Last time out, Louis began redubbing his May 1970 appearances as co-host of The Mike Douglas Show in December of that same year, something that continues for the first few tapes in today’s post–but then the surprises and fun stuff starts and doesn’t stop until the end of the post so be sure to make it to the finish line (feel free to take small breaks for food and sleep!).
Accession Number: 1987.3.449
Armstrong opens Reel 151 with the second of five Mike Douglas Show appearances, originally broadcast the last week of May 1970 (though they must have been syndicated and aired in other markets the first week of June as that’s the date that Louis gives on his catalog pages below). We went into great detail–and shared all the audio–in this post so for the sake of time, we’re going speed things along and just share the catalog pages (with a switch from pen to black marker on the first page):
Starting slowly today with a blank box and a simple “Reel 151” sticker on the front and back:
Accession Number: 1987.3.450
Armstrong finishes his Mike Douglas Show project on Reel 152, with the rest of those co-hosting appearances taking up both sides of the tape–except for a little surprise at the very end we’ll discuss below. First, the catalog pages:
Okay, the little surprise: notice the switch to blue ink on the bottom of Side 2, Page 2 above? Louis writes, “Radio Stereo – Program – Robert Dillon Sing etc. etc. etc.” What, pray tell, does that mean? Louis had some extra time left at the end of the reel so he turned on FM radio and recorded a few minutes of WNEW radio live off the air? And what was on at precise minute: Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay,” the Rolling Stones’s “Salt of the Earth,” George Harrison’s “Let it Down,” and the disc jockey was just getting into Traffic’s “John Barleycorn” before Louis ran out of tape. So there’s yet another example of Louis turning on WNEW to stay in touch with the popular sounds of the day–who knows how often he did this without the tape recorder running, but probably often enough. And if you haven’t picked up on it yet, yes, “Robert Dillon” was Armstrong’s way of noting the music of none other than Bob Dylan!
With that out of the way, here are the front and back images of the box for Reel 152:
Accession Number: 1987.3.451
Now sit back and relax for this next entry because for Reel 153, Louis once again reached back to tapes he originally made in the 1950s but this time, he must have spliced some together because the finished reel is 6 HOURS AND 15 MINUTES long and as you’ll see below, it took Louis eight handwritten pages to catalog in full. Not all of it is gold, but there are definitely some moments worth sharing so please be patient as I attempt to take you through the contents of the entire tape.
We begin with Louis recording WGN radio live off the air in the early 1950s, capturing the legendary Daddy O’Daylie’s radio show with special guest vocalist Sylvia Syms. Aside from Syms’s interview and her own selections (“Can’t You Just See Yourself” and “Down in the Depths on the 90th Floor”), O’Daylie also spun records by Nat King Cole (“This is My Night to Dream”) and Lionel Hampton (his closing theme, “Midnight Sun”). According to Louis, that’s followed by an unnamed “Studio Radio Combo” playing some traditional jazz warhorses. Interestingly, their version of “Beale Street Blues” follows Eddie Condon’s arrangement of it right down to replicating Cliff Leeman’s closing drum break from Condon’s 1953 Columbia recording, but during the solos, they’re clearly not Condonites and actually appear to be a bit on the amateurish side.
Next, Armstrong dubbed two 1920s sides by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, featuring vocals by the Rhythm Boys (Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, and Al Rinker) and hot cornet solos by Bix Beiderbecke, “From Monday On” and “Mississippi Mud” (Irene Taylor also sings on the latter).
Here’s the first catalog page covering all of the above:
Next up, another All Stars concert from their South American tour of the fall of 1957, this one from Montevideo, Uruguay. Unfortunately, like some of the other South American tapes we’ve encountered, there are sound issues as the concert is at the wrong speed and the placement of microphone makes it heavy on the rhythm section but the vocals are very hard to hear–and then in the second half of the concert, someone must have turned a dial and recorded the rest of the concert a very low level.
