Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash

“The Johnny Cash Show: The Best of Johnny Cash 1969-1971” (Michael B Borofsky)

I feel strongly that Louis Armstrong was one of the foremost geniuses of the 20th Century. Not just for the jazz world, or the music world, but in every aspect, Louis Armstrong accords respect as an innovator, and creator of themes emulated, copied and echoed by others. A genius, in other words.

I would have never guessed, but Louis Armstrong was a guest on the Johnny Cash Show. This and the story about Satchmo and Jimmie Rogers show how diverse musical tastes these men had and once again that music is a great connector.

This is from episode 38, Oct., 28, 1970 and must be one of Satchmo’s last performances. He was such a great performer right to the end and the Nashville audience and Johnny just loved him.

Louis Armstrong cracks everybody up at the start of the song: Let’s give it to ’em in black and white.



Jason Kottke links to this Paris Review sampler of some of Louis Armstrong’s visual art:

When not pressing the valves on his trumpet or the record button on his tape recorder, Armstrong’s fingers found other arts with which to occupy themselves. One of them was collage, which became a visual outlet for his improvisational genius. The story goes that he did a series of collages on paper and tacked them up on the wall of his den, but Lucille, who had supervised the purchase and interior decoration of their house in Corona, Queens, objected. Armstrong decided to use his extensive library of tapes as a canvas instead, and the result is a collection of some five hundred decorated reel-to-reel boxes, one thousand collages counting front and back. The collages feature photographs of Armstrong with friends (like the snapshot captioned “Taken at Catherine and Count Basie’s swimming pool, at his birthday party, August 1969”) and with fans (Armstrong seems never to have refused a photo op or an autograph); congratulatory telegrams and clippings from reviews of his performances; a blessing from the Vatican (as reassembled by Louis, the first lines read: “Mr. and Mrs. Most Holy Father Louis Armstrong”); and cutouts from packages of Swiss Kriss herbal laxatives, which, judging from the label’s ubiquity in these pieces, were as much a staple of Armstrong’s daily life as playing the horn. Only occasionally do the collages indicate the musical content within; usually there is no correlation. Armstrong made generous use of various kinds of adhesive tape not only to attach images to each box but also to laminate, frame, or highlight them. The works are untitled and undated, but he was making them as early as the 1950s; in a letter from 1953 he wrote, “Well, you know, my hobbie (one of them anyway) is using a lot of scotch tape . . . My hobbie is to pick out the different things during what I read and piece them together and [make] a little story of my own.”

[Click to read more of The Paris Review – Reel to Reel]

and we posted this a year or so ago…

As mentioned on a Bob Dylan XM radio broadcast, Louis Armstrong appeared in a Betty Boop short.

One of the classic Depression-era musical cartoons created by Max and Dave Fleischer. Satchmo’s soundtrack obviously inspires the artists – even if the visuals aren’t in any way “politically correct” 70-plus years later.

Yes, besides the wince-inducing racism, this piece is a great meld of Fleischer brothers cartoon, live action of Louis Armstrong’s crack jazz band of the 20s and 30s – The Hot Fives and Sevens, and Mr. Armstrong’s floating head.

“The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings” (Louis Armstrong)

Jimmie Rodgers and Johnny Cash are important musical icons too, any fledgling musical historian should own multiple albums by both, but Louis Armstrong transcends them.

Mario Savio American Hero

Finally remembered the source of this speech:

“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

which was quoted by a character (Chief) on a recent Battlestar Galactica episode….

original version spoken by here on the UC Berkley Sproul Hall Steps, December 2, 1964.


(direct link to video here)

And seems sort of familiar, doesn’t it?

In 2004, it was revealed that Mario was the subject of a massive FBI surveillance program even after he left the Free Speech Movement. The FBI trailed Mario Savio for more than a decade after he left UC Berkeley, and bureau officials plotted to “neutralize” him politically, even though there was no evidence he broke any federal law. [1] According to hundreds of pages of FBI files, the bureau: Collected, without court order, personal information about Savio from schools, telephone companies, utility firms and banks and compiled information about his marriage and divorce. Monitored his day-to-day activities by using informants planted in political groups, covertly contacting his neighbors, landlords and employers, and having agents pose as professors, journalists and activists to interview him and his wife. Obtained his tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service in violation of federal rules, mischaracterized him as a threat to the president and arranged for the CIA and foreign intelligence agencies to investigate him when he and his family traveled in Europe. Put him on an unauthorized list of people to be detained without judicial warrant in event of a national emergency, and designated him as a “Key Activist” whose political activities should be “disrupted” and “neutralized” under the bureau’s extralegal counterintelligence program known as COINTELPRO.

