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Louis Armstrong discusses music

BROADCAST: Jun. 24, 1962 | DURATION: 00:33:43


In a nightclub in Chicago, at two in the morning and after a performance, Louis Armstrong talks about his music stylings. Notes are good to learn the tune, says Armstrong, but it's all about the phrasing. Armstrong explained, it's up to you to express yourself. Armstrong shared the one piece of advice that had always stuck with him. King Oliver told Armstrong not to worry about the notes but rather to put some lead into the song.


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Studs Terkel It's about 2:00 in the morning, we're in a nightclub in Chicago at the end of another engagement for the most celebrated figure in the history of jazz: Louis Armstrong, whose influence is manifold. So many ways, the effect he's had on musicians who've followed his innovations in the matter of singing jazz, in which the lyrics are secondary to the feeling. If we may think back, Mr. Armstrong, to a time some six years ago. It's now 1962. 1956. There was a period when you were on a plane and you landed in Accra. In Ghana.

Louis Armstrong That's right. I remember that time.

Studs Terkel It was almost the beginning of a new cycle, the end of one. What was your feelings when you came to Ghana?

Louis Armstrong That was a great feeling, I'll tell you that, because I never saw so many people gathered in one time before that, you know? And the way they reacted to our music and everything. I thought it was great. And we've been there twice, you know.

Studs Terkel And they had heard them--

Louis Armstrong And the second time was good.

Studs Terkel It was through the recordings they knew of you? Through the records?

Louis Armstrong Well, yeah. Yeah.

Studs Terkel They knew of you there.

Louis Armstrong All over Africa. But Ghana was the first place we went.

Studs Terkel I think of Ghana because of the--

Louis Armstrong [unintelligible].

Studs Terkel It was the first of the new countries, of the new independent countries of Africa.

Louis Armstrong Yes, it was.

Studs Terkel In your travels through this continent, I'm thinking, in all the different countries, the different dialects and cultures there, they all knew of jazz, of

Louis Armstrong

Studs Terkel your music, didn't they? That's [so?]. How would you explain that?

Louis Armstrong Well, I mean, I was there. One [unintelligible] was just like America to me, the way they appreciated the jazz. At the time, that vocalist I had, and she made that leap in the air and it went wild.

Studs Terkel Did you find--

Louis Armstrong Broke it up! [chuckles]

Studs Terkel I know. And some of the highlife music, the highlife music of Ghana?

Louis Armstrong I like.

Studs Terkel Do you find--did this stem? I wonder which way it worked? Did it stem from the jazz in America?

Louis Armstrong No. I think we st--copied it from them. And that beat: tom toms and drum beats and all that. I realized when I went down there that it was copied from them.

Studs Terkel So the rhythms?

Louis Armstrong Yeah.

Studs Terkel The complicated rhythms, then, African in origin when--

Louis Armstrong I think so. Yeah.

Studs Terkel The slaves came here originally, brought the--

Louis Armstrong Came from the Africans.

Studs Terkel Music with them.

Louis Armstrong They

Studs Terkel still got it. So when you went back, then, it was almost as though a circle was completed. Music came there and you were bringing it back--

Louis Armstrong [Well, way?] back to generations. When I was a kid in Africa--in New Orleans--I could see so many things that was brought from Africa all over the world.

Studs Terkel When you were a small boy you remember this? The--

Louis Armstrong I remember it, it brought back memories.

Studs Terkel And, so, when you went back there did you see some of the dances that the people were doing? Some of the ceremonials and dances you had--was it--

Louis Armstrong Oh, yeah.

Studs Terkel Was there a similarity? You sensed the similar rhythms?

Louis Armstrong They used to do that for us all at the airport and everything. Every time we got in the country there was always a tribe there and they'd do their dance, and play. And sometimes we'd sit in with them and play "The Saints." A lot of them speak English. You'd be surprised, you know?

Studs Terkel In your travels to the different countries did you find different reactions? Say, Nigeria or Sierra Leone?

Louis Armstrong No.

Studs Terkel Or in other--[you say?] The reaction was basically the same?

Louis Armstrong [They all?] the same. Even Leopoldville

Studs Terkel and everything. I had the greatest reception of my life. I understand that the fighting stopped when you came there, in Leopoldville?

