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Ghana - 1956

"By jove, Louis is as great as his instrument!"
E.T. Mensah
New York Herald Tribune (5/24/56)
In May, 1956 Louis Armstrong's All Stars were in Great Britain playing the last gigs of a long and tiring
overseas tour. The trip was sponsored by CBS and Edward R. Murrow, and would produce material for the
United Artists video Satchmo The Great and the record albums Ambassador Satch and Satchmo The Great.
In 1955 Murrow had visited Africa and shot two hours of film for his CBS-TV show See It Now which included
some coverage of the Gold Coast. He now desired to do a short sequel and requested that Louis and his
entourage stop off in Ghana for two days before returning to the United States. Murrow's idea was to shoot film
of Louis walking on the beach and playing a solo in E.T. Mensah's Paramount open air bar, where he had
enjoyed himself while filming in 1955.
In 1954 the first national elections had been held in the Gold Coast as an initial step in the transition from
British colonial rule to independence as the new nation of Ghana (March, 1957). Now, in 1956, preparations
were underway for another set of general elections. Also, the country was preparing for a Royal Visit later that
summer, and working on plans for the Volta River Project. It was in these circumstances that James Moxon, the
35 year old Director of The Department of Information Services, received Murrow's request for assistance. The
British Colonial Office had sent Moxon to the Gold Coast more than a decade earlier; he had made many friends
and was well-liked by the local population. He no doubt was a significant factor in the immense success of
Satchmo's visit.
Robert Raymond, an Australian, was a member of the Department of Information Services, on home leave in
May 1956, when Moxon recalled him to assist with the Armstrong visit. In his excellent book on Ghana - Black
Star In The Wind - he provides a detailed account of the whirlwind tour. As he recalled, soon after his return to
Accra, about a week before Satchmo's arrival:
"That night I went round to James's house. We played a few
Armstrong records, just to get into the mood, then worked
out a programme. We were forced to recognize that there was
a fixed number of hours between Armstrong's arrival at nine
a.m. on Thursday morning and his departure at noon on Saturday.
We reluctantly conceded that some of these hours would have to
be set aside for eating, and probably for sleeping (although
James, I think, placed great reliance on the legend that jazz
musicians, by taking narcotics, could do without sleep)."
Next day James cabled the programme to New York:
[page 216]

Soon, the CBS TV film crew arrived. Gene De Poris, leader of the CBS team, was not happy with the hectic
schedule. He was adamant that the nighttime Open Air Concert be filmed during daytime for lighting reasons.
This was agreed to, and fortunately so, because more than 100,000 fans would turn out for the afternoon
performance, on a work day! Despite De Poris' protestations, the remainder of the busy schedule remained
unchanged, as Moxon kept reminding him that "In Africa, Armstrong is more than a band leader, he is a
For Louis' arrival at the airport Moxon had invited and provided transport for all 13 of Accra's nightclub

