Armstrong, Louis (1901 – 1971)
A fine, rare and amusing three-page typed letter signed by Louis Armstrong. Written in stylish, jazzy prose on his personal letterhead and dated March 11th 1952.
Armstrong writes to Ron Simon from San Francisco; instead of his address, he writes, ‘Mary had a little bear, The bear was might fine, Everywhere Mary went, You’d see her bear behind…’
He then opens, ‘Man—you must be a Fortune Teller, or Physyic [sic] or “Sompn” to know the I—Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, and his All stars could stand a little drink after such a long long trip from our fine land —America…. you betcha’ma’life we could… I dug it – in our boy’s (Herb Caen’s) (Column) when we got off the Plane…You know? The first thing that I do when ever we hit another town—(we make so damn many — Teehee) and the first thing I turned to was Daddy Caen’s—Jive Column…’
He goes on, ‘After reading of you and your very fine deed, etc, it certainly was a drag to know that you don’t feel well…. Of course, I’ve not had heart troubles, other than trying to keep up with those no good wives I’ve had in life… Wow… I’ve had four of them… And, anytime I should write a story of my life, why they will take up all the chapters in the book… But, very interesting, ha ha. Because, all four of them loved my dirty drawers… But, some how, some dog ass situation would raise its, ugly head, where they would, interfear [sic] with my trumpet, and would have to go — thats all… But, I am still friendly with all of them… and when ever we run across each other, we’ll pitch, a boogiewoogie — Now — Now — no sex stuff… just, that good old friendship, where we’d throw away the hatchet… So that’s the only heart troubles or troubles period that I’ve had… But — I suffered like a bitch with my stomach when I made that first trip (with the All Stars) to Europe… Yessir — I was over Sweden, Scold — with those Natives (who’s used to their liquors) and I am a damn fool, hold up my glass, every time they did — Of course I had a helluva time, while doing it…’
As I was saying about the time I was in Sweden, having a ball with my fine fans and deciples [sic] over there… Well sir — I said Scold so much, until, when I arrived home — I awakened one morning, and as I went to get out of the bed, I fell flat on my face… And for three years, afterwards, I thought I had ulcers…Paying all kinds of monies to doctors… Until onedays a boy (an old raggidy [sic] Spade (colored boy) came into my dressing room when I was playing in Chicago at the Oriental Theatre, seeing me suffering with my stomach so bad that I could not eat anything… Not even look at food… And when that “Cat” came in — he saw — the beautiful meal that I was trying to eat… He looked at me, a long time… And all of a sudden he said—”Pops, I’m your ‘Home Boy…And I’m tired of seeing you suffer like that…I work over on the Northside, where all-these rich ‘Ofays (meaning—white people) all the rich Ofays—come and buy this stuff… And I’ll be back within 45-minutes with a jar of it, give you a big spoonful of it, and your troubles will be over —Believe that…. So, I’m feeling so bad, I thought to myself, whatever he gets, who knows—it might do the trick… And then too, I’m one “sommitch” will try anything — “once”… Sho ‘Nuff—this Cat came back within forty five minutes, just as he said he would…’
‘The first thing he said while he was fixing a great big table spoonful of this powder in a half glass of warm water, he said “Man—Hommy” —(meanin) Home Boy—try this sh-t…. the minute I drank that sh-t down— as he called it — It seemed as though I became well all at once… Honest to God… I was so thrilled, I asked my home boy, as to how much did that jive cost????…. He said, well daddy, I paid, four dollars and fifty cents for it… So, I went him one better… I gave him a nice crispy, ten dollar bill… And told him to please keep the change… P.S. It was Bis-Ma-Rex.’
He goes on to tell a crude joke about a porter and a doctor, ending ‘Well, Ol Boy, I’m sorry I’ve taken up so much of your time… we all thank you in advance… That’s very very white of you. Armstrong makes several handwritten corrections and emendations throughout the text. In fine condition. Accompanied by the original mailing envelope and a transmittal letter from journalist Herb Caen.
On March 11, 1952, Caen’s column in the San Francisco Examiner reported: ‘Ron Simon, the big P’Alto contractor, is one of the hottest Louis Armstrong fans in these parts—but he’ll be missing when ol’ Satchmo opens at the Hangover here tonight. Simon is home with a heart attack. However, he has sent a check to the place, to cover the cost of buying the band a round of drinks.’