Louis Armstrong Yeah, there wasn't no fighting the four days we were there.

Studs Terkel There's a moral to this somewhere, isn't there, about the music? I know you're a great believer in music as a bringer of understanding among the peoples of the world.

Louis Armstrong Yeah. [I'll never forget?] I was very much impressed with the whole tour.

Studs Terkel And you were in Japan. I'm thinking about in Japan, in 1954, I think around, when you were in Japan? Here's another people entirely. What were their reactions? Was this different, say, [in Japan?]?

Louis Armstrong Well, now it was a whole lot of Americans in Japan at that time and we played a lot of American camps. Although we did play Japanese theaters and they mixed them. But mostly we played for Americans.

Studs Terkel Mostly for Americans there?

Louis Armstrong Yeah.

Studs Terkel I was wondering if the Japanese people's reactions were--

Louis Armstrong Oh, they [dig?], too--

Studs Terkel Basically the same?

Louis Armstrong The ones that came around.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Louis Armstrong But we didn't just play for strictly Japanese like we did in the African countries.

Studs Terkel And not for the people themselves, there?

Louis Armstrong Well, we played the [Courtside?] Theater.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Louis Armstrong That's a big African theater.

Studs Terkel I think there's a question very often asked you, Louis, when you sing a certain song, I don't mean now a blues, but, say, a pop tune like, "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," you make it better than it really is. I mean your way, that is--what is it--is if the lyric is less important than the feeling, the intonation, what you do with it?

Louis Armstrong The way I feel it, that's the way a song should be sung. The way I look at it.

Studs Terkel It doesn't matter what the song is?

Louis Armstrong No.

Studs Terkel No matter if it's a pop tune or whether it be--

Louis Armstrong [unintelligible]

Studs Terkel You know, an authentic blues?

Louis Armstrong There's a meaning to every song. Some people get a little too commercial, just hurry up and get it over with, you know. And that's the way I feel about all songs. Feel it the way you want [to do it?]. In the olden days that's the way we delivered songs. And now [it's?] commercial.

Studs Terkel Would you mind, perhaps, just expanding on this just a bit? You're saying, in the olden days this is the way you delivered songs, it doesn't matter what the song was. That was the challenge to the singer.

Louis Armstrong I think that's the way everybody did it in the olden days. A little trend now, you know, commercialized. It still sounds good. But, I don't know.

Studs Terkel Now I'm thinking, say, you take a lyric of a song like "Blueberry Hill," which is all right. But what you do with it, you make it better than [the original?]. Here's a case of the performer who makes it better than originally written. I'm trying to find what it is that you do, your own--that is, you're not worried about the exact word being in a certain place.

Louis Armstrong No, I feel the song. [unintelligible] Almost [as if I write it?]. I guess other people feel the same. There's not very much I can explain there than I feel what I do, especially music. Same with the horn, you know.

Studs Terkel People talk, you know, the critics speak of a certain innovation of yours when you take a pop song, say, that used to be three part, that is the three parts: there was your trumpet, your original solo on the horn close to the melody, yet hot. There's your vocal and then you come back in its lyrical form. This was basically the pat-- wasn't this--

Louis Armstrong [unintelligible] [You got it.]

Studs Terkel What was the, would you mind explaining how this came about? How this came about [you doing it?]?

Louis Armstrong Well, you know, I used to sing in a quartet when I was a kid, 13. I mean, earlier than 13. I used to sing in church. And that's where you can get good feelings of songs, in church. And there are all these singers today that come from choirs and, [see?]?

Studs Terkel Perhaps, Louis, you might want to talk a little about this more: the church feeling in jazz. The church feeling--that is the feeling of call and response, you know, of the preacher and the congregation.

Louis Armstrong Well, there's a lot of [unintelligible] that came from the church. That's why they got that, that feeling inside, you know? Sure. And if somebody is serious about their music and it's in them then it's no problem. You know? It's something I never worry about, a song that I [don't?] sing. Maybe somebody else might worry about it and, you know, probably get as much out of it.

Studs Terkel It doesn't matter. Even, let's say, even if you were to sing, let's say, you sing a spiritual. This is not sacrilegious, of course. If you sing this it still has that feeling of reverence for it even though it has a different--

Louis Armstrong Yeah.

