[Dixielandjazz] Re: Lil Armstrong (was Composer challenge)

Bill Haesler bhaesler at bigpond.net.au
Tue Mar 22 16:00:04 PST 2005

Dear Craig,
Guess who?
Your comment that: > ....... "I Can't Say" (recorded by The New Orleans Boot
Blacks but released under the name "New Orleans Wanderers" in 1926)< is a
somewhat misleading.
The New Orleans Wanderers session was recorded on 13 July 1926.
The New Orleans Bootblacks session was recorded the next day, 14 July 1926.
Both for Columbia. Both using the same personnel. George Mitchell, c; Johnny
Dodds, cl; Kid Ory, tb, Joe Clark, as; Lil Armstrong, p; Johnny St Cyr, bj.
Essentially the Hot Five without Louis.
The Wanderers sides were released in 1926. The Bootblacks sides remained
unissued until 1928 and 1929 (see below).
So discographally and chronologically the 'Wanderers' sides were first.
The band name would have been selected by Columbia, without a doubt.
The question regarding Lil Hardin Armstrong (1898-1971) and Louis Armstrong
(1901-1971) compositions goes back to before I started collecting jazz
records in the mid 1940s. Lil was musically prolific as an author. Louis,
much less so. Yet, so far as I can find, Louis was an ASCAP member, Lil
(To answer your query asking if 'Lil was Armstrong and not Hardin' at that
time: She was definitely an Armstrong.
Louis Armstrong and Lillian Hardin were married on Tuesday, 5 Feb 1924 at
City Hall, Chicago. The Lil/Louis wedding was reported in the Chicago
Defender on 16 Feb, with photos and a guest list. They separated in 1931 and
were divorced on 30 Sept 1938.)
As you know, several of the compositions recorded by King Oliver's Creole
Jazz Band in 1923 were by Lil [Lillian] Hardin (who occasional used her
pre-Louis married name Lillian Johnson). She is also credited with arranging
many of Oliver's compositions at this time. A very talented young girl!
After her marriage to Louis she continued to compose. However, by
occasionally using the name 'Armstrong' she managed to create some
Lil was ambitious for her new husband and was responsible for persuading him
to leave Oliver, and to take the offer to join the Fletcher Henderson
orchestra. While Louis was in New York with Henderson, Lil kept his image
alive in Chicago. On his return home Louis joined Lil's band and immediately
started his recording contract with Okeh, backing blues singers and
featuring his Hot Five,
A look at the composer credit for many of the Hot Five (and later the Hot
Seven) records also adds to the confusion as some show 'Hardin' and others
show 'Armstrong'. I suggest that Lil was probably sharing her copyrights
with her husband. OK, there is no doubt that Louis would have contributed
something (like say to "Jazz Lips") but Lil, as an accomplished composer,
would most certainly have been the main instigator for the tunes.
A famous example is "Wildman Blues" (Armstrong-Morton). It is on record that
Louis denies any involvement in this 1927 composition, as he did not meet
Jelly Roll until the early 1930s. Lil, however, knew JRM from the 1920s and
their association with the Melrose brother's publishing company. Therefore,
it is now generally accepted that Lil was the 'Armstrong' in this joint
Oh, if only we had on-line access to the copyright registrations in the
Library of Congress.
So far as the New Orleans Bootblacks/Wanderers' tunes were concerned, most
researchers are in agreement that they are Lil's compositions.
Notwithstanding the conflicting information you quote from the Anderson Fake
book and the Red Hot Jazz site, the composer credits given on the labels of
the original 78s are as shown below:
NO Wanderers (13 July 1926)
Perdido Street Blues (Armstrong)
Gate Mouth (Armstrong) both coupled and released about Aug 1926
Too Tight (Armstrong)
Papa Dip (Armstrong) both released and released about Sept 1926

NO Bootblacks (14 July 1926)
Mixed Salad (Armstrong)
I Can't Say (Armstrong)  both coupled and released in Nov 1929
Flat Foot (Armstrong)
Mad Dog (Armstrong) both coupled and released in Aug 1928

Which shows that recording dates do not necessarily correspondent to release
And my thanks to listmate Anton Crouch for his help in resolving the
'Wanderers' original release dates.
Kind regards,

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list