as the 13 bands strike up a highlife . The crowd suddenly swarmed over the fence into the prohibited tarmac area."All For You. bassist Jack Lesberg. The Armstrongs. the Armstrong party was taken by motorcade to their quarters in Accra. A dozen trumpet players swung in behind Armstrong. De Poris and his men sweated and shot film frantically. "Clear the floor!".the Old Polo Ground . now with the tune between their teeth. He was the comedian of the group. joyous gavotte. valet Doc Pugh. He took her by the hand. As the Polo Ground came into view. and occasionally finished a frantic solo lying on his back. the speaker system was disabled and. De Poris cried. pianist Billy Kyle. personal physician Alexander Schiff. staying with James Moxon.000. They blew their hardest in his ear as they marched along.had been deserted at 1 p. scheduled to begin at nine o'clock. Robert Raymond describes the scene after touch down. almost frightening. The Americans.m. After several numbers it was necessary for the band to depart.about the size of three soccer fields and the site of the 2:30 p. had packed the Paramount with many extra tables and they were being occupied at a rapid rate. As Robert Raymond and the All Stars started the drive to the concert site at 2 p. led by Armstrong's swinging. Following the exuberant welcome. "The rest of the evening went very well. the Prime Minister's car finally delivered the Armstrongs. bowed gracefully. gathering strength and impetus all the time. Shortly before the plane arrived the bands took up their positions and the crowd. The American musicians spent hours on the bandstand playing with the local men. Mensah's to check on the arrangements for the evening's jam session. Robert wondered how many fans had assembled since 1 p. and some we had not. as people at the far end of the field attempted to move closer. he found Gene De Poris and E. According to Raymond: "It was an overwhelming.bands. As the band began to play amidst wild cheering." [page 234] . sight. and led her past the crowded airport fence in an absurd. Armstrong's twenty-stone blues singer. trombonist Trummy Young. then departed with Moxon for a two and one half hour luncheon with Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah. and the two cultures met with explosive zest. All For You": "Then the spirit took charge. the noise and the clamor rose to the skies in the greatest paean of welcome Accra had ever known. The next scheduled event was a reception for the Armstrongs at James Moxon's. Armstrong was the most famous person to visit the Gold Coast since the Prince of Wales in the nineteen twenties.m. "we need room to work!" All to no avail. The police and customs officers watched helplessly." [page 225] All For You.m.T. the crowd tried to spread out to dance. blew as hard as anyone. Finally James Moxon arrived with the Armstrongs. Even Phillip Gbeho had overcome his distaste for brass bands" [page 233] Raymond soon departed for E. played every number. working the slide of his trombone with his foot.T. while the remainder of the group attended the press reception. There. E. and Ernie Anderson of Asscociated Booking..m. Raymond then received an ominous message .m. stood round talking to Armstrong and his men.. Trummy Young who must have had an unquenchable enthusiasm for music. As the animated mass of players and singing people moved across the tarmac. driving trumpet. Louie:Real Audio | WAV format. slowly began to build.the entire area for several hundred yards in each direction was filled with people. clarinetist Edmond Hall. Ajax Bukana gallantly rushed to greet Velma Middleton. Eventually. drummer Barrett Deems.. the band stand and camera equipment came into danger. The atmosphere and the music were so infectiously happy that nobody felt like getting worked up. Raymond recalled: "I looked in at James's reception. Everybody in Accra we had invited.T. Louie. which would reach 10." At 3:15 p. arguing about space for the cameras. he and the band members were stunned . Lucille and Louis Armstrong's entourage included vocalist Velma Middleton. open air concert ..

After preliminary greetings and a cocktail. 'but this is the first time anybody ever entertained us. His explanation was accompanied by a drumming demonstration using available utensils. when the last tribe had paid its tribute. the secretary of the Arts Council. Upon arriving at Achimota College for the traditional drumming and dancing exhibition. Slowly. The All Stars took their seats at the large head table. and also a picture. the All Stars were taken to Legon Hall at the University for a luncheon. accompanied by their own drummers and musicians.still no response..which was filled with patrons that had earlier paid to see Louis Armstrong and his All Stars. Armstrong?" he said gravely. who took pride in his ability to establish immediate rapport with people by means of a single question. and matched his steps. She was an odd but significant figure in her crisp New York dress.) At noon Friday. various objects to be found on the table. holding a chicken leg.The Americans watched. entranced. explained that he liked Africa because it was "drummin' country". So an American took the initiative.m. and because the drums were made of wood. the band was led into a great hall filled with students dressed in royal blue gowns. The Armstrong group was led to its place beneath a large umbrella. Friday morning. It was a great and moving tribute to a black man from beyond the seas. Raymond took the remaining members of the band to another club . and the wooden table itself. the great American musician. We waited. Armstrong. Lucille Armstrong stood up and went out into the arena to join the old man. he said. came into the arena and danced in front of the visitors. "There's cats everywhere.' he said in his gentle voice. and drank from the gourd bowls of palm wine that were passed round. as Lucille watched the old man's feet shuffling in the dust..ah . he advanced towards the band. Side by side.' " [page 239] Then. Edmond Hall sat quietly enjoying himself: 'We spend all our lives going round the world entertaining people. Next. They had Phillip Gbeho's small children perched on their laps. It was an old. y'know!". "Then. "Then the entertainment began. (Looking for more info on this. in a kind of shuffle.. This was the turning point. These two somehow had been able to bring together Chiefs and representatives from all regions of Ghana and work out a seating plan that seemed to satisfy everyone. who had been boosted onto the shoulders of admiring fans while sightseeing in Accra the previous afternnon. a solitary figure arose. old man. Barrett Deems. dancing with the old tribesman in his cotton robe...they had never heard music like this. with a stave. turned to Louis: "And I suppose you've had an enthusiastic response to your . gravely. The Master of Legon Hall." "Groups from each region. Trummy Young immediately picked up his horn and obliged them.." The band opened with Indiana. and went on with his lunch. Mr. the Armstrongs visited an Accra school. Was this the catalyst that would fuse the cultures? It was not enough. [page 237] After a brief wherever you've been. under the bell of Armstrong's swinging trumpet they slowly danced.. Everyone made it home safely by 8 a.At midnight the Armstrongs and James left for home." "Louis and Lucille Armstrong sat sweating in the heat but loving it. the Armstrong party was welcomed by Phillip Gbeho and Beattie Casely-Hayford. Casely-Hayford introduced "Mr. away across the far side of the arena. from some northern tribe.The Weekend In Havana . but there was no response from the audience. As the American woman and the man . Armstrong paused. attuned somewhere deep in his mind to the beat of the music. a number at a slower tempo.

