Louis Armstrong’s 1969-1971 Tapes: Reels 116-120

Our last two posts have contained and hours and hours of audio of Louis Armstrong’s many television appearances in May, June and July 1970 (in case you missed them, this post has five episodes of The Mike Douglas Show with Louis as co-host, while this one has Louis on the Tonight Show, Dial M for Music, the David Frost Show with Orson Welles, and more). Today’s post is more of a breather, Louis listening to some oddities and preparing for his next album, so there’s no audio, but lots of interesting info (and don’t worry, the audio will return in our next installment later this week).

Reel 116
Accession Number: 1987.3.416

Armstrong ended Reel 115 by dubbing the first portion of a 1967 Decca compilation, Duke Ellington’s The Beginning: Volume One (1926-1928)eventually running out of room. The last ten tracks of that LP kick off Reel 116:

LAHM 1987_2_23~247

Oddly, Armstrong left his catalog page blank for Side 2 of Reel 116 and even stuck an “Empty” sticker on it–but upon consulting the tape, it’s actually not blank. But the contents are not very exciting, a dub of what Louis had recorded on Side 2 of Reel 113, the highlight of which was an NBC interview we already shared the audio of in this post.

LAHM 1987_2_23~248

No collage on Reel 116, but Louis’s name is on the back of the box in someone else’s handwriting so it was most likely given to Louis:

LAHM 1987.3.416
LAHM 1987.3.416

Reel 117
Accession Number: 1987.3.417

With Reel 117, we are now in the realm of something completely different. At some point in the summer of 1970, Louis was approached by his old friend Ivan Mogull about potentially recording an album of country and western songs. How long did Armstrong know Mogull? Armstrong sat in with Mogull’s Columbia University big band in the early 1940s and saved photos from those days–here’s one:

LAHM 1987.3.3444

By the 1960s, Mogull was running Ivan Mogull Music Corporation, a music publishing company that put out songs recorded by Nat King Cole, Nina Simone, Julio Iglesias, Phil Collins, Bob Marley, and dozens of other major artists until Mogull’s passing in 2017. In 1970, I assume Mogull hooked up with Cowboy Jack Clement’s Nashville-based Jack Music Incorporated, a major publisher of country music. Perhaps inspired by the success of Ray Charles’s 1962 hit album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music–and Mogull most likely being aware of Armstrong’s 1930 recording with Jimmie Rodgers, not to mention his 1950s Decca covers of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Cold, Cold Heart”–it was decided that Armstrong would be a good candidate to do a country and western album.

Armstrong must have agreed–or his representatives at Associated Booking Corporation agreed–because in July 1970, Mogull sent two tapes of country-western music for Louis to listen to and to select the final list of songs he wanted to record. The tracks on the tapes don’t always line up with Louis’s catalog pages so we’ve consulted the original tapes to list the actual songs in the actual order on each time. Side 1 of Reel 117 featured “Wrinkled Crinkled Wadded Dollar Bill” (Johnny Cash), “Singers of Sad Songs” (Waylon Jennings), “Bob” (The Willis Brothers), “Gentle on My Mind” (Glen Campbell), “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (Ray Stevens), “Almost Persuaded” (David Houston), “King of the Road” (Roger Miller), “I’m Letting You Go” (Eddy Arnold); and “Ring of Fire” (Johnny Cash). Here’s Louis’s catalog page:

LAHM 1987_2_23~249

And here’s Side 2, which included “I’d Still Be There” (Johnny Cash), “Little Bitty Heart” (Claude King), “Wolverton Mountain” (Claude King), “One Inch Off the Ground” (Billy Walker), “Ramona” (Billy Walker), “Get Together” (The Youngbloods), “Doesn’t Anybody Know My Name” (The Stonemans) and “Get Together” (The Stonemans).

LAHM 1987_2_23~250

Armstrong put his own catalog on the outside of the box, but the back featured a typed list of the song titles as prepared by Jack Music Incorporated (and some faint notes about publishers):

LAHM 1987.3.417
LAHM 1987.3.417

Reel 118
Accession Number: 1987.3.418

Reel 118 is more of the same, with Side 1 featuring recordings of “Running Bear” (Sonny James), “The Easy Part’s Over” (Charley Pride), “The Day the World Stood Still” (Charley Pride), “Wonder Could I Live There Anymore” (Charley Pride), “Crystal Chandelier” (Charley Pride), “One of These Days” (Tompall and the Glaser Brothers), “Guess Things Happen That Way” (Tommy Cash), “Girl I Used to Know” (George Jones), “She Still Thinks I Care” (George Jones), and “Miller’s Cave” (Bobby Bare).

