Louis Armstrong: Hello Dolly
Louis Armstrong (trumpet, vocals)
The Ultimate Collection (Verve 543699)
Joe Darensbourg (clarinet), Tony Gattuso (banjo), Danny Barcelona (drums).
Composed by Jerry Herman.
Recorded: New York, December 3, 1963
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
A bystander at the recording session notes that Louis Armstrong shook his head in dismay when looking over the music to "Hello Dolly," an unknown song (at the time) that the trumpeter was simply performing to please long-time manager Joe Glaser. Glaser must have been repaying a favor to someone—certainly this repetitive tune with the simple-minded lyric from a Broadway show that still hadn't opened was no gift to Armstrong. Yet Louis was a consummate showman and seasoned veteran of many sessions, and delivered the tune with so much enthusiasm that one might have concluded that he was the one who had concocted the whole idea. Even the old-timey banjo, overdubbed by a producer looking to add a little more "period charm" to the song, can't detract from the charisma of New Orleans' most famous musical ambassador. A few weeks later the song was a hit, and by May a 62-year-old trumpeter had pushed the Beatles out of the top spot on the Billboard chart. This artist had never enjoyed such a big hit, and never would again. No, this is not Louis Armstrong's finest moment, and will merely distract newbies trying to understand why this artist had such a substantial impact on American music. Yet when a musician of this stature has a surprise commercial success, the only proper response for the rest of us is to cheer loudly. Louis at the top of the charts? Hey, it's so nice to have you back where you belong!
Reviewer: Ted Gioia