Sometimes the treasure box opens to reveal riches both unimagined and breathtaking.
For the full story behind this 1956 photograph, read here.
Everything in this blogpost is thanks to the kind, diligent archivist Maristella Feustle, the unchallenged expert on broadcaster and innovator Willis Conover. She’s uncovered rare and previously unknown music and words: “The University of North Texas Music Library is now digitizing the 16-inch radio transcription discs in its Willis Conover Collection. These are in addition to the reel-to-reel tape recordings we digitized under a Grammy Foundation grant in 2015-2016. There are more of these in the pipeline, but the initial set alone has been a highly satisfactory set of unique and unreleased material.”
“Highly satisfactory” indeed. What follows is a fifteen-minute recording, circa 1950, of Louis Armstrong taking over Willis Conover’s radio microphone before going off to perform with his band at a club called the Blue Mirror, which seems to have been in Washington, D.C..
I know there is a proliferation of Louis to be heard, but this quarter-hour is remarkable and beyond . . . as he reads advertising copy for Philco Balanced Beam television sets and has fun talking about custom reupholstery. We hear once again, what a fine impovising actor he was.
Louis sings three songs, I MAY BE WRONG, I SURRENDER, DEAR, and BODY AND SOUL to the recorded accompaniment of Billy May (beautiful in itself). Something to cherish: he never recorded I MAY BE WRONG and improvises some of his own words for the bridge, then scats the second time. His verbal improvisations are just as much fun. I won’t explicate more: listen for yourselves. Here’s the link.
I don’t have a wide-screen television set, but Louis is making me rethink my decision. Blessings on him, as always, on Willis, and on Maristella.
Postscript: to learn more about the inspiring and influential Willis Conover from someone who knew and admired him, here is my interview of Dan Morgenstern in June 2018.
May your happiness increase!