Look who knocked the Beatles out of the top spot, Louis Armstrong. If you were to try to guess who might kick out the Beatles, I’m fairly positive, Louis Armstrong would not be on your list. But, he did. And he did it with a great song from a great Broadway musical.
Hello Dolly! was a Broadway musical released in 1964 which starred Carol Channing. She sings the song in the play. Music for the stage play was written by Jerry Herman from a book by Michael Stewart. The stage play won 10 Tony Awards in 1964, a record which held for 37 years. Louis Armstrong was asked to cut a demo of the title song, “Hello Dolly!” in December of 1963 and at the time he did that, he was not even aware that there was a play.
“Hello Dolly!” is only one of two number one songs that come from stage plays. The other is “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In” from the musical Hair and was sung by the Fifth Dimension in 1969.
Louis Armstrong was born on July 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana. When I was younger, everyone said that he was born in 1900 (including Louis himself) and that was cool, being born on the century and on the fourth of July at that. But, sadly, it was discovered later that he was born in 1901. But, of course, that doesn’t lessen his impact on the musical world. His father left the family when Louis was a young child and soon after that his mother turned to a life of prostitution and left him with his grandmother.
On January 1, 1913, Louis attended a New Year’s parade and somehow acquired his step-father’s gun and fired six blanks into the air during the parade. He was immediately arrested and sent to the Waif Home for Boys where he spent the next year and a half. This was a blessing in disguise, because it was at Waif’s that a music teacher took an interest in him and taught him how to play the bugle. He became the school bugle boy and that was the start of his musical career.
It was at Waif’s that he got the nickname Satchmo. The kids used to call him “satchel mouth” because of his big mouth and that was shortened to Satchmo. Later, that was shortened even more to just Satch.
By 1922, Louis was playing with bands in New York and Chicago. He spent the Thirties touring Europe and earning the reputation as the world’s greatest trumpet player. In the Forties he began to star in movies, the highlight (at least for me) was “High Society” in 1956 with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly. In 1969, they released the movie version of “Hello Dolly!” starring Barbra Streisand and the movie features Louis playing the song.
Louis had a number one song in 1932 with “All of Me” but didn’t have another until 1964 with “Hello Dolly!.” When he hit number one in 1964, he was the oldest person ever to have a number one, he was 63. That might have been broken since, we’ll have to wait and see. Louis died on July 6, 1971, just two days after his birthday. The loss of a great talent.
“Hello Dolly!” debuted on the pop charts on February 29, 1964 and spent one week at number one.