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.
Posted in "Thanks A Million", Bliss!, Generosities, Irreplaceable, Jazz Titans, Pay Attention!, Swing You Cats!, That Was Fun!, The Heroes Among Us, The Real Thing, The Things We Love, Wow!
Tagged Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Ed Sullivan, Florence Sando Manson, Frank Sinatra, Hollywood Palace, Jazz Lives, Jimmy Durante, Johnny Carson, kinescope, Louis Armstrong, Merv Griffin, Michael Steinman, Peggy Lee, television
The Soundies — a kind of early video jukebox — seem very primitive today. Watch more than two at a time by the same band, and it’s clear they were done rapidly, cheaply, and without much emphasis on variety. The same sets and presentation continue throughout a series, and the musicians are clearly miming to a pre-recorded soundtrack. But how else would we see Henry “Red” Allen and his sidekick J. C. Higginbotham in performance in 1946?
This Soundie — HOUSE ON 52nd STREET — was not intended as a follow-up to Red’s moody THERE’S A HOUSE IN HARLEM, but it seems an extension of songs like GIMME A PIGFOOT and THE JOINT IS JUMPIN’ — efforts to invent a party scene in less than three minutes.
Its rather thin melody and lyrics already must have seemed nostalgic for a scene rapidly slipping away. By 1946, I think “the Street” was in decline: the returning servicemen had already decided to take their girlfriends to the suburbs, own some lawn, raise families — and I do not scoff at these activities, for they delineate aspects of my early life . . . but domesticity meant that you didn’t stay up late listening to jazz in the city. And then there was television, a few years later . . .
In Manhattan, I believe that the block between Sixth and Seventh Avenues on Fifty-Second Street is called SWING STREET on the green-and-white sign, but that’s possibly the only thing swinging there now.
But we can return to this invented scene — sixty-five years ago now! — and hear Red, Higgy, Don Stovall, alto; Bill Thompson, piano; Benny Moten, string bass; Alvin Burroughs, drums; Johni Weaver and Harry Turner, dancers. And Red obviously didn’t develop his stage presence only at the Metropole: he has it here, exuberantly selling this song:
Thanks again to Franz Hoffmann for delving even deeper into his treasure-chest and letting us see and hear these prizes.
Posted in "Thanks A Million", Generosities, Irreplaceable, Jazz Titans, Pay Attention!, Swing You Cats!, The Heroes Among Us, The Real Thing, The Things We Love
Tagged Alvin Burroughs, Benny Moten, Bill Thompson, Don Stovall, Fifty-Second Street, Franz Hoffmann, Harry Turner, Henry "Red" Allen, J.C. Higginbotham, Jazz Lives, Johni Weaver, Michael Steinman, Soundie, suburbia, Swing Street, television, World War Two, YouTube