Sunday, February 07, 2010

Satchmo's Secret

Louis Armstrong's teens in New Orleans ( English) Louis Armstrongs jeugdjaren in New Orleans ( Nederlands) Satchmo's secret (English) Satchmo's geheim ( Nederlands)

This is him! - United after more then 50 years
Hans Koert

One of the most popular jazz musicians of all ages must have been Louis Armstrong, known as Satchmo. His trumpet playing, his rasping voice and the white cloth he always kept in his hands while playing, are well known. A few weeks ago I saw a fragment on YouTube for the very first time, I had read about in a book, but never had seen it. Now it is available. I love to share it with you today.

One of Louis Armstrong's first trumpets.
In a previous blog, titled Louis Armstrong's Teens in New Orleans I wrote about his youth in New Orleans, about growing up in the Red Light district Storyville and about his teens in the Home for Colored Waifs. Here he learned to play music and he became a musician in The Colored Waif's Home Brass Band. It is a pity thatb only a few photos remain and no recorded sources. Today's fragment has to do with this part of his life - let's go to December 1965.
Louis Armstrong in Blokker - The Netherlands ( May 1965) ( photo courtesy: Henri Hoogewoud)

In The Netherlands most people will remember the quizzes Babbelonië ( hosted by jazz piano player Pim Jacobs) or Wie Ben Ik?, broadcasted on Dutch and Flemish TV networks; in the US a similar program was scheduled titled I've Got A Secret hosted by Steve Allen, also a jazz piano player (!). Steve Allen invited in his program guests who should bring a secret in and the members of the panel had to guess, asking questions, what the secret was ….. In December 1965 Steve Allen invited Louis Armstrong to introduce his secret. Louis had brought a package with his first cornet and behind the set he had invited, as his secret, his first teacher, Mr. Peter Davis, then 83 years old.

In the second fragment Louis proudly presents his former teacher with the words This is him.

Louis meets his teacher after 50 years (left: Peter Davis - right: Louis Armstrong)

Peter Davis says he remembers Louis hitting the high C and playing tunes like "Put on your Gray Bonet". What follows is really weird and shocking. Davis is invited to play the old cornet together with Louis. Steve Allen announces that Mr. Davis hasn't played the cornet for more then 50 years and that is clearly audible. The old man tries to make some tones out of the old cornet ( he has no chops, Allen explains, This is fun and thrilling .... which crowns everything) and it is shocking to hear him fumbling, while Satchmo chuckles with glee next to him. Davis starts a very slow and painful version of Oh When The Saints, and Satchmo starts to play a counter melody and takes it over and makes the tune sound, together with his all-star band, also present.

A historical document - okay - sure, but in my opinion it was not correct from Steve Allen, who was the chairman of this quiz ( and a musician himself), to let this happen - he should have protected this old man, even if he insisted to play......... What a shame .......... .

Hans Koert

Today's contribution, dedicated to one of the greatest in jazz, Louis Satchmo Armstrong, is one of those numerous blogs that might interest you. This Keep Swinging blog is dedicated to music and shares its fasination for jazz and jazz-related music with more then 12,000 visitors a months ( 30 % The Netherlands - 25 % the US - 30 % Western Europe - 15 % rest of the world) and is published twice a week in both English and Dutch. If you don't want to miss any contribution I love to invite you to ask for the news letter:
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Blogger Jo said...

Thanks for revealing the secret! However, you're right, it's a shocking and painful experience to watch this old man fighting to blow the horn. Further, I really don't understand why Satchmo accepted to participate in such a humiliating exposure of an elderly person. Anyway, the media have always pushed the limits to the extreme, if it would 'pay off' - shamelessly! Respect towards elderly people does not seem to pay off, in fact that's the hard 'facts' of Western world for a long time, unfortunately.

10:27 AM  

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