When Louis Armstrong visited Prague in March of 1965, at which time he was truly an international star. While groups such as the Beatles were emerging, Armstrong still led the charts with the song, Hello Dolly. It’s still a big mystery as to how Frantisek Spurný arranged for Louis Armstrong to agree to no less than nine – yes NINE! – concerts at Lucerna Hall, all sold out, but it happened.
Louis Daniel Armstrong (1901-1971) was an internationally famous American jazz trumpeter and singer. He is considered one of the most important jazz artists of the 20th century. He is considered the most famous representative of New Orleans jazz to this day.
The world knew him by his American nicknames Satchmo or Pops, but in Czech Pops translates „Velká huba” which means something like”Big mouth”, and is very disrespectful to the Czechs, so to them he’s the one, the only, the beloved Satchmo.
The Czechs were happy to receive him and even surprised him with a show of their own featuring Jiří Jelínek (whom we love from Limonádový Joe) and Eva Pilarová showing off their jazz talents.
He just loved it!
Of course, he was delighted at their rendition of Hallo Satchmo.
For those interested in some trivia, his longest stay ever on tour spent in one place was…?
You guessed it.
It was a personal coincidence for us to see the clip because we actually just watched a film entitled If A Thousand Clarinets (Kdyby tisíc klarinetů), in which they perform this music. It’s more like an extended music video than a film, and you can pick up a copy on eBay.
Louis Armstrong stayed in Prague for ten days. His interpreter and guide was Lubomir Dorůžka, famed musical journalist. Armstrong’s concert at Lucerna Hall became a huge social event where all the stars of the day attended. In fact, Armstrong sold out nine shows.
Czechs love Louis so much, and remember – her represented something so American…
Of course he gave the lucky people more than one show.
And of course, he loved the Czechs!
He was wonderfully open and allowed reporters and photographers backstage.
And he was patient with all of the interviews.
He even signed many, many autographs!
Armstrong and his wife toured all over Prague, including the Semafor and Hradcany.
He enjoyed the typical Czech dish of roast pork with dumplings and sauerkraut and his wife stopped into Prague’s most couturier of the day.
Apparently, he loved Slivovice too, but warned American friends later that it would “knock them on their asses“!
Armstrong remembered his time in Prague fondly and commented on it intensively in the coming years.
Here is a full 25 minute documentary where you see his arrival, part of his performances, and his happiness while visiting Prague.
1965, Documentary, Československo, 27 min. Režie: Jan Špáta, Scénář: Jan Špáta, Kamera: Jan Špáta, Hrají: Louis Armstrong, Pavlína Filipovská, Karel Gott, Ferdinand Havlík, Jiří Jelínek, Eva Pilarová, Jiří Šlitr, Jiří Suchý, Naďa Urbánková.
We love you Satchmo – and we think you’re still #1.
Thank you for visiting Prague!
As a side note – We do know that it’s been said that František Spurný worked all sorts of miracles. Many attribute the over-of-border careers of Karel Gott and Waldemar Matuska to him. However, later he was imprisoned for the very kind of maneuvering talent that got Armstrong to Prague. You can read more about that here.
But back to beloved Satchmo…
While we were searching, we located yet another precious jewel!
An entire album that was recorded ‘Live at Lucerna Hall‘.
The songs include: When It’s Sleepy Time Down South, The Bucket Got a Hole In It, Tiger Rag, Louisiana, Hello Dolly, When the Saints Come Marchin’ In, Royal Garden Blues, The faithful Hussar, Mac the Knife, Struttin’ with Some Barbecue, Blueberry Hill, When It’s Sleepy Time Down South-Hello Dolly 1 Track, and 5+ minutes of some wonderful live talking at the hall that evening.
The best part is that you can listen to all of them now.
Here are all of the songs for your listening pleasure…
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