skip it for now and will save that for next time as it is the first thing heard on Reel 111. For now, here’s Side 2 of Reel 110:

LAHM 1987_2_23~236

And the original front and back of the tape box, with Norm Bobrow’s photo and detailed information:

LAHM 1987.3.410
LAHM 1987.3.410

That concludes another marathon post but one we hope was worth the effort–if you enjoyed it, leave us a comment and we’ll be back with more next week!

Published by Ricky Riccardi

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

2 thoughts on “Louis Armstrong’s 1969-1971 Tapes: Reels 106-110

  1. In these episodes with Louis Armstrong and the Mike Douglas did Louis ever wear a bandana? Just curious. As a young trumpet player this was the first time I saw Louis, on this show, and I remember him wearing a bandana on his head. Would love an answer to this question.

  2. love it! I watched the Mike Douglas show. Yes, please keep sending more of this. Just bought a book and hope to get to the Louis Armstrong Museum soon.

Leave a Reply

error: Content is protected
%d bloggers like this: