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

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Border Crossings: Bannersi
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 04, 2016 1:07 PM
    Singer and Songwriter, Michael Nelson better known as "Banners" sits down with Border Crossings host Larry London in Studio 4 to talk and perform songs from his debut self titled EP.

    Singer and Songwriter, Michael Nelson better known as "Banners" sits down with Border Crossings host Larry London in Studio 4 to talk and perform songs from his debut self titled EP.