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The Armstrong File: Correspondence - Part I

This is another in a series of posts in which we dip into the remarkable Armstrong file folder that popped up in my mail forty years ago. You will find details of that postal miracle at the other end of this link.

Letters and interoffice memos make up the bulk of the file folder’s contents. They offer an interesting peek into behind-the-scenes activity in the mid-Fifties, a time when new audiences were discovering Armstrong and his playing could still be quite extraordinary. The letters show how fragile the relationship between Columbia and Joe Glaser was, and give an occasional glimpse of flavor of the times. They also reflect business diplomacy, which become especially apparent when we get to the inter-office memos.

There are too many letters and memos to post them all, so I have decided to select the more interesting ones and group them in a way that makes sense, while maintaining the chronology.

Here we get a good idea of why so many musicians were not able to retire to a house with swimming pool and room for a pony.

This was at the time when the Columbia Record Club was launched. The 98¢ record mentioned may have been a part of that.

I should point out that Ed Sullivan's weekly offering of music, juggling and standup was a CBS show, so it was all in the family. The This Is Jazz show George refers to in the second letter was a late-Forties jam session kind of thing conducted by Rudi Blesh. Does anybody recall what the "celebrated wisecrack" George Brunies made was? UPDATE: Jeff Crompton posted the answer here. Thank you, Jeff

Finally, there is this from Glaser. I wonder if he ever learned how to spell Ahmet Ertegun's name, and why his offer was turned down. The NY Times clippings are just fillers, a couple of 1947 photos from Rudi's aforementioned This Is Jazz show, and a sad dog story.

The chronology continues here.

1 comment:

  1. The George Brunies crack: During "You Rascal You," when Louis sang "What is it that you've got that makes my wife think you're hot?," Brunies yelled, "A glorified frankfurter!"

    Well, maybe that was considered the latest in shocking, cutting-edge humor in 1947....