Studs Terkel A jazz feeling.

Louis Armstrong "Shadrach."

Studs Terkel "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego," that you do.

Louis Armstrong I mean, I made an album, nothing but spirituals. A lot of people wondered [how?] I could jump to ja--from jazz to spirituals. Am I talking loud enough?

Studs Terkel That's fine.

Louis Armstrong Yes?

Studs Terkel It's okay.

Louis Armstrong Yeah. I don't want to scream, you know.

Studs Terkel No, go ahead. You were talking about--

Louis Armstrong [Look at what's going on?] in Europe. I've been able to do that. We played Dixieland, jazz. And you take an album like "The Good Book" and you sing all spirituals. You say, well, whatever song I'm singing, if it's a spiritual, I'm in the spiritual, feeling that song. Because, I mean, in church we did the same thing. At a funeral, a wake; we do it all the same.

Studs Terkel One came from the other, didn't it? Pretty much?

Louis Armstrong Well, I mean, it's in your soul.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Louis Armstrong It's no problem.

Studs Terkel So when you played in the street bands as a small boy in New Orleans--yeah?

Louis Armstrong Yeah. In New Orleans we played funeral marches, going to the cemetery. I mean, you see those cards in front of your horn and the notes are there and everything, then it's up to you to express yourself. Then take the next card, it's "Didn't He Ramble" or "The Saints"; see, it's two feelings you have there. And you learn how to read notes but you don't know how to, you don't learn how to express yourself.

Studs Terkel The notes is just but one, you say two feelings.

Louis Armstrong No--

Studs Terkel Two feelings?

Louis Armstrong Notes good for to learn you the tune. But it's up to you to phrase it right. [That's where it at?]

Studs Terkel So there's something beyond the notes. This is what, of course, you taught so many of the younger musicians.

Louis Armstrong What you're feeling in your heart [is what you do with it?].

Studs Terkel Well, this feeling, was this always--when you were a very small boy even before you went to the [wakes?]

Louis Armstrong We did the same thing when we used to sing in a quartet. All four of us.

Studs Terkel When you and the kids in the street?

Louis Armstrong Yeah. Passed the hat. That was a feeling, to hear that coin jingle.

Studs Terkel I suppose even now, after so many years, do you feel that your big influence is still Joe Oliver? Was it--in the early days he was your big influence: Oliver, of course. But even now, after so many years, you still feel?

Louis Armstrong Well, I feel he's the man that inspired us.

Studs Terkel What was it he taught you? What was it he said to you? What do you remember best that he said to you?

Studs Terkel Well, now, he practic-- [pause in recording] The. Sacrifices he has helped. What was it he taught you? What was it he said to you? What do you remember best that he said to you.

Louis Armstrong Well, he practically told me everything that was right in music. The first thing he said it was, "Play some lead on that horn and not so many notes." You know, carry that lead. That always stuck with me. Let the people know what you're playing.

Studs Terkel Do you want to break this down just a little? Play some lead, you said.

Louis Armstrong Lead. Leads, like, [sings] "Give me a" [unintelligible] Always play something that the people could understand. That's what he meant by lead.

Studs Terkel Play somet--.

Louis Armstrong That's the lead, yeah.

Studs Terkel That people can understand.

Louis Armstrong Yeah.

Studs Terkel Now, you can take liberties, of course, great many.

Louis Armstrong Oh, yeah, but--

Studs Terkel If you have to because

Louis Armstrong

Studs Terkel you improvise-- Keep that lead in there. But not to wander too far away--

Louis Armstrong Not too far, yeah.

Studs Terkel From the original

Louis Armstrong

Studs Terkel melody. [I thought that was?] all right. [Could?] you feel that there's too much wandering? Today?

Louis Armstrong No. I mean, there's wandering all through the tune and no lead at all, just to see how many notes you can make. That's no good.

Studs Terkel You think there's a great deal of trickery, then? That is, showmanship and that's all?

Louis Armstrong I mean, if you're going to do that all night.

Studs Terkel You have to come back to the original spine, then? To the original backbone?

Louis Armstrong That's the lead.