Still, we were able to pitch correct everything and are at least able to share exciting versions of “Pretty Little Missy” and “Ole Miss”–both with encores–but warning, the sound quality is brutal–for completists only! Oh, and the band is Louis, Trummy Young on trombone, Edmond Hall on clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano, Squire Gersh on bass, and Barrett Deems on drums:
Armstrong does a pretty good job of cataloging the Montevideo show but for any discographers out there, the All Stars performed the following numbers: “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” “Lazy River,” “Pretty Little Missy,” “Now You Has Jazz,” “High Society Calypso,” “Ole Miss,” “Blue Moon” (Billy Kyle feature), “Blues for Bass” (Squire Gersh feature), “Mack the Knife,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy” (Barrett Deems feature), “Basin Street Blues,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Perdido” (Billy Kyle feature), “Sweet Georgia Brown” (Edmond Hall feature), “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue,” “La Vie En Rose,” and “I Get Ideas.” Here are Louis’s catalog page for the concert:
Next, we hear from Armstrong during his Italian tour of 1952, receiving records and presents on behalf of the Hot Club of Genoa. Gino from the Hot Club says a few words and Louis mentions talking to “Mr. Bullard,” another reference to Eugene Bullard, who was his right-hand-man during that 1952 European trip. It isn’t long, but here’s the audio of a fun little moment:
What follows is a dub of The Strawhatters, an album by the Gate Avenue Strawhatters, a jazz band from Genoa, Italy, spun for Louis during his hang with the Hot Club members. What a moment that must have been for them!
We then skip to 1953 to hear offstage audio and a woman he identifies as a “fan,” but whom we’ll later learn is Geneva Sneed (more on her in a bit). In this next clip, Sneed reads a review from January 7, 1953 of Armstrong’s show in Providence, Rhode Island. Here’s the audio:
After a classical music interlude of music Armstrong recorded in Stuttgart from trumpeter Horst Fischer with the Ernest Lehm Orchestra, Armstrong comes on the mike and joins Sneed in reading letters and reviews. When I first heard the name “Geneva Sneed,” it almost sounded fake (a la W. C. Fields’s “Sneed Hearn”) but a quick search of the internet finds Geneva Sneed was born on October 7, 1923 and lived in Philadelphia her entire life, passing away in the year 2000 (obituaries use her married name, Geneva Sneed Coleman). Armstrong opened at the Rendezvous in Philly on January 14 and this tape was made during that engagement (it’s mentioned a few times)
Fan mail was obviously piling up for Armstrong as he opens by reading a letter from a fan, Albert Breland (whom apparently Sneed knew) saying that since Armstrong gets a new Selmer trumpet every year, could he send one of his old ones to Breland? Armstrong sounds noncommittal in his response. Armstrong then finds an article “Satchmo Finds Horn Speaks World Language” and has Sneed read it. “Is this thing catching that?” she asks, making sure the tape recorder is running before some giggling ensues. Armstrong credits Sneed after her reading and reads a review of his show at the Rendezvous. With the newspaper open, Armstrong briefly mentions Tallulah Bankhead, Jerry Lester, Leslie Uggams (who had just temporarily changed her name to Leslie Crane, which Louis thought was an improvement), and Pearl Bailey. There’s even a quick mention of Willie Mabon’s R&B hit, “I Don’t Know,” recorded in October 1952 and released in December; Armstrong hadn’t heard it yet.
Sneed then reads a story about Armstrong performing at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam during that 1952 European tour. Armstrong reads a a Christmas card from Barney Bigard that features a joke about bebop but more interestingly, Armstrong talks about Bigard rejoining the All Stars soon. Bigard was plagued by hemorrhoids and had to skip the All Stars’s trip to Europe, his place taken by Bob McCracken, but apparently “the doctor slashed his ass there” and Bigard was cleared to return.
Louis then finds a bill from Lucille for an umbrella that cost $8.95, which seems to shock him; “Goddamn, if I were to pay that much for an umbrella, it better rain every day of the year!” he says. Armstrong and Sneed then analyze the listings for who else is playing Philadelphia, including Jean Carroll, Teresa Brewer, Earl Bostic, Hortense Allen, and Sam Cross. A mention of Cole Porter’s Can Can leads Armstrong to reflect on seeing “can can” dances as only he can (around 16:00). As they read, there’s mentions of Wini Brown and her record of “Gone Again,” Louis mentions how much money Buster Keaton and George Raft make for their films, Sneed mentions Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons breaking up, and there’s another article about Armstrong at the Rendezvous.
