News / Arts & Entertainment

    Louis Armstrong Knocks Out The Beatles

    Jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong shown in the upstairs den of his Corona, New York home, June 23, 1971.
    Jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong shown in the upstairs den of his Corona, New York home, June 23, 1971.
    Richard Paul
    This week marks an unusual 50th anniversary: the last hurrah for one of the legends of American jazz and for a type of American music that, after this time, would never again be as popular.  

    In the spring of 1964, the United States was going through a revolution.

    Three months earlier, the British rock band The Beatles appeared on United States television, giving the country’s younger generation something they been looking for - a way to differentiate themselves from their parents.

    “The youth of America is doing everything they can to be different than that generation that has come before,” said Dr. Tracey Chessum, a professor of Theater History at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

    This music, she says, gave them one of their first opportunities to turn away from the lifestyle their parents had lived. “That generation, they looked at it and they said, ‘Well why should we preserve this lifestyle?’”

    When the Beatles ascended to the top of the music charts in February, 1964, they stayed there with a succession of records for the next three-and-a-half months - a
    The Beatles are seen performing, date unknown. From left to right: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon.The Beatles are seen performing, date unknown. From left to right: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon.
    x
    The Beatles are seen performing, date unknown. From left to right: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon.
    The Beatles are seen performing, date unknown. From left to right: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon.
    string of hits longer than any artist before them.

    A common question was when their streak of number-one hits would finally be broken.  So was the question of who the artist to break their streak would be.

    “Would it be another hot-shot rock group?  No!  It’s Louis Armstrong.  Here he is - he’s an old man.  He’s 63 years old,” said Ricky Riccardi, the archivist at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in New York.  And not only was it a shock that the Beatles were unseated by a 63-year-old, the song he did it with was about as different as you could get from the Beatles’ rock-and-roll.

    Armstrong had recorded this song a few months earlier, and Riccardi says, he almost didn’t record it at all.  For one, at the time, “he’s not making many records,” he said.
     
    Louis Armstrong Knocks Out The Beatles
    Louis Armstrong Knocks Out The Beatlesi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    Armstrong was making money performing concerts.  As a result, Riccardi says, “from September, 1961 through December, 1963, he never sees the inside of a recording studio.”

    The Broadway musical “Hello Dolly” had not opened yet.  And Louis Armstrong wasn’t the popular act he had once been.  So when his manager approached several record companies about making this recording, they all told him “No.” 

    When Armstrong finally did get into the recording studio, Riccardi says, he recorded not only “Hello Dolly,” but also a song from the Broadway musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” It was that song -- “A Lot of Living To Do” - that was expected to sell a few records.

    According to Riccardi one writer at the time said, “with a proper amount of promotion, ‘A Lot of Living to Do’ could become a hit.”

    Instead, things went in another direction.  Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly” hit the market in January, right after the Broadway play opened, and in the midst of Beatlemania, didn’t stop climbing the charts until it finally knocked the Beatles from the number-one spot on May 9, 1964.

    But anyone who saw this as a trend would have been wrong.  This would be Armstrong’s last trip to the top of the music charts, and as Tracey Chessum says, songs from Broadway musicals wouldn’t see many appearances on the pop charts either.

    “The musicals of the 1940s and 50s are in the Top-10 all the time, and then - as we hit that generational shift, we go completely in the opposite direction," she said. "And that’s when the shift away from musical theater as the music of America really starts to happen.”  

    Despite the long-term trends, for one last time Satchmo, as he was called, won the day.  Armstrong showed with this record that there was magic left in his horn and his voice - that he could still create a hit.

    “At an age when most of his contemporaries were either dead, retired or unknown anymore,” Riccardi said.

    You May Like

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs

    African Music Treasures