The Louis Armstrong Discography: Swinging In the Thirties (1932 - 1942)

The Louis Armstrong Discography: Swinging In the Thirties (1932 - 1942)

Now comes a plateau in Louis' career, a decade when he embraced his career, his popularity, and most of all his musical groove. Though some are quick to malign this period, in actuality there is much to enjoy and little to dislike. Armstrong was experiencing an admirable smoothing out of his talents, a broadening of his support, and never once does he exhibit anything but the happiest enjoyment in his recordings.

Not only was he finding acclaim in the popularity of his records, but was becoming one of America's most recognizable personalities through his many appearances in short jazz films and full length features. Everyone seemed to know and love Louis.

This prolific period began with a short, two-year association with Victor, and continued with an extended contract with Decca. RCA has collected their entire Armstrong catalog in a standout 4-disc set, which also assembles several sets of late 40's work. Decca, however, has missed the point, following the admirable Columbia series of complete OKeh reissues with a haphazard mish-mosh of discs, hopelessly spotty and incomplete. The Classics label from Europe seems to have plugged the holes with a series of eight discs spanning 1928-42; unfortunately, they are more difficult to come by.

With the outbreak of World War II, the musicians' union went on strike, leading to a nearly total cessation of recording. Armstrong's recording career, too, was affected by this ban, with the exception of sporadic "V-Discs" for the troops overseas. Following the war, however, he was ready to move to a fresh stage of his career.

Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
December 8, 1932: Camden, New Jersey

Louis makes his first Victor recordings with these four smooth but unmemorable songs, two of them self-penned. For this 18-month period of records for Victor, his band goes through constant personnel changes; the lineup on this set is actually the Chick Webb Orchestra. Mezz Mezzrow is likely on "bells" onHobo.You'll Wish You'd Never Been Born is a direct copy ofYou Rascal You.You couldn't get away with that these days!

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
December 21, 1932, Camden, New Jersey

Something else you couldn't get away with today, is to sign with a new record company and immediately re-record your biggest hits. But here's Pops doing just that, with a two-sided medley. This one-time aggregation includes a 24-year-old Louis Jordan on sax, long before his headlining days of the '40s.

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
January 26, 1933: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
January 27, 1933: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
January 28, 1933: Chicago, IL

Back in Chicago and accompanied by a few of his old sidemen, Louis gets down to business with some genuinely swinging tunes. Except for a few awkward moments(Snowball,for instance), these are prime examples of Pops at his height in the thirties -- in particular,I've Got the World on a String, Hustlin' and Bustlin', and the positively enchantingHoney, Do!

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
April 24, 1933: Chicago, IL

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
April 26, 1933, Chicago

With this third set of sessions, Armstrong wraps up his commitment to Victor. On top of that, these are his last studio recordings for a year and a half (except for a Paris set sometime in October 1934). An inconceivable break for such an incomparable star at the pinnacle of his craft.

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Louis Armstrong and His Harlem Hot Band (film)
October 21, 1933: Copenhagen, Denmark

A fabulous, oft-played short film of Armstrong in concert in Copenhagen. Lamentably brief, but you can see what all the shouting was about. A portion of "Dinah" is available online from leechvideo.com.

Louis Armstrong and His Hot Harlem Band
October 28, 1933: Vinterpalatset, Stockholm, Sweden

"Chinatown" and "You Rascal, You" were released on the Sonora label in a very limited pressing in 1934. All three tracks were later released on LP and CD: Musicmouth AL1900, Classic Jazz CJ1001, SR RHLP1238. Tracks are also included on the Musicdisk Jazz Anthology (F) JA5238.

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
October 1934: Paris, France

This unusual session took place in Paris during Armstrong's second European tour. The band was made up of American expatriates, West Indians and Africans; they also toured with Louis through France, Belgium and Switzerland. A reputed first take of Will You, Won't You Be My Baby remains lost.

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
October 3, 1935: New York, NY

Back in New York, and back in an American studio for the first time since April of 1933. Satch is now signed to Decca Records, a productive contract that will run through 1945. A bran' new set of sidemen on this first set for Decca. The second take ofGot a Bran' New Suit saw its first release in 1995; the others all have "alternate takes" available on various releases, but are doubtfully unique.

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Shell Chateau Radio Show (radio)
October 5, 1935: New York, NY

The earliest extant radio appearance for Louis, hosted by Walter Winchell.

Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
November 21, 1935: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
November 22, 1935: New York, NY

Four versions ofOld Man Mozeare reputed to exist; the second (take B or C) is extremely difficult to track down, and (like take A) has no trumpet solo by Louis. Careful listening has detected a different ambiance of these two sets of recordings, hence the placing of them on two different dates. Though Decca's CD liner notes place all these recordings on November 21, some maintain that aural evidence indicates two different sessions. I defer to the latter analysis.

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
December 13, 1935: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
December 19, 1935: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
January 18, 1936: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
February 4, 1936: New York, NY

Louis finds himself in a one-off session with a brand new band.

