musicology #279


twolegendsclash #2

(Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra  – Them There Eyes)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys, Girls, Cats, (and Dogs), please join me in welcoming into ‘the ring’, coming out of New Orleans Mr Louis, Satchelmouth, Pops, Armstrong undisputed King of the Horn. A Cat who is known the world over for spreading joy to millions and whose legacy and name is written across almost every page in the book of 20th Century music.

Before soaking up some top ranking swing a brief historical outline for those of us who know the name and even some of his more popular cuts but are maybe not as aware of his true genius and the life he lived as a young ragamuffin on the streets of one of America’s most dangerous Cities. That he climbed every mountain put in front of him is testament to his human as well as his musical qualities. A man who almost never let his bitterness at the injustice of the world he lived in get the better of him instead he chose to sing, dance, blow, laugh and smile his way through to the end of his days. Born August the 4th 1901in Uptown New Orleans to young parents, (his mother was 15), Little Louis, (and I use that term with the greatest respect), studied hard, eventually graduating with honours at the infamous University Of Life, spending almost all his youth on the streets listening, learning, hustling, ducking and diving to not only survive but to set his own agenda. So much has been written about the Cat that I’m not about to rewrite what is already known, (or available elsewhere on the information highway), so I’ll just start his contribution to the twolegendsclash with a quote from the great man:

“One Sunday our Pastor whom we all loved happened to take a Sunday off and sent in another preacher who wasn’t near as good. The whole Congregation frowned on him except one Sister. She seemed to enjoy the other Pastor same as she did our Pastor. This aroused the Congregation’s curiousity so much until when Church service was over they all rushed over to this one Sister and asked her why did she enjoy the substitute preacher the same as our regular one?, she said, “Well, when our pastor preach I can look right through him and see Jesus and when I hear a preacher who’s not as good as ours I just look over his shoulder and see Jesus just the same.” That applies to me all through my life in music ever since I left New Orleans. Iv’e been just like that Sister in our Church. I have played with quite a few musicians who weren’t so good. But as long as they could hold their instruments correct, and display their willingness to play as best they could, I would look over their shoulders and see Joe Oliver and several other great masters from my home town”

Recorded April 1931 in ‘Chi’ for the OKeh label

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