Louis Armstrong The Decca Singles 1949-1958

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In September 1949 Louis Armstrong signed to Decca Records, where Milt Gabler was their A & R man and took care of producing Pops’s records. According to Gabler, “The Decca sales organization, they loved Louis, but they also wanted pop tunes, or a plug tune. In those days, you had more than one record of a song when a publisher really worked on it, and as soon as Louis would make a pop tune, his record would go on all the coin machines immediately. And get air play.”

A kissGabler hit upon the winning formula of studying the Billboard charts and selecting current hits that would be appropriate for Armstrong to cover. Though Armstrong’s versions never supplanted the original hits on the charts, the passage of time has been kinder to Armstrong’s unique and timeless takes on this material. Though George Avakian chose not to make these types of records with Armstrong, he couldn’t help but admire Gabler’s methods and Armstrong’s results. “Milt Gabler was a terrific record producer, and he adored Armstrong,” Avakian told Michael Jarrett. “He did a great mixture of productions, and one of the things that he did very successfully was to have Louis cover other people’s hits rather quickly, like ‘Because of You,’ Tony Bennett. Louis’s version of ‘Cold Cold Heart’ [1951], the Hank Williams song, was unexpected, but it was done very well. Louis was probably the most successful cover artist of all time, though we never thought of him that way.”

As Nicholas Payton wrote in 2012, “Bing Crosby said of Armstrong – ‘He is the beginning and the end of music in America.’ I agree. Louis Armstrong was the most important and influential musician of the 20th century. The Original King of Pop. Popularity and musical influence are two different things. The most influential people are not necessarily the most popular. Anybody can win a popularity contest, but to influence music requires specific contributions to the advancement of an artform. No person has ever been as popular as MJ, in that sense he is the indisputable ‘King of Pop,’ but Pop music’s king is Louis Armstrong.”

The above is an extract from the 50,000 word essay on Louis Armstrong : The Decca Singles 1949-1958 by renowned Louis Armstrong scholar and historian, Ricky Riccardi which is available to download here as a pdf  

You can download and stream all 95 tracks from, Louis Armstrong : The Decca Singles 1949-1958 at Apple here
From Amazon here

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