Eventually they get to a column by Walter Winchell, whom Louis calls “my man,” before reflecting about how he used to write Winchell when third wife Alpha was cheating on him with white drummer Cliff Leeman in the early 1940s (Armstrong mentions “Cliff” and catches himself, but it’s assuredly Leeman). About Alpha, Armstrong says, “How do you like that, I was buying that bitch all kinds of furs, diamonds all down to her asshole and she was bragging over some bill this Cliff–this ofay drummer!–[paid], an $18 gas bill!” Armstrong never got over Alpha’s infidelity–even though he had been cheating on her with future fourth wife Lucille Wilson while they were married.
After Sneed reads another Winchell column about Henri Selmer sending Armstrong a new trumpet every year (probably where Albert Breland got the idea to write), Armstrong mentions that it’s late and he’s getting sleepy and says that everyone else has gone home. “It’s kind of late for you to be staying here,” he says, before adding, “you better stay here four more hours then go back home!” They laugh and Armstrong mentions that’s actually a line from his routine with Velma Middleton, “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” before going back to the newspaper to read a story about racehorse. The giggling and laughing (and sound of ice tinkling in a glass) gets more pronounced but eventually they run out of tape as Louis sees a story about someone he knows with a slight case of flu. Was Armstrong on good behavior or was he making a move? I’m assuming the latter, though when Sneed whispers something to him at 10:51, Armstrong admonishes, “Stop whispering, people will think we’re doing something,” the rest of the line obscured by their laugher. Anyway, you can decide for yourself–here’s the entire 23-minute sequence:
And here’s Louis’s catalog page for all of the above, from the Genoa recording through the tape with Sneed, simply described as “Recording at home with a Fan – Satch Reading Write-ups – Letters.” There’s something fascinating here between the classical music and before the tape with Sneed, where Armstrong writes “Tolerating Tallerie–A New Song Dedicated to Frenchie, Satchmo’s Former Road Manager.” Indeed, Pierre “Frenchy” Tallerie was Armstrong’s longtime road manager whom just about everybody hated (he was more of the company spy for Joe Glaser) but in listening to the entire six-hour tape to prepare for this post, I couldn’t find such a song anywhere on the tape; maybe it was there at some point and accidentally taped over? It’s a mystery, but here’s the page:
Side 1 of Reel 153 ends with something fascinating: we’re back in 1970 and Louis is listening to demo recordings sent to him by the famed rock ‘n’ roll team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller of songs that were apparently never recorded by anyone, including “You’ve Got the Gear,” “Friends,” and “Colored Folks.” The last song is kind of jaw-dropping; one can understand why the Coasters refused to record it, as relayed in this interview with Leiber and Stoller, Stoller remembering the Coasters’ responding, “We are not going to sing that song. We are not going to sing that song. You think it’s funny? You think it’s great? You want to be political? You want to make comments. You sing them.” The Coasters did record “Down Home Girl” in 1967 and “D. W. Washburn” and “Shak ‘Em Up and Let ‘Em Roll” in 1968 and those sides round out this segment of Reel 153. Were Leiber and Stiller trying to get Armstrong to record some of their songs? That would have been interesting, but alas, did not come to pass. Here’s the catalog page for this section of the tape (the names at the top are leftovers from the conversation with Geneva Sneed):
We’re still in 1970 as Reel 153 flips over to side 2, opening with a dub of By the Beautiful Sea, a 1970 release by British trumpeter Rod Mason, apparently “Sent To Satch – Berl Bryden’s Suggestion” according to Louis’s. British vocalist Beryl Bryden visited Armstrong at home in the summer of 1970 (she took photos we included in this post) and must have told Louis about this album–here’s Louis’s catalog page:
Sticking in 1970, Armstrong dubs the folk album Sounds Like Cornwall, also released in 1970 and featuring items like “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore.” But there’s something tantalizing at the end of the catalog page: “At Home in Corona Louis Pops Armstrong and Lucille – Making Tape Recordings With Neighbors.” More on that below, but first, Louis’s page:
So, what is this “At Home in Corona” tape all about? Once again we flash back to the 1950s for the ending of what sounds like a pretty fun evening at the Armstrong residence. The Brown family from across the street came over for dinner and drinks and eventually ended up in Louis’s den, where they were wowed by the collages on the walls. Louis turned on his tape recorder and let the Browns make a tape, passing the microphone around, mentioning the “dirty pictures” on the wall, referencing the good Scotch that is being poured, and even reading a joke out of Louis’s typewritten, homemade joke book. Louis sounds like a good host and the life of the party; we know this is in that 1952-53 era because Louis hadn’t discovered Swiss Kriss yet (that would come in 1954) and instead there are jokes about Pluto Water, his previous laxative of choice, and Bisma Rex.
