Louis Armstrong Never Got it Wrong – Part 1 of 4

Portrait of Louis Armstrong, Carnegie Hall, New York, N.Y., ca. Apr. 1947 William P. Gottlieb Collection
Caption from Down Beat: [from article] My photo of Louis shows him just before the concert. The horn you see belongs to Bobby Hackett. Louis’ had just been stolen. Satchmo’ had to borrow a mute, too. All he had of his own for the concert was his mouthpiece, which he had in his pocket when the thief grabbed his case. Horn has since been recovered at a pawn shop.


Before I ever heard a rock ‘n’ roll record I heard plenty of Louis Armstrong’s music, thanks to my sax-playing Uncle Jack . . . the Hot 5 and Hot 7 recordings, particularly, so I knew there was a lot more to the avuncular showman of the Fifties than cavorting with Bing and Frank on film, mugging on TV, and donning the persona of Jazz Ambassador, although he did all of that with his usual style, grace and good humor.

He provided, almost single-handedly, the instrumental and vocal vocabulary for the generations that followed. Whether we realize it or not, there’s a little bit of Louis in everyone who picks up an axe or walks up to a microphone.

By the age of eleven, I’d read his first autobiography (ghosted, one assumes) three times.  Whether his own words, or someone else’s, the flavor of the man came through strong and clear, so even the tidal wave of early rock ‘n’ roll didn’t diminish my big soft spot for Satchmo.  There were occasional accusations of Uncle Tomism from the emerging militant groups, but it didn’t seem to phase him, and he just went ahead doing his thing the way he always had, becoming a global icon in the process.

This is part 1 of a 4 part series … stay tuned for more

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