Studs Terkel The lead itself.

Louis Armstrong It meant so much when he said that. And he said always stay before the public. Not in and out, stay before the public. Then when you put the horn down they remember you.

Studs Terkel Louis, in the 50 years or so of your playing, that's a whole lifetime of playing and influence, as I say, worldwide--your name--and your influence on younger musicians. What are the changes you sense in jazz [over the years?]? For good or for bad? What is it you sense? Your own feeling?

Louis Armstrong Well, I don't know about a sense or nothing, but, the ones that's still playing, you couldn't move them from this style of the days, you know? [And there's still so many of us around?]. So we don't bother about [the other?], I mean, if it sounds good. It's like a record, or album with two kinds of music: good and bad.

Studs Terkel Yeah. Good and bad.

Louis Armstrong Yeah.

Studs Terkel It's not a question of schools or styles. Good and bad. Doesn't matter what the style or school may be.

Louis Armstrong No. [I don't go for?]--

Studs Terkel Do you find--

Louis Armstrong If it sounds good I buy the album. [So?]

Studs Terkel Do you find a good many traditional young musicians today, playing traditional?

Louis Armstrong Well, what is traditional and what is modern jazz and what is the jazz of [tomorrow?]? Nobody has been able to explain it.

Studs Terkel Labels, then?

Louis Armstrong Way out? [I can't get?] nobody to tell me nothing. They ask me and I say, "Well, I'll ask you, what is it?" and they say, "I don't know." I say, "How do you expect me to know?"

Studs Terkel As you say, it doesn't really matter what the label is, it's either played well or it's played not too well.

Louis Armstrong That's right.

Studs Terkel Basically, this is it.

Louis Armstrong I made some albums with Brubeck. It's [only?] music.

Studs Terkel Which proves that it--

Louis Armstrong We did it our way. We did it our way, you know.

Studs Terkel Well, more and more now, I think, the State Department and officials are beginning to realize, a little late, but they're beginning to realize the effect of jazz as a diplomatic instrument.

Louis Armstrong Yeah. They beginning to send people down there.

Studs Terkel Do you have any plans for your traveling, perhaps, in Eastern Europe? You, perhaps, someday, to--

Louis Armstrong I never know until it happens.

Studs Terkel Would you like the idea of playing, say, in Moscow? Warsaw?

Louis Armstrong [Must be possibilities now?] I'll go anywhere. Go anyplace.

Studs Terkel In the different--

Louis Armstrong Just a day's work.

Studs Terkel In the different countries you've played is there one, in the different places throughout the world where you've traveled and played, is there one place that has affected you, impressed you more than others? The effect of the music upon them?

Louis Armstrong I don't know. Ghana was one, and all over in Europe. You know, I went to Europe in 1932.

Studs Terkel It was at the Palladium in London when you first--

Louis Armstrong Yeah. The ovation, and the people at the stations, and the airports. I never witnessed such [excitement?]. People so excited in Copenhagen that they give me a trumpet of flowers, you know. And they got so excited the trumpet crumpled up, all the flowers [unintelligible] and I run back to the train. I said, "They going to break my arm." Too excited. And it's kind of hard to say one place [than another because?].

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Louis Armstrong They're pretty well enthusiastic [everywhere?].

Studs Terkel Well, people say that your first appearance in London in '32.

Louis Armstrong Yeah.

Studs Terkel There never has been a reception such as that.

Louis Armstrong That's right.

Studs Terkel This was--

Louis Armstrong At the Palladium. Yeah.

Studs Terkel This, I suppose, is through their hearing the Parlophone Records or the records at the time.

Louis Armstrong Yeah. That's when they noticed.

Studs Terkel Just the records.

Louis Armstrong [Until the day?] they, quite naturally, they get a chance to see all the bands and attractions now. But, in the early days that was the only way they knew you. They knew everything you played.

Studs Terkel Have you come across any--I'm just wondering--any young musicians in any one of these countries who has impressed you? Any young kid or kids that [are coming up?]?

Louis Armstrong Well, they got some good players in Europe.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Louis Armstrong This boy, Humphrey Lyttleton, in London is pretty popular. See, when I first went there Nat Gonella was the big man. He was young then, you know.