.B. Jim. Satchmo The Great. (New York: Da Capo Press. saying "I know it now.B. ed. After the Louis: the Louis Armstrong story 1900-1971. Following the show Beattie Casely-Hayford presented gifts to the band and gave a short speech of thanks. Black And Blue. The last number of the evening. Lucille went to bed while the others listened to James' Hot Five | Post 1971 Stamps | | Previous Page | . way back. There's cats everywhere. 161. 129. Louis espied a women in the arena who reminded him of his mother. Black Star In The Wind (London: MacGiddon & Kee. Excerpts have been seen here and there. pp. or work in the duplicating dept. 1956). (CL 1077.. y'know!. he ran to James Moxon and told him what he had seen. R. 156. Louis sent off a number of telegrams to friends in the United States explaining what he had seen. M. Hentoff. was dedicated to Prime Minister Nkrumah: Real Audio | WAV format. more and more people from around the arena got up and joined in. distributed by SONY (Columbia Jazz Masterpieces). Jones & J. Liner Notes. Louis Armstrong: A Cultural Legacy (Seattle: University of Washington Press. If you are the President and/or CEO of United Artists. 89. after which they went to the Opera House for their final performance." [page 240] Photo of Lucille and The Elder Shortly thereafter.Columbia Records.and certainly the most popular visitors the Gold Coast ever had stayed only two days. Miller. Louis explained his dieting techniques to James (20 stone) and left him with a lifetime supply of Swiss Kriss. Raymond. pp. 1988). After finishing his number. the lion is not real). Finally. Satchmo (New York: Doubleday. 197-249. the Armstrongs and Raymond returned to James' house." Upon returning to James' house." [page 215] References G. James and Robert retired leaving Louis alone in the living room listening to his old recordings. a number of the bands and a large crowd from Accra had already gathered to say goodbye. 1988).: The United Artists video. N. Giddins. p. No farewell had been arranged at the airport . I know I came from here. Thanks. 31-33. The final event was a brunch at Moxon's house. "Perhaps the most celebrated . p. If you are a Satchmo fan visit the MGM/UA site and bug them (Don't worry.of Africa danced. Thanks. N. and most of the people who had met the All Stars stopped in to say goodbye. Chilton. the All Stars were the honored guests at the Prime Minister's had not been necessary. 1994). Satchmo The Great.: The Satchmo The Great LP is also available as a (reasonably priced) Legacy Records CD. On the way to the airport the entire group stopped for a while at Christiansborg Castle for a final moment of relaxation before the flight. N. has never been released. That evening. 1960). M. 1971 Stamps | https://www. please release on VHS cassette immediately.