The Browns sound like a bunch of characters (some of those accents would be perfect for sketch comedy but even “Saturday Night Live” might consider them too broad) and thanks to the magic of Ancestry.com, I can share a little more about them as they’re all listed in the 1950 census. They lived at 34-45 107th Street, indeed across from the Armstrongs at 34-56. The man they continually refer to as “Daddy” or “Daddy-o” is Charles A. Brown, a bus driver from New York who was born around 1901, just like Louis. His wife is Bernice, born c. 1908, a housewife who acts as emcee early on and introduces the other party-goers, Dottie, Bud, Ed, and Honey. The census doesn’t reveal those names, but does list the many Brown offspring: daughters Charlotte (born c. 1929), Lois (born c. 1930), Florence (born c. 1935), and Gloria (born c. 1942), and sons Charles (born c. 1934) and William (born c. 1940). I’m guessing “Dottie” could be a nickname for Charlotte, but I don’t know about Honey, and it sounds like either Bud or Ed are outsiders as one of them is heard kissing Honey. There’s also multiple references to a “baby” across the street, who must have been born after the 1950 census, and a quick reference to Charles at the very end, but I guess he didn’t make the party.
At 6:39, Lucille comes on with a great introduction–“This is Lucille Armstrong, Brown Sugar, Mrs. Gatemouth, Gizzardmouth Armstrong”–but gets “insulted” when she can’t get the attention of the guests because Louis is showing them more “nasty” pictures on his wall. If you don’t know what this is referring to, in the 1950s, Louis’s den was covered with photographs that he personally Scotch-taped to the wall. Lucille eventually had the collages taken down during a renovation in 1960, but Charles Graham visited in 1958 and was at least at able to immortalize it with some photographs, such as as this one:
Eventually Armstrong shows off his tape collection by playing a rare recording of “Ain’t It the Truth,” his featured performance from Cabin in the Sky that was cut from the finished film. They listen for a while but seem more interested in playing the tape back that they just made, which is how this segment ends.
Thus, with all of the preamble out of the way, let’s listen to the Armstrong and the Browns having fun in Corona in the early 1950s. And as always, if any relatives of the Brown family are out there–of if any of folks on this tape are still living–please reach out!
After the visit from the Browns, Armstrong gets back to listening to music, again originally dubbed in the 1950s. The next sequence includes alternates between a Tito Puente single from 1952, “Mambiando” backed by “Mambo Suavecito,” and a 1954 Jolly Roger LP, Bix Beiderbecke and His Gang Volume 1. Armstrong dubs one Puente single side, then an entire Bix LP side, then flips them both over and repeats the process. He continues in an alternating mood, mixing Tito Rodriguez’s single of “Sun Sun Babe” and “Ya Soy Feliz” with Little Miss Cornshucks’s single “In the Rain” and “Cornshucks Blues.”
