In my childhood, I saw Louis Armstrong on television for more than a decade — with Danny Kaye, with Herb Alpert, with Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Ed Sullivan. My memories of sitting too close to the screen, transfixed, are very powerful. And my feelings were simultaneous and contradictory. I would be trying to absorb every nuance, every glint off the bell of his shiny trumpet — exultant but mourning because I would never see this again! But these performances — and ones new to me — have been appearing on YouTube, “the kindness of strangers” who must love Louis and his friends as much as I do. [If you’re under the age of ____, here’s a new word: KINESCOPE — which refers to filmed versions of television shows, blessedly.]
The three videos that follow are irreplaceable although flawed, perhaps understandably. In the first, everyone seems to handle the complex “witty” parody (a series of in-jokes) of a song from GIGI more comfortably than Mr. Strong, who might have come in at the last minute from an All-Stars gig in Sandusky, Ohio. Although he could handle lyrics much better than people assume, the words fly by him too quickly. However, Sinatra seems joyous, not barely masking anger; Crosby sounds so urbanely happy; Peggy Lee glows.
Louis, then appearing in Pittsburgh with the All-Stars, has a lunchtime interview date with the sweetly earnest Florence Sando Manson. My favorite moment, “I like to hear it too!” but to have him moved on to make way for “a model” is fairly sad at this distance. Didn’t they know that Louis was a model even though he had never done the appropriate catwalk-strut?:
And — particularly endearing — a duet on OLD MAN TIME with Jimmy Durante on “Hollywood Palace”:
Thank you, Archivists and Collectors wherever you are. Blessings on those of you who open-heartedly share your treasures!
And I would be reluctant to call one second of this “nostalgia.” These people and their music are so alive.
May your happiness increase.