Six Minutes With Satch: Funny Feathers / How You Do It That Way?

OKeh Records excelled at churning out blues recordings aimed at urban markets. When Louis Armstrong was in New York in 1924 and 1925, the label realized that every time the mostly unknown cornetist appeared as a sideman on a record date, the sales spiked. Tommy Rockwell was now in the midst of transforming the now-trumpeter into a pop star--but old habits die hard and on July 10, 1929, Rockwell asked Armstrong to back up Victoria Spivey on a pair of fun numbers.

Armstrong brought along a small group made up of the men from Carroll Dickerson's Orchestra who recorded so many immortal performances with him in 1928. Earl Hines, of course, was on those sessions but he was already on to bigger and better things in his daily life; Gene Anderson was the regular pianist during that time and is heard here. This would mark the last time this "Hot Five" formation appeared on records. There's some fine instrumental moments and some emphatic drumming by Singleton, but it's really Spivey's show and there's nothing wrong with that.

In fact, Spivey was a bigger star than Armstrong and was about to transition to the movies with a featured role in King Vidor's Hallelujah. Armstrong soon surpassed her, of course, and Spivey even retired from show business for a while in 1951 before making a a comeback in 1961. That same year, she showed up backstage during an Armstrong performance at Freedomland, dressed to the nines and wearing an expression of pure confidence and sex appeal. Armstrong, as captured by Jack Bradley's camera, looked tickled to be in her presence.

Here's their one and only collaboration from 1929 and one of the last times Armstrong would ever fill the sideman role on a record date. Big things were right around the corner, as will be heard on Monday. Have a great weekend!

Victoria Spivey (voc), Louis Armstrong (tp), Fred Robinson (tb), Jimmy Strong (ts), Gene Anderson (p), Mancy Carr (bj), Zutty Singleton (d).
OKeh recording session - New York City, NY July 10, 1929

And for those who don't use Spotify, here are the YouTube links:


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