Studs Terkel Louis, is this true or is just a story invented, you know, when you first scat sang, you know, and the words, you know--not the words but the manner which you sing--so many stories are told that it happened accidentally.

Louis Armstrong I dropped the music.

Studs Terkel You dropped the music?

Louis Armstrong Yeah. Well, we used to scat sing in the early days, you know, like instruments in the quartet. So I just went in there and you know how you could reach back and pull out, one out of the bag, and just go on up there and did it. So they kept the record. And [they?] called it scat singing. First time I ever heard the word.

Studs Terkel So it was a happ--

Louis Armstrong [That was the precedent?]. The "Heebie Jeebies" is. Big hit.

Studs Terkel "Heebie Jeebies" was the one? The Hot Five?

Louis Armstrong Hit record. Yeah.

Studs Terkel That was, it was a happy accident?

Louis Armstrong Yeah.

Studs Terkel It probably would have happened with you in any case, in some form or other.

Louis Armstrong Well, I dropped the music and I looked in the control booth and he kept saying, "Go ahead, keep singing." I didn't see the words so I made up my own words. Scat.

Studs Terkel You once used a phrase, "If you can't sing it, you can't play it." "If you can't sing it--

Louis Armstrong Well, everybody don't play instruments and they sing. I don't know how to tell you about that, because I know a lot of musicians who can sing their parts but they're no singers. Back when a guy would want to hum your part to you, you know, in the early days, he'd sing the whole thing. But if you put him out there to sing by himself he'd probably shiver in his boots. See what I mean?

Studs Terkel The instrument, then, was like his voice?

Louis Armstrong Yeah.

Studs Terkel The instrument was an extension [unintelligible]--

Louis Armstrong You make the same notes, like his, you know, his horn. That's why we could scat and do things like that.

Studs Terkel So the phrase used about you is, when you sing, it sounds like your trumpet extended. Or when you play the trumpet it sounds like your voice.

Louis Armstrong Yeah. The same notes.

Studs Terkel Both are an extension of you, then?

Louis Armstrong Yeah. That's what they say. But, I mean, I always was singing, I was singing before I ever played the horn. See? So, I mean, quite naturally, I could sing the same notes [I could make?] on the horn.

Studs Terkel The early musicians--when you were a small boy--the early musicians who didn't have schooling or training then, when they would play, I suppose, in their own mind they were singing, too. Was that it?

Louis Armstrong Sing your parts, you could do that, too. In the early days a whole lot of the boys didn't read music but they had a good mind. We call it a good ear. And they go [home? on?] and put the parts to the lead. Somebody would buy a piano part. Somebody in the band who could read, like a clarinet player or something like, you know. And they had some that could read and they couldn't play as good as the musician that didn't read. [Ain't that funny?] Because they just stuck right to the notes all the time. All we wanted to [know? learn?] was to know how it sound. And after the second chorus we put that piano part down and never look at it again. Remember, see. Good memory.

Studs Terkel So what was written down was just, just a small part of it. What was written down?

Louis Armstrong Wasn't nothing written down.

Studs Terkel That was all head, then?

Louis Armstrong Whoever played that piano lead, maybe the piano. [For a few?] years it was a clarinet player. And then later it was a cornet player. And maybe the trombone could read that part out. There was always somebody who could decide where that tune. And everybody would get their parts.

Studs Terkel So when you played at Lincoln Gardens then, with Oliver, when you came up in the early 20s--

Louis Armstrong Yeah.

Studs Terkel This was the technique that was used there, too, then?

Louis Armstrong Yeah. And I played second trumpet [at the time?]. I didn't need no music. I just wanted to know what he was playing. Couldn't nobody touch us because I was so close to Joe. Every note he would make I could put a second to it. Never did even bother [much?] [unintelligible].

Studs Terkel He just knew it intuitively, then?

Louis Armstrong And he'd make a break, like the break is coming up and he'd make the break while he's--the tune's going on, and we get to that break and I'd put a second to it. All of them, Bix, and all of them used to come and hear us do that. And they never got a team like that since. That's why I think so much of Joe Oliver and I always will.

Studs Terkel He was the first to use the mute, wasn't he?

