The 1953 Benny Goodman – Louis Armstrong concert tour was an unusual idea to begin with, and for a full version of the events leading up to its abrupt termination, there’s no better account than in Ricky Riccardi’s WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD: THE MAGIC OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S LATER YEARS. (Bobby Hackett also told his side of the story in Max Jones’s TALKING JAZZ, for the truly fervent.)
But here’s a startling piece of evidence from the eBay treasure chest – a Program (or should I say Programme) from that aborted tour, autographed by Goodmanites Teddy Wilson, Israel Crosby, Ziggy Elman, and Vernon Brown — as well as by the Armstrong All-Stars of the time: Louis, Trummy Young, Barney Bigard, Joe Bushkin, Arvell Shaw, Cozy Cole, and Velma Middleton (it’s the only Velma signature I’ve ever seen).
Aside from presenting an Israel Crosby autograph (not a common signature, and a treasure), the cover is intriguing because it is a Programme. I hadn’t known that a tour of any part of the United Kingdom had been envisioned. Here are the two facing center pages with the planned program, suggesting that no interplay between the two orchestras had been planned even in the tour’s earliest stages:
Louis worked with, recorded with, and hung out with many players who went on to Goodman alumni — including Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton — but as far as Armstrong / Goodman meetings that were documented, one must turn to the three or four minutes of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ Louis performed on the King’s 1939 Camel Caravan. (Although I am sure there is a private recording of their initial concert . . . . the fans were devoted. And we remain so.)