Thursday, May 07, 2009

Satchmo: Live in an auction hall in Blokker

Satchmo: Live in an auction hall in Blokker (English) Satchmo: Optreden in veilinghal van Blokker (Nederlands)

Blokker - 10th of May, 1959
Hans Koert

On the 10th of May, 1959 the great Louis Armstrong performed at a concert in the small village Blokker for an enthusiastic audience of 8000 men. This concert, now 50 years ago, has become legendary !!
In the auction building, where normally apples and pears were sold, of Blokker, between Hoorn and Enkhuizen in the north west part of The Netherlands the Louis Armstrong All Stars performed for the first time in this small rural village. Not the most obvious place for a concert by one of the most famous jazz trumpet players of the world, Louis Satchmo Armstrong himself. How did that happen?

In the small village of Blokker, almost 3000 inhabitants, there’s almost nothing to do in the early 1950s for the youngsters. Two of them, Ben Essing and Jan Vis wanted to change that and organized a concert with one of the most popular Dutch bands from that period, the Dutch Swing College. This concert, scheduled on the 15th of July, 1956, drew an audience of 5000 and became a success. Thanks to the fact that Ben’s father was the mayor of the village, they hadn’t to pay for the auction hall and everything they needed, the catering, the sound and light, the construction of the seats and stage, the promotion and ticket sales was done by volunteers. This concert was very morish and two years later, in 1958, non other than Benny Goodman, The King of Swing, was booked. Benny was touring around Europe and arrived in The Netherlands for two concerts. The first one was scheduled the 14th of May at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the next day ……… in Blokker. These concert were recorded for TV by ABC-networks and fragments televised on the 3rd of October, 1959 in the States, but the village of Blokker was also head news on the Dutch Polygoon Nieuws, the news program showed in the Dutch cinema’s. Love to show you ( the commend is in Dutch) a fragment of this news item.

When he arrived in the village, the people organized the entry of Benny Goodman as a “realKing in a limousine. A few days later Benny would play at the opening of the American Pavilion at the Brussels World’s Fair, which was recorded for TV and released in a series of Columbia records titled Benny in Brussels. A year later a complete festival was organized. During the Blokker Festival which lasted a few days, Victor Sylvester and his orchestra played its dance music, Mieke Telkamp, Greetje Kauffeld and Rita Reys with the Trio Pim Jacobs were some of the other stars, but, the highlight of the festival was the concert by Louis Armstrong and his All Stars.

Louis and Velma enter the village of Blokker ( 10th of May, 1959) (photo: Ed van der Elsken (Jazz 1955-1959.61 ))
His entry of the village was on a farm cart together with his vocalist Velma Middleton, preceded by the Jeugddrumband ( = youth drum band) De Westfriese Boertjes. All inhabitants joined the entry and it seems that almost 50,000 people had overrun the village. In the auction hall bands like the Micro Solisten, a local group from Zaandam and the Kees Kuyt Combo, which would win an award at the Loosdrecht Jazz Festival later, tried to entertain the impatient audience, but they all had come for The King of Jazz himself.
When, finally, the King has reached the stage, the concert could start. His All-Stars featured Trummy Young on trombone, Peanuts Hucko on clarinet, Billy Kyle at the keys, Mort Herbert on bass and Danny Barcelona on drums. And of course Louis, nick named Satchmo, on the trumpet and uttered his typically raspy vocals and Velma Middleton.
There haven’t been, as far as I know, any recordings or film fragments of the concert. So I love to share with you a fragment of a concert with the same line-up recorded a few month earlier ( 7th of February 1959) in the Houtrusthallen in The Hague. Enjoy "St. Louis Blues" en "La Vie en Rose".

When the successful concert in Blokker had finished at 11.30 p.m., the peace in the small village had soon been restored. Louis sayed about the concert, that he liked it and loved to come back and that happened on a less successful concert on the 26th of May, 1965. Less succesfull as only 1,800 fans had gathered in the auction hall, maybe because of the football game between Inter Milan and Benfica on Dutch television or, more likely, the growing interest by the youth for new music styles.
The Blokker Festivals would develop into a pop festival avant la letter with concerts by the Pretty Things, Nana Mouskouri, Jacques Brel, Vera Lynn, Cliff Richard, Anneke Gröhnloh and, of course, one of the high lights in the Dutch pop history, a concert by The Beatles on the 6th of June 1964 with round trip of the Amsterdam canals the previous day.

Hans Koert

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Blogger Jo said...

Thanks a lot, Hans, for posting this entertaining article. Great photos and video fragments.


8:45 AM  
Anonymous Hakan F. said...


Congratulations and thanks for a very fine and interesting blogsite!

In your latest blog on Louis Armstrong in Blokker you state that the clip with excerpts from Armstrong and his All Stars playing and singing La Vie En Rose and St Louis Blues has pictures and music from the Housrusthalle in The Hague February 7, 1959. The announcer on the clip also gives that venue. Now, I wonder – do you have more music from that occasion?

I ask because in the very complete Armstrong discography “All Of Me” by Belgian collector/researcher Jos Willems no recordings from The Hague are listed. On the other hand Jos Willems lists 21 existing tracks from the other concert that very same day – in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. On February 7, 1959 Louis performed first in the Hague and later in the evening in Amsterdam and it is only known that the Amsterdam concert was recorded.

What can you tell me on that?

Hakan F.

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Awesome footage of Louie and Benny. I think the fact that Louie arrived on a farm cart as opposed to Benny Goodman's limousine adds so much character to the story.


7:24 PM  

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