LAHM 1987_2_23~251

Side 2 included “Let’s Get Together” (Bobby Lee Fears), “Brother Orchid” (Bobby Lee Fears), “Someday You’ll Want Me to Want You” (Don Gibson), “Crazy Arms” (Ray Price), “Fool Such As I” (Elvis Presley), “Just Because” (Brenda Lee), “You Can Have Her” (Jim Ed Brown), “If You Were Mine, Mary” (Eddy Arnold), and “Walk On By” (Leroy Van Dyke).

LAHM 1987_2_23~252

And here’s the box for Reel 118, with another typed up list from Cowboy Jack Clement’s company:

LAHM 1987.3.118
LAHM 1987.3.118

Reel 119
Accession Number: 1987.3.119

Reel 119 begins with something that also must have been part of the country-western preparation, a dub of Sonny James and the Southern Gentlemen recordings, including a brand new 1970 single of “Don’t Keep Me Hangin’ On” and “Ramblin’ Rose” (which ended up on the finished album) and a bunch of others, finishing with Leroy Van Dyke’s “My World is Caving In.” Perhaps needing a break from all the countrified sounds, Armstrong ended the reel with “Hello, Dolly!” from his June 1970 TV appearance on Dial M for Music, as heard on Reel 111 (and in this post).

LAHM 1987_2_23~253

Side 2 contains two more Leroy Van Dyke songs, “Black Cloud” and “Five Steps,” the former chosen by Louis to record. But the rest of the side is taken up by something different: the first side of a souvenir LP featuring play-by-play highlights of the New York Knicks’s championship-winning season! The audio is not on YouTube, but you can view the details here. The Knicks won Game 7 on May 8 so this album was probably rushed out in July, which checks out with where we are in Armstrong’s 1970 chronology.

In fact, if you look closely, Louis wrote the titles of three songs that made it onto his country-western album–“Ramblin’ Rose,” “Crystal Chandeliers,” and “The Easy Part’s Over”–before crossing them out, covering it with tape and writing a date, “Monday -Aug 3rd 1970.” What’s the significance of that date? That was the date of the first session for Louis “Country and Western” Armstrong and those were the three tunes Armstrong recorded on that day. We’ll have more from those sessions in future posts but like Armstrong’s piece of tape, we’ll throw that out of our minds for now….

LAHM 1987_2_23~254

Another example of Armstrong recycling a tape box as this one originally contained the complete appearance on Dial M For Music, which Armstrong dubbed to Reel 111:

LAHM 1987.3.419
LAHM 1987.3.419

Reel 120
Accession Number: 1987.3.420

Reel 120 opens with the conclusion of the 1970 New York Knicks album, another dub the Leroy Van Dyke tune “Five Steps,” and then Armstrong’s own recording of “This Black Cat Has Nine Lives” from Louis Armstrong and His Friends. Note that Armstrong was going through a spell of making 7 1/2 speed tapes, which allowed for better sound quality, but less running time.

LAHM 1987_2_23~255

Side 2 of Reel 120 inspired the most detailed catalog page we’ve seen in quite some time. Armstrong seems to have been in a rush for much of the summer of 1970, making tapes in his increasingly diminishing free time, as he was spending a lot of time on television, traveling to Los Angeles, traveling to Newport, getting back in the recording studio, etc. Because of that, Armstrong’s catalog pages have been a bit half-baked lately, but he makes up for it here, writing the entire personnel of some of his early 1950s Decca sides, taking his time to list all the sidemen in capital letters. The LP Louis dubbed was an edition of The Glenn Miller Story soundtrack, with All Stars recordings of “Basin Street Blues,” “Otchi-Tchnor-Ni-Ya,” “Margie,” and “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” from March 1954, and “Big Butter and Egg Man” with Velma Middleton and Gordon Jenkins’s Orchestra from February 1951. With time to spare, Armstrong began dubbing Louis Armstrong and His Friends again, but ran out of time.

LAHM 1987_2_23~256

For the first time in forever, a photograph on a tape box! Alas, we don’t know the name of this trombonist but if you zoom in, there is a pretty illegible autograph–any ideas?

LAHM 1987.3.420
LAHM 1987.3.420

That does it for this week’s look at Louis’s tapes; we’ll be back soon with a lot more goodies from the summer of 1970, including much more audio of Louis on television and at home.

Published by Ricky Riccardi

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

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