Next up, something that’s a mystery but worth sharing because it’s pretty unique. Louis sounds like he’s in his dressing room, and we’re assuming this is still the early 1950s, and a man starts scatting the opening riff to Joe Garland’s old composition “Leap Frog”–this turns into a full-blown unaccompanied performance of a song about grasshoppers and “one slick spider,” with plenty of wild scatting throughout. After this performance, which Louis appreciates, Louis can be heard going through a lead sheet of what he just heard, reading the lyrics to himself while the singer/songwriter coaches him through. Louis never delivers a performance of it but the whole sequence is quite fascinating. Louis probably had to deal with these kinds of pitches every day, but this singer is a lot of fun–does he sound familiar to anyone out there? (Austin Casey, any thoughts?) In his catalog sheet, Louis credits it to “Dizzy Gillespie,” though it’s clearly not him–is it Joe Carroll or someone in Dizzy’s orbit? I searched the rest of our Archives and there’s no sheet music and or lead sheets or anything related to this mysterious song, but here’s the watermarked audio:
Another demo follows of a pretty corny song, “I’m Just a Happy Lucky Guy,” which Louis tells us was written by Eddie Carter and sung by Brian Jerden; it’s pretty amateurish and it’s no wonder why Louis passed on it, but he still immortalized it on his tapes.
Finally, this epic reel comes to a close back in 1970 with a dub of Louis Armstrong and His Friends. Here are the final two catalog pages, covering the Brown family, Tito Puente, Bix, Tito Rodriguez, Little Miss Cornshucks, and more:
With over six hours of content, Louis chose to highlight only Chicago, Daddy-O Daylie, Bix Beiderbecke, Bing Crosby, the Rhythm Boys, and Paul Whiteman on the piece of tape he added to the front of the box for Reel 153:
The back of the box has a description of Sylvia Syms’s appearance on Daddy-O Daylie’s show, written in pencil and definitely not in Louis’s hand, though he added “The Browns” in blue ink:
Accession Number: 1987.3.452
Reel 154 opens with dubs of Armstrong’s two major 1970 albums, Louis Armstrong and His Friends and Louis “Country and Western” Armstrong, before he again reaches back into the past and pulls out a treasure: a radio broadcast from the time Louis was named “King of the Zulus” at Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 1949! If you know your Armstrong history, this was a controversial move for the trumpeter outside of his hometown, but Armstrong paid the naysayers little mind and remained proud of the honor. So here he is, originally in the 1950s reliving it on tape, and then doing it once more in 1970. And of course, we’re going to share the watermarked audio of this broadcast, which includes an immortal moment when Mayor deLesseps Morrison reminds Louis that he told Time magazine that once named King of the Zulus, he’d be “ready to die.” “Well, I don’t want the Lord don’t take me literally!” Armstrong quips! Here’s the audio:
And here’s the catalog page for Side 1:
Side 2 is another tape from the early 1950s and features Louis and some friends at home, talking and listening to music. The sound quality isn’t great and the talk is mostly off-mike so we’re going to skip the audio on this one, but here are the songs they listened to: “When it’s Sleepy Time Down South” (Louis Armstrong with Gordon Jenkins), “If I Didn’t Care” (The Ink Spots), “Whispering Grass” (The Ink Spots) (Louis mentions Sid Catlett used to sing “Whispering Grass”), “No Orchids for My Lady” (The Ink Spots), “I’m Used to You” (The Ink Spots), “She Would Not Yield” (The Ink Spots), “It’s All in the Game” (Louis Armstrong), “My Golden Horn” (a song written by Seymour Schwartz and sent to Louis on an acetate disc featuring an unidentified Armstrong impersonator), “I Get Ideas” (Louis Armstrong), and “The Sleeping Beauty: Panorama/Pas Do Six/Singing Canary/Violente Waltz/Apothsosis” (Andre Kostelanetz). Here’s the catalog page for Side 2:
The front of Reel 154 has a fun photo of Louis with three unidentified entertainers, one holding a guitar–wish we knew who they were.