Louis Armstrong Yeah. He had a little, old, flat metal mute made by C.G. Conn. And it's hard to blow in them things but he got a tone out of it. He used to blow so hard. Yeah.

Studs Terkel That mute is what made it sound like a human voice, then? [To get the growl?]

Louis Armstrong He did.

Studs Terkel He did, that is. He did. Yeah.

Louis Armstrong Yeah. Couldn't nobody else. He put it--the mute in--and it's flat, you know, and put his hand over the bell with that mute. And he could talk just like a baby or anything.

Studs Terkel Cry like a woman.

Louis Armstrong Cry like a woman, [child?], anything. He could do anything with that horn.

Studs Terkel Now when you were [with Joe?] [unintelligible] what were the changes that took place in your--did you have to adjust when you went to Fletcher Henderson in a bigger band?

Louis Armstrong Well, we used outright mutes.

Studs Terkel That was--

Louis Armstrong You had to read music then.

Studs Terkel Yeah. So what did you do then? You, yourself?

Louis Armstrong Well, no, I didn't never try to do what Joe did on the mute. Couldn't nobody do [what he did?]

Studs Terkel No, I mean, when you joined Fletcher Henderson, after you left Oliver--

Louis Armstrong Yeah, I joined him.

Studs Terkel You made adjustments then, yourself.

Louis Armstrong Well, I had to get in there with them trumpets. I had the third part. First, second, and third. And it had to sound the same. See, I'd been reading with Joe then in parades and brass bands. I mean, it's ordinary notes. And sometimes it come pretty hard, you know.

Studs Terkel Here we are sitting in a Chicago nightclub in 1962. And, naturally, your memory now and then goes back to that period when you first came here.

Louis Armstrong 1922.

Studs Terkel How was Chicago then to you? That period?

Louis Armstrong Well, it was the same Chicago--

Studs Terkel Is it

Louis Armstrong really?? But different things happening, you know? They had better nightclubs. I think they had more nightclubs than they have now.

Studs Terkel I was about to say.

Louis Armstrong The South Side was loaded with clubs and they had clubs on the North Side at the same time. And all the people would come on the South Side, you know? Sure. They had more nightclubs here than they had in New York. At that time.

Studs Terkel And jazz itself then was pretty new. I mean [to a new?] world listening to jazz at the time so I suppose there was this--

Louis Armstrong Started about 1918.

Studs Terkel Thinking about this excitement that was here at the time that may not be here today.

Louis Armstrong No, it--

Studs Terkel Do you feel there's less excitement today than there was then?

Louis Armstrong No, there ain't no excitement now like you had in those days. They done clean up this town. I mean, you know, as far as exciting things. But, I mean, you can still see a good show or go to a nightclub. But it ain't like it was in the 20s. The Roaring 20s was something in Chicago. All your big shows used to come from New York here. And after-hour places started at 12 o'clock.

Studs Terkel There's another aspect of Louis Armstrong, aside from the musician, there's Armstrong, the actor. As the actor. Was it always--

Louis Armstrong We'd call that our hustle, you know .

Studs Terkel Was it always--when you were--when you sang with the kids on the street, the quartet you had and all--were you always the actor then, too?

Louis Armstrong When you get a chance. We could ham it up. That's about what I'll do when--if I ever put the horn down; just sing and be in a show or do a part, you know. Stay around show business and music.

Studs Terkel July 4th is coming up and July 4th is Independence Day and also your birthday. So here you are, 62. You've met so many challenges and you've faced them all. You met th--what--is there one more challenge or a number of challenges you'd like to meet or face? Is there any? What is it you would like to do that you haven't done thus far?

Louis Armstrong Right now I can't say because I'm doing everything I like to do.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Louis Armstrong I think it's all right. Everything's all right.

Studs Terkel Everything going all right.

Louis Armstrong Yeah.

Studs Terkel I notice you're a pretty fulfilled man, that's what I'm reaching for. You're an artist who has rea--there's no new world you're looking to?

Louis Armstrong No. No. Man my age ain't lookin' for things like that. Just get some wine and live a beautiful life, you know. Relax. After 62 years you don't have too many left, you know.

Studs Terkel Oh, you got a lot more left. You've got a lot more left. The vitality that--just watching the show downstairs, a full hour, the vitality that indicates there's a lot more where that came from.

