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.


  1. precious artifacts.

    His comment in the interview about learning from the “old timers” how to approach “When You’re Smiling” is fascinating.

  2. Judy Sadowsky

    Wonderful! Those were definitely “the good old days” in television. I so miss the variety shows. Thanks for posting.

  3. These are great.
    My favourites are with Danny Kaye; When the saints http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm6ktYq0Yxk and Five pennies http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU_gtLxoGys
    It’s just so lovely!!!

    Long live Satch! 🙂

  4. I have a deep fondness for those two also, because I (as a wee boy) saw Louis on the Danny Kaye television show in real-time and also saw the FIVE PENNIES in a movie theatre . . . in some ways, DK led me to Louis . . . how lucky we are, Zan!

  5. See, that’s so interesting to me! I was always intrigued by how people started listening to different musicians. For example, I started listening to Louis after watching the cartoon “Wall-e”. There’s “La Vie En Rose” in there, and afterwards I searched youtube to find it and went through all the related videos 😀 I spent hours on youtube that day…
    And yes, we are very lucky to have all this technology work for us.

  6. More than that. We live in a world where Louis and his friends and their beautiful sounds are all around us. I write what I do because I feel his presence . . .

    And I am fortunate to know you, Zan.

  7. That’s true. I’m so grateful I have an opportunity to listen to all the big names in jazz, even long after they’re gone. We take it for granted, but it’s actually a big deal!

    And thank you, Michael 🙂 That’s very nice, coming from you!

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