Last month, we set the scene for Louis Armstrong’s August 1967 engagement at Caesar’s Monticello in Framingham, Massachusetts with a post about Louis and his entourage’s stay at the Monticello Motel, aided and abetted by several dozen photos snapped by Jack Bradley. Today, we will continue the saga but this time will focus on the Monticello stage–including some audio.
But first, let’s get Pops to the venue, courtesy of a few Bradley photos of Louis approaching from afar (and oddly, all alone):
Having arrived, Bradley saved whatever he could find to commemorate the engagement, including a program, which he had Louis autograph. Here are scans of the entire program, including a message from proprietor Caesar Tamagno, father of our reader Cid Tamagno–hopefully this brings back some happy memories for her!
Little cards were placed on every table, noting the $7 per person minimum–Jack saved one of those, too:
Okay, let’s start the show. I originally assumed this was the emcee, but the program says the comedian and emcee was the same person, Tommy Penner and I don’t believe this is him; perhaps Cid Tamagno can help identify him:
Maybe I’m making a mistake in assuming, but this fella looks more like a comedian, so I’m thinking this is Tommy Penner:
As will be revealed, Jack caught multiple shows and took photos from multiple angles. For one show that he recorded, he seemed to stay in Louis’s dressing room, recording portions of it from a speaker that piped in the music backstage. Thus, we’ll set the scene with some glimpses of Louis in his dressing room, signing autographs:
Lucille Armstrong did not make this trip but according to a later tape-recorded conversation with Jean “Roni” Failows, Louis was joined at Monticello by another old female friend from way back, dancer Elsie Blow. Using that clue, I believe this is Blow backstage with Failows:
Back to Louis–what is he autographing? The brand new Columbia Records compilation, Louis Armstrong’s Greatest Hits, released in June 1967. This particular LP wasn’t for Jack; the Bradley Collection has three copies, but none are signed:
Jack had a little tape recorder with him and some 3-inch tapes and turned it on in time to catch a quick bit of Louis warming up:
And then it’s showtime! This is far from high fidelity sound and it’s not complete, but the audio of this set from August 11, 1967 is definitely worth sharing since it’s not in any discographies. Jack turned on his tape recorder at the very end of “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” just in time to get Louis’s patented “Good evening, everybody” closer. Pianist Marty Napoleon kicks off “Indiana,” with Louis testing out his chops during the introduction; as mentioned in the previous post, the summer of 1967 was an erratic time for Louis’s trumpet work but he’s mostly in good shape here, if not in his prime. In addition to Napoleon, you’ll hear Tyree Glenn on trombone, Joe Muranyi on clarinet, Buddy Catlett on bass, Danny Barcelona on drums, each of whom gets a solo on the group’s standard opener. (Though by this time, Louis was no longer soloing on “Indiana,” saving his chops for the two choruses of lead up front and the rideout chorus, testing the chops out multiple times during the other solos.)
At 4:19, Louis launches into “St. James Infirmary,” which re-entered the All Stars’s book around 1966. The band always had to pay attention here as Louis’s chops would dictate the routine. Some versions exist that are vocal only, other times there’s a chorus of trumpet up front and it ends on a vocal, and then there’s some very special performances with two choruses of strong trumpet at the start and a powerful rideout, complete with cadenza. In Framingham he splits the difference, knowing he had enough gas to take a pretty wild single opening chorus, sounding strong and improvising well, but he stops after the one helping and closes the performance with the vocal.
At 6:36, Joe Muranyi takes the lead on “Tiger Rag,” a too-short run-through as it had been performed by the All Stars since 1960. After that, Marty Napoleon performed “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone,” but Jack made the decision to save tape and stopped the recording, turning it back on at 8:28 to catch the start of “Hello, Dolly!” Louis’s chops are percolating here as he plays lots of different ideas; Joe Muranyi told me this was a number he always looked forward to performing because Louis would often improvise and Joe had to be on his toes in those ensembles.
After a bunch of fun encores, Louis introduces Joe Muranyi, causing Jack to again turn off the tape recorder, turning it back on to catch the tail end of a Jewel Brown vocal feature. After a taste of “Mop Mop” at 14:07, Louis goes into “Blueberry Hill,” getting a great ovation from the start.
At 18:52, we get something different that as you’ll see must have really excited Jack Bradley: Louis and Tyree Glenn’s duet on “That’s My Desire.” Ever since Velma Middleton died in 1961, Louis retired all of their old duets, choosing not to revive them with Jewel Brown (it’s possible, even probable, that it was Brown’s decision). However, Louis knew they were show-stoppers and missed doing them so he finally taught “That’s My Desire” to Tyree Glenn while in the hospital, recovering from a bout of pneumonia that felled him for much of May and June 1967. Glenn even wore a woman’s hat for the duet, shades of routines Louis used to do with Zutty Singleton in Chicago in the 1920s. Bradley had been with Louis for the Herb Alpert television taping but probably hadn’t seen the All Stars in some time, so “That’s My Desire” especially thrilled him; much photographic evidence will follow but you can hear it starting at 18:50. The routine completely brings down the house.
At the tale end of the tape, Bradley skips Buddy Catlett’s bass feature, records a quick snippet of “Mame” and then saves the last minute of tape for Louis backstage telling a joke that was the favorite of trombonist George Washington–it’s great to hear Jack’s laugh close out the reel. Here’s the audio:
The reason we decided to put such a long audio clip towards the top of this post is now you can hit play and have something to listen to while soaking in these images–and we have so many photos, it might take the full 26 minutes to get through them all!
