[Dixielandjazz] My Armstrong recollections

Richard Broadie rbroadie at dc.rr.com
Mon Jan 24 22:56:20 PST 2005

I believe it was in late 1966 that I first met him. It was at the rosary of 
Ellington bassist Wellman Braud, who I had met and played with at jam 
sessions at Isabele Burbee's house in Whittier, CA over a period of several 
years. My daytime gig prohibited my attending Wellman's funeral the next day 
and I was somewhat depressed, knowing that I was going to miss saying 
"good-bye" to Wellman in the company of many mutual friends. There was 
little more than a handful in attendance at the rosary but, to my 
astonishment, Louis Armstrong was there. Following the rosary, those in 
attendance were invited to a nearby home where Mr. Armstrong was staying. 
Within a half an hour, I found myself in the presence of "Pops" as he was 
called as well as calling most others. He was in a tank top undershirt and 
in striped shorts and telling stories of recent trips and future plans.

At that time I had recently graduated from college and my first "real" 
daytime gig was working at the Watts Service Center on 103rd Street in LA as 
an Employment Security Officer for the California Dept. of Employment. (This 
was a year after the infamous Watts riots.) I had little reputation as a 
jazz player but was respected in the Black community for my exceptional bid 
whist playing abilities. BW was a popular card game in the community at that 
time and for "whitey" to dominate that game during lunch breaks and 
occasional parties was seen as a rarity. Someday I'll write some notes on 
what Watts was like a year after the riots. I digress.

When he found out where I was working he became very interested and spent at 
least 10 or 15 minutes asking me about the LA riots, what I thought was 
responsible, and my opinions of that community as a whole. Gradually the 
conversation shifted to where he admitted how hurt he felt by the rejection 
by the people of Watts who largely perceived him as being an "Uncle Tom." I 
recall his mentioning something that could be called prioritizing, but I 
doubt that was the precise term he used. The message he delivered that night 
was that the most important step in achieving equality among races was for 
all to simply learn how to love and get along with one-another (respect?), 
and don't let the little differences get in the way. He said that too many 
people were getting "hung up" on unimportant things, looking for different 
(negative) meanings behind everything that was being said, looking for 
trouble and creating hassles.

Then suddenly he remembered that he was "supposed" to be entertaining us and 
the whole mood switched from somber to Swiss Cris and how important that 
stuff was to maintain good health.

For a few minutes, those of us present got a look into Mr. Armstrong's soul, 
at a moment he was thinking of a lost friend and a white kid working in the 
middle of a community with which he (Louis) was having a problems 
communicating. I have no idea how long I was there that evening but it was 
very late when I got home. I recall thinking that for a brief few minutes 
those present, including myself, had witnessed a side of Mr. Armstrong that 
was not frequently seen.

I met Mr. Armstrong one other time. This was in July, 1970, backstage at the 
Shrine Auditorium in LA, the occasion being one of many celebrations of his 
70th birthday. At the conclusion of the concert, pianist Alton Purnell 
invited my wife, Sharon, and me backstage to meet the "cast." When I saw 
Louis, he was talking with Hoagy Charmichael, having just performed "Rocking 
Chair" with him minutes earlier at the conclusion of the program. Mr. 
Armstrong recognized me as "the white kid from Watts" and asked me if I was 
still using Swiss Cris while smiling broadly. Before I could reply, he 
introduced me to Hoagy. I started to tell Mr. Charmichael that I had written 
a few songs when Louis interrupted me and gave me a "proper" introduction. 
After hearing that I was or had been a friend of Barney Bigard, Wellman 
Braud AND Louis Armstrong Mr. Charmichael gave me a card and encouraged me 
to look him up if I ever got to the Palm Springs area.

Two years later I was living in Palm Springs and used that card to open up 
many doors for myself as a musician in the desert.

Mr. Armstrong told many stories that night, after the rosary. I know he 
spoke of early days in New Orleans and of King Oliver. I recall mentioning 
that my dad had heard Fate Marable in his youth and that, as a response, 
Louis had a funny story about Mr. Marable that I no longer remember. I'm 
certain there were many fascinating stories told of great music and times on 
that distant night that I've long forgotten. I do know that that was the 
singualr event in my life where I felt that I was in the presence of one 
second only to God. With respect to his musicianship, contributions to the 
history of jazz, etc. I have yet to significantly change my mind. Dick B.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "George Thurmond" <gmthur at delrio.com>
To: "DJML" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Monday, January 24, 2005 7:21 PM
Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Re: Louis Armstrong, Listen to

> John P, Ric G, and Dick B -
>        Thanks for helping me get this wonderful BBC program up - I got it
> on the site John suggested.  It was great hearing Louis's narration along
> with those musical clips.
>        I've got a copy of his Swiss Cris diet somewhere.  Nobody, but
> nobody, could promote a laxative as well as he could.  Makes you want to 
> run
> out and buy and try some!
> Geo. Thurmond
> The Louis show is still on BBC Radio 4 website. I am listening now using
> this link
> http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/radio4/int/-/radio4/factual/rams/archivehour.ram
> John Petters
> Amateur Radio Station G3YPZ
> www.traditional-jazz.com
> -----Original Message-----
> From: dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com
> [mailto:dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com] On Behalf Of George 
> Thurmond
> Sent: 25 January 2005 01:01
> To: DJML
> Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Re: Louis Armstrong, Listen to
>        Thanks for the tip, Bob, which I got this afternoon;  but they
> already took it down,  apparently by early this evening.  I called it up 
> and
> got "site unknown".  Dadgummit!
> Geo. Thurmond
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Robert S. Ringwald" <robert at ringwald.com>
> To: "DJML" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
> Sent: Monday, January 24, 2005 1:22 PM
> Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Re: Louis Armstrong, Listen to
>> Listmates,
>> Listen to the BBC radio show before they take it down.  This is the 
>> direct
>> link.
>> http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/radio4/int/-/radio4/factual/rams/archivehour.ra
>>  It sounds especially good with my Bose noise canceling earphones.
>> --Bob Ringwald K6YBV
>> Placerville, CA USA
>> "There are three kinds of men:
>> The ones that learn by reading.
>> The few who learn by observation.
>> The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for
>> themselves."
>> --William Penn Adair (Will) Rogers B: 11/4/1879 D: 8/15/1935
>> _______________________________________________
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