Louis Armstrong [unintelligible] [Pretty long?]

Studs Terkel Well, Louis Armstrong, you--

Louis Armstrong They usually do 55 minutes but we did a whole hour.

Studs Terkel You've contributed a great deal, indeed, to jazz and to entertainment in America.

Louis Armstrong Well, the people appreciate it, you know. [They're nice?]

Studs Terkel I'm not going to ask any more questions, just for you to say--anything you care to say that you haven't said thus far here or anywhere else that you feel like saying? Anything?

Louis Armstrong All I can say is I'm still enjoying my work. And very few bands stand up on them one-nighters like we do. We just come from Europe and we had one day off and flew down to Chile for the State Department recently. And then three days off. Played one in, somewhere in New Jersey and come here for two weeks. So you see we kind of busy.

Studs Terkel So you say you played one night in Chile. Here's why I say--

Louis Armstrong No, we played 4 days in Chile.

Studs Terkel No, four days. But, you say from one city in America somewhere and suddenly you're in Chile. Now, when you're on that stage, here's an audience, a Chilean audience, or here's a Chicago audience. Is there a way of reacting that's different or is it exact--

Louis Armstrong No.

Studs Terkel All over, you find it's--

Louis Armstrong No, [unintelligible] It's 15,000 people standing there, in Santiago. And we played there three nights and then we went to another big town. Same. And they react the same as the American audience because they know your records and they know the tunes and you can find some fine combos down there playing, [Russian combo every night?]. They play like Brubeck and them boys. Because they've been listening to records, radios and things. Instills it in them.

Studs Terkel One last question to ask you, Louis Armstrong, at the hour of 2:20 in the morning and that's this: here you speak of the one night stands, the night after night after night, all these years of playing, your innovations and all--how are you able to maintain a certain vitality?

Louis Armstrong Well, we get our rest [is the main thing?]. We'll get our sleep. And it's the same as if we come here every night and we get there early enough to get to bed, you know? Sometimes we have to go right on the stage but you don't do that every night, you know? So we get in there about 10, 11 o'clock and the concert ain't until about 8. You can't gallivant, you got to sleep.

Studs Terkel No, I mean from the standpoint of the audience; I see you on that stage, audience says, and they say, "That's Louis Armstrong. How fresh he is, how vital he is [like the first?] time." And yet, how are you able to project this when it's night after night after night?

Louis Armstrong Well, that's what I said--you go to bed at, day after day, you know. Or right after the concert or if we get out we play two and a half hour concert, probably catch the plane the next morning, 8:00 o'clock. You look at the time you get to sleep if you just go to sleep. See?

Studs Terkel So let's say it's 6 o'clock--

Louis Armstrong It's sort of the same as if we was playing here every night. Instead of going home you go to some other nightclub or something like that, well that wears you down. So we have to wait for the moments where we have time off. To go hear somebody else.

Studs Terkel In the early days, perhaps, I suppose, that was the case when they had--

Louis Armstrong Same thing.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Louis Armstrong Same thing. Music is music all over the world. Same. And you're wide awake, you know, most of the time you'll go some other place, spend a few hours, [unintelligible] down. "Time to get up, boys." But, I mean, we make it somehow.

Studs Terkel Good constitution, good heart, and a good craft, and an artist. Certainly the most celebrated in the story of jazz, Louis Armstrong.

Louis Armstrong Like they say: stay before the public. You gotta do it right or else don't do it at all. Gets so I can't do it no more I had a good career. 50 years is pretty nice.

Studs Terkel It's more than a good career. It's been a monumental one.

Louis Armstrong Well, I appreciate it, you know? I [don't?] say I'm gonna play all my life but if it ever happened I wouldn't feel sad about. I'd just go on and get a new life. It'll be around music. Sure. And go and teaching the youngsters how to blow or something, you know.

Studs Terkel You've taught them a great deal.

Louis Armstrong I can always sing, get a little part in a show or movie or something. There's always something. [When I'm out?] and around music I'm at home. Ain't worried at all.

Studs Terkel Louis Armstrong. Thank you very much for being the artist you are.

Louis Armstrong Well, I'm glad to talk to you.