Best of 2014!

Well, we did it again. Somehow, when I post my annual Louis Armstrong "New Year's Eve" blog on Wednesday night, it will be my 50th post of the year. That's not necessarily a lot--last year, I published 70--but at the six-month mark, I was only at 20 (with almost all of them solely about the Mosaic set), so pardon the sense of accomplishment in working extra hard to churn out more of these entires in the back-half of the year. Phew. Sometime this month I also hit my 600th post in 7 1/2 years. Thanks to any and all who have enjoyed any and all part of the ride!

In many ways, 2014 was the busiest of my life: work, commuting, wife, kids, lectures, TV, radio, producing the Mosaic box, etc. Yet any spare second I had always went to the blog because I do love having this outlet to kind of explore certain songs and Pops-related issues in my own slightly crazy way.

Because of the scattered nature of the blog--some months featured 1 or 2 entries, other months featured weekly updates--some readers might have missed some of my offerings in 2014. I went through the 50 and culled a list of my favorites, much as I did at the end 2013. So if you missed them the first time or want to dig deep again, here's my best of 2014. Thanks for reading!

Happy 80th Birthday to Jack Bradley!
The year started with a photographic celebration of my hero, Jack Bradley. In many ways, this became the year of Jack. Later in 2014, the Louis Armstrong House Museum began offering prints of some of Jack's best photos of Pops and I curated an exhibit of Jack's rarest photos that garnered worldwide press attention courtesy of the Associated Press. Yeah, Brother Jaxson!

Encounters With Louis: Yoshio Toyama
In the first part of the year, all of my free time was devoted to the Mosaic set so I started the "Encounters With Louis" series encouraging readers to send me their tales of meeting Louis. I got some good ones and published a bunch but then trailed off once the Mosaic was released. I intend to go back to it again so if you have a good Pops story, write me at This one from the "Satchmo of Japan," Yoshio Toyama, was one of my favorites.

Happy 95th Birthday to George Avakian!
Another hero, another birthday. For George Avakian's 95th, I told the story of my personal relationship with George, culminating in a YouTube video of David Ostwald and I interviewing him at the 2013 Satchmo Summerfest. George didn't make it to New Orleans in 2014 so that video might have captured his last hurrah way down yonder. However, I sat at his table at the Armstrong House gala just three weeks ago and he was in great form. All hail King George!

Here and Now (And Looking Forward to the Mosaic Set)
In March, I posted this plug for my fun TV appearance on ABC's "Here and Now," but I also included some "war stories" from the making of the Mosaic set. What an exciting time! I miss it in some ways but wouldn't trade the finished set for anything.

Surprise! Louis Armstrong Meets Horace Heidt
Every year, it seems like some new piece of Pops footage shows up that stuns the Armstrong community. This year, it was this 1955 appearance on Horace Heidt's television show. Corny at times, but a lot of fun!

The Mosaic Has Landed
Just plain euphoria, that's all.

60 Years of Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy (And 7 Years of This Blog!)
For the 7-year anniversary of my blog, I dug into my private stash to share some rare offerings from the session tapes to the greatest album of all time, Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy.

Billy Kyle Centennial Celebration
This was very satisfying, a long tribute with tons of audio to an unsung musician and my favorite All Stars pianist, Billy Kyle.

65 Years of That Lucky Old Sun and Blueberry Hill
I wrote this one during long mornings at the Detroit Jazz Festival, an in-depth look at Pops's big "commercial" hit of 1949.

65 Years of Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday's Only Session
People are still stunned that Louis and Billie only made one record together. Here's the story of it, including some controversy on "My Sweet Hunk o'Trash."

Ambassador Satch Meets Tricky Dick? Not So Fast...
Hard-hitting investigative journalism as I attempted to chart the history of everyone's favorite legend of Richard Nixon carrying Louis's marijuana stash. I don't buy it.

45 Years of We Have All the Time in the World (And Pretty Little Missy)
My look at Louis's touching vocal recording for a James Bond film, plus audio of the last trumpet solo he ever took in a recording studio.

80 Years of Louis Armstrong's Paris Recordings
It was a lot of fun going the full "nut" route for Louis's 1934 Paris recordings. This is the final entry on "Song of the Vipers" and includes links to the entire series of blogs.

Everybody's Louie
How do I spend my sick days? When I came down with a bad cough after Thanksgiving, I spent an entire day in bed typing up Larry L. King's stunning Harper's profile of Louis from 1967 and posted it in five parts. This is the link to part 1; warning: you won't be able to stop reading!

2014: The Year of the Mosaic
The Mosaic set received just about unanimous reviews but some of the outdated criticisms (and lack of Grammy love) led me to write this summary of the standing of Louis's later recordings in today's jazz community.

More on Louis Armstrong and the Colored Waifs Home: 1910-1913
And finally, James P. Karst's incredible finds for the New Orleans Times-Picayune led me to further expound on the subject of Louis and the Waifs Home in this entry, which was picked up in the print edition of the Picayune on Christmas Eve, featuring a long excerpt and my own byline!

So that was the year in Louis Armstrong, at least through my eyes (and fingers). What will 2015 bring? Check back a year from now. Thanks, everyone!


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