Monday, September 8, 2008

Satchmo on Scotch Tape

The current edition of the Paris Review holds an unexpected surprise - several collages created by jazz giant Louis Armstrong. In addition to playing 300 gigs a year, writing three autobiographies, being a prolific letter writer and famously enthusiastic pot smoker, the ever-creative Armstrong somehow found time to make hundreds of collages on paper and tack them up on the wall of his den in Queens, New York. His wife Lucille, who had supervised the purchase and interior decoration of their house, objected. Armstrong removed the artwork from the walls and started using the collages to label his extensive library of reel-to-reel tapes. By the time he died in 1971, he had amassed a collection of some 650 tapes with decorated boxes - 1,300 collages counting front and back.

The collages feature photographs of Armstrong with friends, congratulatory telegrams and clippings from reviews of his performances, a blessing from the Vatican, and cutouts from packages of cheese, candy, cigarettes and Swiss Kriss herbal laxatives.

The collages now reside in the Louis Armstrong Archives at Queens College in Flushing, New York and are due to be published in Spring 2009 in a new book titled "Satchmo: The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong," by Steven Brower.

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