Posted on: Mar 25, 2014 -- Last updated on: Jun 3, 2014
On Exhibit: Ambassador Satchmo at the Worlds Fair - Celebrating 50 Years
Ambassador Satchmo at the Worlds Fair – Celebrating 50 Years is a series of never before published photographs of Louis Armstrong at the World’s Fair in 1964. A Jazz Soirée with Catherine Russell kicks off the photo insallation from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm on June 29th. It’s certain to be a sumptuous evening. Will Friedwald writing in The Wall Street Journal, calls Catherine Russell “one of the outstanding singers of our time.”
50 years ago, thousands of visitors from around the world crowded into Flushing Meadows Park to attend the 1964 World's Fair, dedicated to "Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe." Most, if not all, of those visitors probably had no idea that a man who had already achieved quite a lot in his lifetime made his residence less than two miles away from the Fair: Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong.
Jazz's greatest genius had made Corona, Queens his home since 1943 but in 1964, he didn't have much free time to spend there. Still known as "America's Ambassador of Goodwill," Armstrong traveled to Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Puerto Rico and Bermuda in 1964 alone. At the age of 63, Armstrong was in greater demand than ever before, riding the wave of his surprise number one hit record, "Hello, Dolly!," which knocked The Beatles off the top of the charts on May 9, 1964.
To celebrate the Queens resident's big hit, the World's Fair declared June 30, 1964 to be "Louis Armstrong Day." For once, Armstrong didn't have to ride the band bus or race to catch an airplane. He was free to stay home in Corona, make the short drive to Flushing Meadows Park and attend the World's Fair. In the afternoon, a motorcade drove Armstrong through the fairgrounds, as he enthusiastically waved to fans young and old. That evening, Armstrong and his All Stars put on one of their usual spectacular evenings of entertainment, climaxing in an encore-heavy version of "Hello, Dolly!" The concert took place in the Singer Bowl, which, nearly ten years later, would be renamed Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Armstrong's close friend and personal photographer Jack Bradley was on hand with his camera to document some of the day's events. Bradley captured photos of Armstrong's motorcade, of the trumpeter on stage wearing a Native American headdress and posing with international fans backstage. Bradley's photos of Armstrong at the World's Fair have never been published until now. Thanks to a grant from the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, the Louis Armstrong House Museum now possesses Bradley's entire Armstrong collect, the world's largest private collection of all things Armstrong. Thanks to Bradley's photos, we can peak into a very memorable day in Queens for one of the borough's true kings.
On Catherine Russell:
Grammy Award winning vocalist Catherine Russell is a native New Yorker, and a graduate of American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Ms. Russell has toured the world, performing and recording with David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne, Michael Feinstein, and Rosanne Cash. Since the 2006 release of her debut album, Cat, on Harmonia Mundi's World Village label, Catherine has been making new fans and friends. Four acclaimed and chart topping albums have followed, including Strictly Romancin’, awarded Prix du Jazz Vocal 2012 (Vocal Album of The Year) by the Jazz Academy in France and a Bistro Award for Outstanding Recording, followed by Bring It Back in 2014. Catherine has been a guest on The Tavis Smiley Show on PBS-TV and Fresh Air with Terry Gross on NPR. Her father, the late Luis Russell, was a legendary pianist/composer/bandleader, and Louis Armstrong's long-time musical director. Her mother, Carline Ray, was a pioneering vocalist/guitarist/bassist who performed with International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Mary Lou Williams, and Ruth Brown.
Photo by Jack Bradley
And, while you are in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on June 29th, check out the Louis Armstrong International Music Festival near the Unisphere. It is produced by the Kupferberg Center for the Arts & Queens College. This festival is also celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Pops at the Worlds Fair. So much to celebrate!