The photo on the back of the box requires a little detective work, though perhaps one of our readers can quickly confirm what I’m about to share. This a photo of the Royal Room, obviously, and a quick search shows that was a traditional jazz club in Hollywood in the early 1950s. The white man in the two-tone shirt appears in multiple photos with Louis but I’ve never been able to identify him. However, I just found an article from the March 1, 1956 issue of the Pasadena Independent about the Hollywood jazz club Zardi’s Jazzland, and how it was a dream come true for its co-owner Sam Donato, who came to Hollywood in 1953 and began “operating such places as Chi-Chi and the Royal Room.” Thus, I’m fairly certain that’s Sam Donato in the two-tone shirt. The man in the hat looks so familiar but I can’t place him (it’s not Meade Lux Lewis, is it?), but I’m fairly certain that’s Louis’s close friend Stuff Crouch, a Los Angeles nightclub owner, behind them. The others are unidentified and alas, Louis’s Scotch-tape has obscured most of the signs (looks like the artist “Now Appearing” had a name that began with “Jo”), but it’s still a pretty great photo!
Accession Number: 1987.3.453
Reel 155 picks up where Reel 154 left off, another tape from the early 1950s that continues the dub of Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra doing Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty Balley Op. 66. Armstrong then got into an Anita O’Day kick, listening to her recordings of “Key Largo,” “Hi Ho Trailus Boot Whip,” “I Ain’t Getting’ Any Younger,” “Malaguena,” and “How High the Moon” before turning back to himself and his big Decca hit of 1951, “I Get Ideas” and “A Kiss to Build a Dream On.” (In between, he takes a phone call, hence the “Talk–Satchmo” notation below.) The side ends with another dub of the Armstrong impersonator doing Seymour Schwartz’s “My Golden Horn”; perhaps Armstrong was seriously considering recording it. Here’s the catalog sheet (with “classical music” abbreviated to “Class Music”!):
We close today back in South America with the first part of an All Stars concert from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on November 28, 1957 (not 1952 as Louis writes below). If you’ve been with me from a while, Armstrong brought back audio of multiple concerts from his South American tour of 1957 but almost all of them had some sort of sound issue. This Rio show, though, is one of the best (even though you’ll hear some hum) and Armstrong is in scintillating form throughout.
For the discographers in the house, the All Stars performed “When it’s Sleepy Time Down South,” “Back Home Again in Indiana,” “Lazy River,” “Now You Has Jazz,” “High Society Calypso,” “Twelfth Street Rag,” “Perdido” (Billy Kyle feature), “Sweet Georgia Brown” (Edmond Hall feature), “How High the Moon” (Squire Gersh feature) and “Tenderly.” Last week, we shared audio from the All Stars’s show in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 24, when saxophonist Booker Pittman sat in with the band for a few numbers. In Rio, they had another special guest, trombonist Lionel Guimaraes, who played with Louis during his European tour in the 1930s–he’s the trombonist in the famous footage of Armstrong in Copenhagen in 1933! Guimaraes joins the band stays on for the rest of the set, which included “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “Stompin at the Savoy,” “Tiger Rag,” “St. Louis Blues” (Velma Middleton, vocal), “Ko Ko Mo” (Velma Middleton, vocal), and “When the Saints go Marching In” (with dedications from Louis).
We’re only going to share a small sample because hey, in a just world, there’d be a commercial release for such a concert–maybe this will whet the appetite for such a release! Here’s a great “Twelfth Street Rag” and we’re letting it run through Billy Kyle’s “Perdido” feature because while Kyle played, Armstrong sat for a short interview with the Brazilian announcer:
And because we featured Pittman last time, here’s Guimaraes on “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” an appropriate choice since Guimaraes was the trombonist on Armstrong’s first studio recording of this tune, made in Paris on November 7, 1934:
Here’s Louis’s catalog page for the Rio show–note it says “TV Show”! Who has access to Brazilian television archives? Would be amazing if the video still survived for this broadcast!
After so much content, I personally am thankful the box for Reel 155 is a plain one–I don’t know how much more I can describe!
That concludes another action-packed post, our last one before we take a little break for the holidays. But don’t worry, I’ve already started on a few more the finish line is near–this series will probably be finished in about four more posts. Thanks for sticking with me–Happy Holidays!