Monday, July 13, 2009

Louis Armstrong on Be My Guest (Two-Year Anniversary Post!)

Today is the two-year anniversary of my "Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong" blog and I couldn't be more excited. When I started this endeavor in 2007, it was just a way to try to get Pops more coverage and respect on the Internet as many in the jazz world seemed to forget that he even existed. I know I was an Armstrong nut from way back but after two years of keeping this afloat--240 posts!--I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one. I have made so many friends from around the world that it's mind boggling. There was a week in May where I literally received e-mails from Armstrong lovers in Sweden, Japan, Spain, England, Germany, Mexico, Belgium and the United States (Boston to San Francisco to New York...and on and on and on). The spirit of Pops continues shine brightly and I'm just happy to do my bit to make sure it shines a little brighter every week.

On a personal note, starting this blog turned out to be one of the best ideas I ever had. This month, I'm struggling more than ever to keep posting something as I'm giving three lectures at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem (Louis in the 30s, Tuesday night at 7!), then traveling to New Orleans at the end of the month to give three more presentations at the Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans. And in the middle of it all, I have to turn in my manuscript to my editor at Pantheon on August 1 so we can get that thing rolling and perhaps have my book on Armstrong's later years published later next year. Would these thing have happened without the blog. Maybe, maybe not...but as long as they're happening, you know I'm relishing my role as the Ambassador of Ambassador Satch...

Anyway, I wanted to do something special to celebrate the blog's anniversary. I toyed with tackling "Sleepy Time" or analyzing all of Armstrong's "Ko Ko Mo" solos (which I will do one day...I've been promising it for almost a year) but re-read that last paragraph again and add these words: wife, baby and gigs. So my time to do a massive project like that is just not there right now but I had to do something and I think I came up with a winner.

On July 2, 1968, Louis Armstrong was in London performing with the All Stars. With some free time, he appeared on a BBC-TV show "Be My Guest." I have never seen the footage, if it even exists, but I do have the audio thanks to the generosity of the great Armstrong discographer Jos Willems (and I should, on my anniversary, thank Jos, Håkan Forsberg, Dave Whitney, Phil Person, David Ostwald, George Avakian, Peter Winberg and especially the late, great Gösta Hägglöf, all of whom opened their collections to me, allowing me access to the rarest Armstrong performances imaginable...thanks all!). The "Be My Guest" appearance was 30 minutes long and featured Armstrong talking and telling stories, while six of his songs played almost in full. It was edited in such a way that you never hear the interviewer's voice, it's just Pops and music.

Because it's 2009 and everyone has short attention spans and precious little time to waste, I've decided to break the "Be My Guest" appearance into smaller segments instead of posting the whole 30 minute clip. Pops is terrific, often funny and very insightful throughout (I've used some of these quotes in my book). So without further ado, let's listen to the first segment, where Armstrong touchingly discusses his love for his latest hit (in England) "What a Wonderful World."

That segment ends with Armstrong talking about "That's For Me," a tune I've blogged about twice. The music quality on the original broadcast is pretty poor so I've decided to use my own C.D. copies of the music instead. Here's "That's For Me":
That's For Me:

In the next part, Armstrong goes back to New Orleans and talks about his early days as a musician, leading into a discussion of King Oliver:

And here's Oliver's 1923 OKeh recording of "Dipper Mouth Blues":

Armstrong followed by discussing "The Gypsy." I included this audio in my blog on that tune from a few months ago but it's fun and worth listening to again. Here's the discussion:

Followed by the audio of "The Gypsy" as played at the Newport Jazz Festival 1956 (an audio sample I did not include in that "Gypsy" blog so dig it):

Armstrong had just filmed his role in the film "Hello, Dolly" so here is discussing the tune, his record and the film work of Barbra Streisand:

And here's the original 1963 recording of "Dolly":

And finally--call your friends--Louis Armstrong, dietician, talks about his diet chart, losing, weight and Swiss Kriss that ends with a line that always makes me laugh out loud: "There's no hippie or no young cat or whatever you going to call them that's going to feel better than Satchmo!"

The original broadcast ended with the flip side of "What a Wonderful World," "The Sunshine of Love." It's a performance most Armstrong purists stop listening to immediately when they hear the syrupy introduction, complete with slurping saxophones and harpsichord. But Armstrong sounds as happy as ever and when the band starts swinging in the second chorus...stand back! He gives a master class in jazz singing, completely rephrasing the tune and swinging like mad (a nice touch is the arrangement features the strings playing the melody completely straight in the background, making Pops's remodeling of it that much more prevalent). "The Sunshine of Love" is guaranteed to make you smile and at the end of the day, that's what Louis Armstrong's all about. So I'm going to quit here and say thanks again to all my readers who inspire me to keep going on my (incredibly wordy) journeys through the "Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong" week in and week out. Here's "The Sunshine of Love":


Anonymous said...

Ricky, your frequent and extended explorations of Louis' music have brought me to a new level of understanding for the man, his music, and the impact he had on American Music scene throughout the 20th century - and now into the 21st.

Thanks for two very enlightening years of Louis Armstrong commentary and analysis.

satchmotube said...

Happy Birthday, dear Ricky ! At this great day I can say only: Please give us more enlightenment and more sound of the "Sunshine of Love" (I LIKE IT !!! - Pops is great as ever. No Jazz or non-Jazz discussion nessesary !). My english writing is very limited to describe the feeling about you blog. Great work.

Uwe (from Germany)

Scott Merrell said...

Happy 2nd Anniversary, Ricky. Your blog is an amazing source of information about Louis Armstrong.
Thank you and keep up the good work.

Sebastian said...

... yes, congratulations and many thanks for your wonderful blog with all these interesting analyses - and so many ultra rare audio clips I otherwise never had the opportunity to enjoy!

best regards from Germany,