#TBT: Louis Armstrong at ISU and International Jazz Day 2017


Louis Armstrong with ISU mascot Cy in 1966

The incomparable Louis Armstrong with ISU mascot Cy in 1966. (University Photograph Collection, RS 22/7.)

Jazz legend Louis Armstrong visited Iowa State University twice. The 1950 Homecoming festivities included no less than four performances by Armstrong and his band: two dances, the “Pep Barbecue,” and a concert in the Memorial Union! This may seem remarkable because in 1950, Armstrong was an international star. But for decades, Armstrong played 300 or more live shows per year. Touring with a big band was no longer feasible for most bandleaders, but Armstrong — who first made a name for himself in the 1920s with small-group recordings — was not reliant on the big band format. In 1950, Louis Armstrong and His All Stars probably played ISU as a six-piece band featuring Arvell Shaw, bass; Barney Bigard, clarinet; Cozy Cole, drums; Earl “Fatha” Hines, piano; Jack Teagarden, trombone; and of course, Louis Armstrong on trumpet and vocals. Each of these musicians is numbered among the masters of traditional jazz (for lack of a better term).

As shown in the photograph above, Louis Armstrong returned to ISU in 1966, two years after his biggest-selling record (“Hello, Dolly!”) was released. In the late 1960s, Armstrong continued performing publicly in spite of health problems. He passed away in 1971 at his home in Queens, New York City.

International Jazz Day 2017 is April 30, and it’s a special one. This year, the host city is Havana, Cuba. As usual, the roster of artists is drawn from around the world, but this year the lineup includes quite a few Cubans; and, now that the travel ban is lifted, the audience will include Americans! So, this is a big deal on several levels. Cuban musicians are a big part of jazz history and of current practice. I’m looking forward to watching the webcast of the All-Star Global Concert on Sunday, April 30 at 8 PM Central.

ADDENDUM: A reader, Linda Warburton Cone, recalled hearing Armstrong perform at ISU in 1960 or 1961. (See her comment below.) Subsequently, I did a bit of research, but was unable to confirm an Armstrong visit aside from 1950 and 1966. I do not consider the matter closed with any certainty. We thank Linda Warburton Cone for sharing her recollection. –Chris Anderson, June 11, 2018.


2 thoughts on “#TBT: Louis Armstrong at ISU and International Jazz Day 2017

  1. Linda Warburton Cone

    Something is missing, as I recall going to Memorial Union in either 1960 or 1961 and hearing Louis perform in the Great Hall at Memorial Union. I vividly remember the experience. Please check the records.

    • Chris A.

      Thank you, Linda. I will look into this. It’s been over a year since I researched and wrote this piece, so my memory fails me, but I certainly had no intention of omitting mention of one of Armstrong’s visits. Our collection of historical documents and photos is not exhaustive, of course, and sometimes such evidence simply doesn’t exist. So it’s possible that I will find no documentation of the concert you attended in 1960 or 1961. Perhaps a source outside our own collections would hold the key; if so, I may not find it, since I can only devote so much time to the task. Whatever the case, I will amend my piece with a postscript so that the information you provided (and later, anything I may discover) is more prominent.

      Your recollection is valuable in itself; thanks again for sharing it. I’m so glad you can count this among your life experiences. Please don’t hesitate to contact us (or pay us a visit in person) for any reason. –Chris Anderson

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