The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States (South End Press Classics Series)
“The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States (South End Press Classics Series)” (Ward Churchill, Jim Vander Wall)

more from the SFGate

Long Strange Trip of Bill Ayers

Fascinating1 article published in the Chicago Reader, circa 1990, about the man John McCain is trying his best to link to Barack Obama.

Haymarket Riot memorial, old version.
[The Haymarket Riot Memorial plaque that was placed at the Haymarket Riot location, 147 N. Desplaines, Chicago, IL 60661, after Bill Ayers (link to his blog) blew up the memorial to policemen. Now replaced by yet another memorial]

The students are already seated, quiet and polite in perfectly aligned rows of chairs, when Bill Ayers walks into the classroom.

It’s a Monday-evening political-science class at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a class devoted to the study of the “impact of the 60s on the 90s.”

“We’re very lucky to have Bill Ayers here,” says Victoria Cooper-Musselman, the instructor. “Bill was an active player in the 60s. You read about him in all the books.”

Ayers smiles, a boyish grin, and steps to the podium. He’s 45, but doesn’t look much older than most of the students. He wears his curly blond hair over his ears, with a rattail down the back. His T-shirt reads: “America is like a melting pot: The people at the bottom get burned and the scum floats to the top.”
He wears shorts.

“To me it’s funny that the 60s are studied,” Ayers begins. “I get rolled in like a Civil War veteran. I feel strange.”

The students laugh. As he continues, they fall quiet. His voice is raspy, sexy, a little mesmerizing. He’s completely at ease.

The story he tells, a condensed version of his life, is a tale of extremes. He wasn’t just any all-American, suburban-bred boy; his father, Thomas Ayers, ran Commonwealth Edison. And he didn’t just rebel; he was a leader of the Weathermen, the most radical of all 1960s revolutionaries, who among other things bombed the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol and sprung Timothy Leary from jail.

For three years Ayers’s wife, Bernardine Dohrn, was on the FBI’s list of ten most wanted criminals. They spent nearly 11 years as fugitives, living on the run “underground.”

“We were anarchists,” he tells the class. “We were willing to get thrown out of school. We were willing to go to jail. I make no apologies. There comes a time in your life when you face a moral challenge. You have to ask yourself: ‘Will I bow to conformity and accede to the world as it is, or will I take a stand?'”

These days, he takes his stands aboveground. He’s an assistant professor of education at UIC. He works in the university’s elementary teacher education program. His specialty is school improvement. He’s written one book on early childhood education, and he’s writing another about teaching. He publishes regularly in scholarly journals. Each year he trains dozens of would-be teachers for private, public, and parochial schools.

[Click to read more from Reader Archive–Extract: 1990/901109/The Long, Strange Trip of Bill Ayers He wasn’t just any suburban-bred all-American boy; his father ran Commonwealth Edison. And he didn’t just rebel; he was a leader of the Weathermen, the group that bombed the Pentagon and sprung LSD guru Timothy Leary from jail. Now he’s an assistant professor of education at UIC and an influential thinker in the school reform movement. And yes, he would do it all again]

Personally, the McCain smear is so weak to be laughable. I mean come on, Obama was 8 when Ayers was on the lam. Not every politician is Billy Pilgrim, able to look into the past of everyone they meet like the past was a Chinese New Year parade float. Now, McCain’s guilt by association trick actually works quite well on connections between McCain and Keating – actually as some wag put it, the McCain Keating connection is more of a “guilt by guilt” association.

(h/t Whet Moser via Twitter)

  1. albeit horribly formatted []

Original Gin and the Fall of Man

I would be very interested in sampling the fruits of original gin, genever.

Cocktail Hour can strike at any time

COMPARED with vodka, gin is a relative newcomer. But despite what the Russians might say, the history of gin — like its flavor — is far more complex.

Gin was born as genever in Holland in the 17th century. It was renamed gin when it got to England about 100 years later. Eventually, the English style, which is stronger and lacks the touch of sweetness that is typical of genever, came to dominate the market. But genever is making a comeback.

Next week Lucas Bols, a Dutch company that was founded in 1575, will start to sell its genever in the United States again. It was last imported in quantity about 50 years ago, but small amounts have seeped into the United States since then. Grain shortages in Holland during the world wars and Prohibition in the United States combined to do in the export of genever.

The Lucas Bols genever joins a few other brands of genever already on the market. Zuidam and Boomsma are imported from Holland. And earlier this year, Anchor Brewing and Distilling, the San Francisco company that makes Junipero, a dry gin, started selling Genevieve, a genever that it had developed about 10 years ago.