I have tried grouping them by angle, to give a sense of Bradley’s unique position for each Armstrong set. For these initial striking images, he had a plum spot in the wings to capture Louis in all of his glory, basking in the spotlight:
From the same perch, the All Stars in action, with Muranyi seemingly in the center and Louis hanging back; could be “Tiger Rag”:
I love the photos where Tyree is alongside Louis, taking in the applause; you can feel the warmth generated by these two even from behind:
We’ve already shared the audio, but here are the first–of many–photos of Armstrong and Glenn doing “That’s My Desire” from the same backstage vantage:
We’ll have lots more from “That’s My Desire” in a bit, but here’s another great photo of Louis basking in the spotlight:
Here’s a batch of photos from what appears to be another show, also shot from the wings from a slightly different angle:
Joe Muranyi in the spotlight:
Tyree Glenn again wearing his “That’s My Desire” hat:
From the other side of the wings:
Back to the original side for a shot of the All Stars in full swing:
That’s such a good photo, I think it needs a soundtrack. One of Louis’s favorite features in this period was “Cabaret,” which he initially recorded for Columbia in August 1966. Though far from a hit, Armstrong added it to his live shows and grew more comfortable swinging it as 1967 progressed, eventually re-recording a definitive version just a few days after Monticello on August 16, the same day he would record “What a Wonderful World.” It wasn’t part of the August 11 set we already shared, but it did appear in a few other sets that Bradley recorded; the first one we’ll share comes from August 8. Louis sounds a little shaky at first, as his first note doesn’t quite come out, but he recovers nicely. During the vocal, you can hear Jack Bradley talking to someone backstage, but the conversation ends in time for some strong trumpet work at 2:50. And then at 4:35, we get an encore with another half chorus of trumpet lead–here’s the audio:
For those who like to compare multiple versions of the same song, here’s “Cabaret” from August 9, the very next night, following the same routine but with lots of different ideas in the instrumental passages:
With a new soundtrack, another photo of the All Stars:
From a slightly different vantage point, some more striking negatives of the All Stars in action:
Now this is the definition of speculation but in the next photo, Louis is singing and it appears the woman in the front row is also singing; it was also in the summer of 1967 that Louis began ending his shows with a vocal version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” encouraging his audiences to sing along on the last chorus. Perhaps that’s the soundtrack to these images (though Jack didn’t record any versions that week):
The crowd is still standing but now the All Stars (and the arm of Jewel Brown) are visible so this is most likely a concluding reprise of “Hello, Dolly!” or “When the Saints Go Marching In”:
With Jewel now visible, here’s some more photos from a different spot in the wings:
Bradley seemingly got a front-row seat for this next show, getting some really striking photos of the “That’s My Desire” routine:
Perhaps we need another soundtrack for these photos? Here’s another version of “That’s My Desire” from August 9, featuring a similar routine but stay to the end when Louis tells the audience of Glenn, “He wears the biggest diamonds and the raggedy-est underwear!” This seems to break up the other members of the band more than anyone else–here’s the audio:
Back to another photo of “That’s My Desire”:
Different side of the stage but still a nice close-up of Pops in action:
Great shot of the All Stars front line, with Danny Barcelona driving them from the back:
A few photos of Jewel Brown’s features:
Judging by Louis’s handclaps and Tyree Glenn doing the twist, we are firmly in “Hello, Dolly!” territory in this next photo:
Again, I must break it up with some music–here’s “Hello, Dolly!” from August 8 with the instrumental chorus coming at 1:08:
And again, to show how Louis could change things up from night to night, here’s “Dolly” from August 9, with the trumpet playing beginning at 0:53. Louis was feeling so good this night, he dipped back into his old quotes of “Stormy Weather” and “Japanese Sandman,” which he used to play regularly before his teeth issues began in 1965:
Back to the photos, we’re still close to the stage and still in the middle of “Dolly”:
Tyree asks for one more go-around on “Hello, Dolly!”
A tanned Marty Napoleon in the spotlight:
Buddy Catlett during one of his features:
More “That’s My Desire”:
Some beautiful photos of Louis doing his thing:
More Jewel Brown:
Louis digging Tyree Glenn’s vibraphone work:
Slapping five with Joe Muranyi:
Joe “Ma-Rainey,” as Louis humorously called him:
Quite an expression on Louis’s face here:
A smile is never far behind:
Another show, another seat for Jack Bradley, this time shooting from a bit further back in the audience. Here’s Tyree Glenn getting ready for one of his vibraphone features:
Tyree takes a bow:
Another go at “That’s My Desire”:
Marty Napoleon takes a bow after one of his features:
Ditto for Joe Muranyi:
Tyree’s hand gesture lets us know that this is the start of “Hello, Dolly!”:
Jewel Brown joins the band for the finale:
And one more with everyone in full flight, including Jewel:
Jack liked that one enough to turn it into a print–here’s a scan:
That concludes this immersive look at what the All Stars did night in and night out at Caesar’s Monticello in August 1967–except for one special day when the cast of Funny Girl came for a show and Louis returned the favor. Jack Bradley was there with his camera and was once again there with his tape recorder when the hang spilled back into Louis’s motel room–we’ll share those photos and that audio in our next post.