Louis in Brazil

It’s a big time coming up in Brazil with the country hosting the World Cup in 2014 and then the Summer Olympics in 2016, but both events pale into insignificance next to the visit of Louis Armstrong in 1957.

You may or may not believe me, but when a man has to wear a mask to protect his chops from the sheer weight of enthusiasm from thousands of fans, things have taken on a whole new level. This is wife Lucille making sure things are in order.

(Courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum)

Louis was on a six week tour of several South American countries, one of which (yes, Brazil) I toured fairly recently and visited the stadium where Louis performed with the All Stars and Angela Maria, the national ‘Queen of Radio’. ‘Record TV’ was possibly the most sophisticated of the three big TV stations in Brazil back in the 50s and made the whole show possible. Instead of 20 million people, Sao Paulo at the time had a population of ‘just’ 3 million.

In between the hectic schedule of performing and travelling around the country, of dodging legions of fans wanting to touch the man, Louis was courted by President Juscelino Kubitschek, seen here along with composer Ataulpho Alves in Rio de Janeiro.

National saxophone great Pixinguinha is on the far right here, with the President central. Brazilian actor, comedian, singer and composer Grande Otelo has the winning smile facing Louis.

On November 25, 1957, Louis Armstrong & his All Stars played the first live TV show in the history of the ‘Record TV’ television station, yet another history-making event on the never ending list. Angela Maria sang during the show and made an emphatic salute to the entire touring band on behalf of the Brazilian musicians and composers of the time. The crowd was estimated at about 8,000 fans.

The newly crowned ‘Queen of Radio’ in Brazil with Louis in 1957.

The show was filmed and performed at the newly built Ibirapuera Gymnasium, in the Ibirapuera neighbourhood of Sao Paulo, and here’s one of my photos as it looks today :

The All Stars at this point were made up of Trummy Young, Edmond Hall, Billy Kyle, Squire Gersh and Barrett Deems.

Here’s an extraordinary segment where the Portuguese broadcasting host’s attempt to imitate Louis sounds more like Jay Leno’s impersonation of Arnold Schwarzenegger. All quite bizarre, but amongst it all, near the beginning and the end, you can hear the real and unmistakeable tones of Louis Armstrong singing ‘Hello Dolly’ and ‘High Society’, with Angela Maria heard much more in the middle :


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