[From Malty and Complex, the Original Gin Is Making a Comeback – NYTimes.com]

Drinking the daylight green

A side benefit to being a citizen of the 21st century is that our recent history is available for close examination. The quest for the authentic, platonic ideal is simplified, in other words. Classic, formerly obscure films are a mouse click away, popular music from around the globe is being re-released at an amazing rate, absinthe is being served at your neighborhood saloon, and now one can drink gin as Hogarth imagined it.

Of course, nobody understands satire anymore (just ask Roger Ebert) but that’s a minor price to pay for our land of cultural splendors…

McCain Echoes that Great Republican Herbert Hoover

John McCain strives to be as successful a President as Herbert Hoover

Responding to the collapse of several major investment banks this week, John McCain reassured us, “I think still — the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” That move comes from an old playbook: On Oct. 25, 1929, Herbert Hoover declared, “The fundamental business of the country, that is the production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous basis.”

The day before Hoover insisted that the fundamentals were strong was the day that came to be known as Black Thursday, when in heavy trading the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost about 9 percent of its value. And while, in endless stock-footage documentaries showing images of dumbfounded traders over a soundtrack of mournful jazz clarinets, the crash is supposed to begin the Great Depression, it wasn’t quite so. The real cause was the collapse of the banking system, which followed the crash in part because Hoover believed strong fundamentals would protect the economy from disaster.

For the likes of Hoover and McCain, asserting the strength of fundamentals is shorthand for saying that business leaders, with maybe a little cheerleading, can sort out the crisis and that Congress should not try to regulate their behavior. It’s too soon to know if McCain will be proved right (I doubt it), but Hoover certainly turned out to be wrong.

[Click to read more of McCain’s Dangerous Do-Nothing Economics | The American Prospect]

Of course, Herbert Hoover did actually win an election first, so he’s already more successful than John McSame.


Louis Armstrong American Hero

“The Essential Louis Armstrong” (Louis Armstrong)

Louis Armstrong is an American hero.

As David Margolick recounts, a 21 year old journalist student by the name of Larry Lubenow ignored the instructions of his editor, and asked Louis Armstrong about what was happening in the Civil Rights Movement of Eisenhower era America….

With the connivance of the bell captain, [Lubenow] snuck into Mr. Armstrong’s suite with a room service lobster dinner. And Mr. Armstrong, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, agreed to talk. Mr. Lubenow stuck initially to his editor’s script, asking Mr. Armstrong to name his favorite musician. (Bing Crosby, it turned out.) But soon he brought up Little Rock, and he could not believe what he heard. “It’s getting almost so bad a colored man hasn’t got any country,” a furious Mr. Armstrong told him. President Eisenhower, he charged, was “two faced,” and had “no guts.” For Governor Faubus, he used a double-barreled hyphenated expletive, utterly unfit for print [like, mother-fucker, perhaps? Stupid New York Times pearl-clutching.]. The two settled on something safer: “uneducated plow boy.” The euphemism, Mr. Lubenow says, was far more his than Mr. Armstrong’s.

Mr. Armstrong bitterly recounted some of his experiences touring in the Jim Crow South. He then sang the opening bar of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” inserting obscenities into the lyrics and prompting Velma Middleton, the vocalist who toured with Mr. Armstrong and who had joined them in the room, to hush him up.

Mr. Armstrong had been contemplating a good-will tour to the Soviet Union for the State Department. “They ain’t so cold but what we couldn’t bruise them with happy music,” he had said. Now, though, he confessed to having second thoughts. “The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell,” he said, offering further choice words about the secretary of state, John Foster Dulles. “The people over there ask me what’s wrong with my country. What am I supposed to say?”

Mr. Lubenow, who came from a small North Dakota farming community, was shocked by what he heard, but he also knew he had a story; he skipped the concert and went back to the paper to write it up. It was too late to get it in his own paper; nor would the Associated Press editor in Minneapolis, dubious that Mr. Armstrong could have said such things, put it on the national wire, at least until Mr. Lubenow could prove he hadn’t made it all up. So the next morning Mr. Lubenow returned to the Dakota Hotel and, as Mr. Armstrong shaved, had the Herald photographer take their picture together. Then Mr. Lubenow showed Mr. Armstrong what he’d written. “Don’t take nothing out of that story,” Mr. Armstrong declared. “That’s just what I said, and still say.” He then wrote “solid” on the bottom of the yellow copy paper, and signed his name.