After my personal tribute to the late Gösta Hägglöf on Sunday, I have received many e-mails, comments and even phone calls from people who were similarly touched by our friend Gus. Everyone agrees that few people have ever loved Pops more or done more for his music, making Gus's loss even more devastating. But at least we have a tangible legacy in the wonderful recordings he produced and reissued on his assorted labels. And for those who knew him, there will always be the memories.
As already stated, I only had an e-mail relationship with Gus but he always took time to offer stories, encouragement, questions, comments and other interesting facts in his letters. And though I never asked for them, he always attached photographs. Thus, in today's posting, I want to share some of the many photos of Pops he was gracious enough to share with me, as well as a few photos of Gus himself. What's a photo montage without music, though, right? So for a proper somber mood, feel free to listen along to this magical 1956 Armstrong version of "Memories of You" as we take a look at some memories of Pops and Gösta.
Gus's photos went way back, including this one of Louis, Lil, Earl Hines and others vacationing in Idlewild, Michigan in 1928:
Here's a fantastic action shot of Pops during his European sabbatical in Turin, Italy, 1934:
In October, Gus sent me an e-mail with the subject line, "Ships." "Hi Ricky," he wrote. "Thought you would be interested in how Louis travelled to Europe the first years. Enclosed you can see those steamships.: Majestic to England 1932, Homeric to England 1933 and Champlain (probably from Plymouth) to New York 1935. Dig!" Sure enough, attached three photos. Here's the Majestic:
And The Champlain:
Armstrong took the Champlain back to New York to begin his "comeback." He soon hired Joe Glaser, got a contract with Decca and really took off. Here's a wonderful photo of Louis performing in 1935. I never got to ask Gus for his opinion, but I think this must be a performance of "Shoe Shine Boy." Sammy Cahn later gave an interview in which he said it was written for a stage show ("Connie's Hot Chocolates of 1936") for Armstrong to perform to a young actor portraying the titular character. Here's the wonderful picture:
The rest of the photos Gus sent me were mainly of Armstrong's last 20 years so there's no real need to keep a strict chronology. Here's a great shot of Armstrong and Robert Merrill from 1955. The two shared a bill in Vegas and did an act where Merrill would sing "Honeysuckle Rose" and Pops would do "Vesti la Giubba." They even got to do the act on the Ed Sullivan Show. I have the audio and it's a riot.
Here's Pops in all his glory:
This might be my personal favorite. Armstrong during a rehearsal before a show at Lewisohn Stadium. Worth a thousand (or more) words...
Here's a Jack Bradley portrait of Pops and arranger Tutti Camarata during the 1968 Disney Songs The Satchmo Way sessions:
Louis in Honolulu, I'm guessing during the All Stars's 1952 trip (Lucille looks pretty young):
Louis and Grace Kelly, who adored Pops and even invited him to her wedding in 1956 after the filming of High Society (he had to decline because the All Stars were booked on a tour of Australia):
Pops with his spectacles, a candid backstage shot:
Here's a Christmas greeting Gus sent me. I don't know if he made it or where he got it, but I like it!
Pops onstage in London, May 1956:
And finally, a fun shot of Louis and Lucillle on a plane. Where are they traveling? Could be anywhere...
I'd like to close this entry with some photos of Gus. I already included some in my last posting, including one of Joe Muranyi sitting in with Gus's band, the Royal Blue Melodians. Joe wrote me personally today, saying, "Gosta was a unique piece of work. The 'World of Louis Armstrong' has taken a big hit with his passing. He dug Louis!" Here's a picture of the two in 2005:
In 1977, Gus moved into the house he would occupy until his passing. George Avakian spent time there while visiting Sweden and wrote, "'Gus' Hägglöf was an unsung giant of research. (He was also an excellent host and cook – lunch at his home was a treat.) He remains irreplaceable." Gus was proud of it and even sent along this picture with a serious, but humorous note: " I had to enlarge the upper part getting more room for Pops."
Louis Armstrong is still quite a phenomenon in Europre and especially, it seems, in Sweden. Some of the top Pops experts in that country would meet on a yearly basis to do nothing but listen to, watch and discuss Pops. The meeting included a bunch of my readers, people I've mentioned many times such as Håkan Forsberg, Peter WInberg and Sven-Olof Lindman. Gus sent along this picture of their 2007 meeting, writing, " The 'frail' one in red is yours truly. Shit - one really looks 73! Say sump'n!" (Forsberg is in the background while Lindman is in between.)
Sven-Olof Lindman wrote me, too, after Gus's passing and included a photo of Gus in his music studio from May 2007. I think it's a wonderful portrait and a fitting conclusion to this second part of my tribute to Gösta. Next up, I'll examine some of those "50 Hot Choruses" recordings he made and finally, I'll play some of the ultra-rare broadcasts Gus helped share with the public. To Gösta!