Song Of The Week: “Hello, Dolly!” by Louis Armstrong

louis-armstrong-and-the-all-stars-hello-dolly-1964-13Sometimes you don’t even know you have a hit record.

At the age of 63, Louis Armstrong toured constantly all over the world (as he’d been doing for the past 40 years). Rarely did he and his band, the All-Stars, find themselves with a break — which was okay by them, since every show brought in the dough.

While playing in Chicago in late 1963, with a precious day off in their sights, Armstrong received a call from his manager asking him and the band to fly over to New York City to record some new material on their holiday. Armstrong wearily agreed, and the following week he and his fellow musicians hopped aboard a plane the morning after a concert, and headed straight to the studio upon landing.

With the sheet music to a number of songs already on the stands when they arrived, Louis and the All-Stars quickly learned and cut the tracks, including one that he hated, but still sang with gusto. The next day, everyone boarded another plane back to Chicago for their concert that evening. Armstrong promptly forgot all about the whirlwind session as he concentrated on his tour.

Louis Armstrong- trumpetJump ahead 3 or 4 months, to the spring of 1964. Armstrong, still on the road, began hearing shouts from the audience. It sounded like they were calling out “Hello, Dolly!” He ignored the cries, but after it continued for a few nights, he grew concerned. In the middle of a show, he leaned over to his bassist and asked what was going on. His bassist smiled and said, “Do you remember that recording session last winter? Do you remember that song you hated? That’s what they want.”

Unbeknownst to Armstrong, his record label released “Hello, Dolly!” as a single at the beginning of the year to coincide with the opening of the Broadway show of the same name. Defying all the odds–and all the teenagers–“Hello, Dolly!” hit #1 in May, ending a 14-week streak by The Beatles, who had held the top spot from the moment they landed in America. Armstrong became the oldest artist to reach #1, and five years later, having changed his opinion of the song, starred in the very successful movie.

So sit back, relax, and listen to the man who helped invent 20th-century popular music–not only instrumentally, but vocally–sing the hit he so richly deserved. Here’s the one and only, Satchmo.

You can’t ever have too much.

The Definitive Louis Armstrong

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