We know that Louis Armstrong visited Europe — once in summer 1932 (England and Scotland) and for a longer time in 1933 and 1934 (England, Scandinavia, Denmark, Holland, France). Newspaper reports exist, as do the first airshots and the famous 1933 film footage.
But I hadn’t known that Louis and his band had paid a ceremonial visit to a famous gramophone store, Cowlings Bros in St Nicholas Street, Leicester, on Saturday, February 24, 1934, until I’d seen this autograph book up for bid on eBay. Here is the link.
(A few words about Cowlings Bros, who sold Gilbert gramophones, here.)
I find the autograph book particularly exciting because, for one thing, most of the autographs I’ve seen of Louis are later in his career, from the early Fifties on. This is the first signature I’ve seen of the woman who would become Louis’ third wife. In 1934 she was still Alpha Smith — they would not marry until 1938 — but she signed as Alpha Armstrong and was introduced to onlookers as Mrs. Armstrong. No surprise there, considering the mores of the time.
Louis keeps up with the news:
Let’s start with the unassuming autograph book itself:
Mr. and Mrs. is the name:
Members of the orchestra (Peter J. duConge, 1st Sax; Hy Tyree, 3rd Sax; Oliver Tines [Drummer]; Lionel Guimares, Tromb; Charles S. Johnson, 1st Trpt; Fletcher B. Allen, Tenor Saxophonist; Germain Arago [Bass]; Jack S. Hamilton, 2nd Trumpet):
From another perspective:
And another view:
Other signatures I do not recognize as connected to Louis:
Seriously amazing, and beautifully preserved for over eighty years, too.
Autograph books can’t make a sound, but there’s always the next nine minutes from the film shot on October 21, 1933, in Copenhagen:
When people ask me (rarely, I might add) what my favorite film is, I usually answer CITIZEN KANE. But I think I might have been mistaken all these years, and the nine minutes of Louis Armstrong and his Hot Harlem Band that you’ve just seen have edged out Charles Foster Kane, the stagehands holding their noses, Rosebud, and the girl in the white dress.
“I like it, I like it.”
AND . . .
another 1933-34 UK autograph book on eBay — the link is here:
Roy Fox, “The Whispering Cornetist” (this looks like a rubber stamp rather than a signature to me):
The team of Layton and Johnstone:
Other signatures in this book — not pictured but attested to by the seller — are the xylophonist Teddy Brown and singer Les Allen. But bidding ended on December 15: the book sold for 165 pounds, roughly $250.
May your happiness increase!