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
April 28, 1936: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
April 28, 1936: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
April 29, 1936: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
May 18, 1936: New York, NY

Before cutting out for a major film engagement in Hollywood, Louis and his band pull off a fine session, including one of Hoagy Carmichael's overlooked classics, "Ev'ntide". And if anyone has any doubt about Armstrong's ability to write great music, "Swing That Music" should put that to rest once and for all. It's a major accomplishment, with a head-spinning woodwind arrangement.

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Pennies From Heaven (film)
July-August, 1936: Hollywood, California

Armstrong's first featured role in a Hollywood musical beside Bing Crosby. Armstrong plays Henry, a hired musician at the Haunted House Cafe. Servants and subserviant roles were pretty much the only options available to blacks in the pre-civil-rights Hollywood - even for as big a star as Armstrong.

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Louis Armstrong With Jimmy Dorsey And His Orchestra
August 7, 1936: Los Angeles, CA

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Louis Armstrong, Frances Langford and Bing Crosby
August 17, 1936: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong With The Polynesians
August 18, 1936: Los Angeles, CA

One of the oddest concepts of his career: Armstrong with a Hawaiian combo. But even this mismatch is nothing for Pops to top with his expected aplomb. Its uniqueness is further accentuated by the presence of old mate Lionel Hampton, who appeared briefly in the "Pennies From Heaven" film.

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Norge Appliances Radio Show (radio)
Summer, 1936: New York, NY

Reunited with his New York orchestra, Louis swings his way through this radio appearance.

Norge Appliances Radio Show (radio)
Early 1937: New York, NY

Louis Armstrong With Andy Iona And His Islanders
March 24, 1937: New York, NY

Having achieved a small success with their previous recording, the Islanders/Polynesians reunite with Louis in New York for a second go-round. This time, the commercial success isn't as strong, and the concept is mercifully dropped once and for all.

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Louis Armstrong And The Mills Brothers
April 7, 1937: New York, NY

Now a much more satisfying pairing of musical talents, and a rare opportunity for Pops to relax, nestled in the mellow setting of the Mills Brothers' impeccable vocals. This is the first of four recording forays with the Mills over the course of the next three years, a collaboration that provided considerable musical growth and satisfaction.

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Fleischmann's Yeast Program (radio)
April 16 1937: New York, NY

Louis Armstrong And The Mills Brothers
June 29, 1937: New York, NY

A second set of beautifully realized American classics.

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
July 2, 1937: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
July 7, 1937, New York City: New York, NY

Louis reunites in the studio with his New York orchestra after over a year.

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Aunt Jemima Pancake Flour Show (radio)
Mid 1937: New York, NY

Artists and Models (film)
October, 1937: Los Angeles, CA

Armstrong is featured in a specialty duet with an almost-blackfaced Martha Raye in a specialty musical act set in Harlem.

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Doctor Rhythm (film)
October, 1937: Los Angeles, CA

Satch is a trumpet player in this Bing Crosby vehicle.

Every Day's a Holiday (film)
October, 1937: Los Angeles, CA

Armstrong plays himself in this Mae West comedy.

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
November 15, 1937: Los Angeles, CA

L.A. in L.A. with featured players from his N.Y. Orchestra. A scaled-down "All-Star" version of the Orchestra accompanies Satch on these two tracks. There is a supposed Take B of "Sunny Side" on Canadian Decca.

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
January 12, 1938: Los Angeles, CA

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
January 13, 1938: Los Angeles, CA

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
May 13, 1938: New York, NY

First of another pair of dates with the scaled-down Orchestra.

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
May 18, 1938: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And The Mills Brothers
June 10, 1938: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong With The Decca Mixed Choir
June 14, 1938: New York, NY

Louis digs into his gospel roots for this brace of inspirational numbers.

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
June 24, 1938: New York, NY

This lineup of the orchestra is used for this session only. Guitarist Dave Barbour will later front a band that backs up Louis and Ella Fitzgerald in a 1951 recording.

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Saturday Night Swing Club (radio)
June 25, 1938: New York, NY

Radio appearance with Leith Stevens' Orchestra and The Mills Brothers.

Louis Armstrong
August 11, 1938: New York, NY

A rare novelty record from Pops, delivered in the style of a New Orleans preacher/shuckster. Armstrong had been mistrustful of clergy since his youth and it comes out here. The choir that appears on the second of these odd tracks - billed as "Louis Armstrong Humorous Monologue" - isn't identifiable, but may be the Lyn Murray Choir, which had just featured with Satch in a June recording session. The organist, however, is Mills Brother Harry, on his own for the day.

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Going Places (film)
September, 1938: Los Angeles, CA

Armstrong's largest role was as a racehorse trainer named Gabriel who tends a horse named Jeepers Creepers that can only be calmed down and ridden when Gabriel sings the song of the same name. The film's conclusion features Armstrong and his band driving in a buggy down the racetrack as Jeepers Creepers competes for a title. Armstrong does the best he can do with the role of a shabby, childlike servant who is referred to as "Uncle Tom".

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Radio Performance (radio)
October, 1938: New Orleans, LA

Louis makes an on-air appearance in his hometown, accompanied by his full orchestra.

Martin Block's Swing Show (radio)
December 14, 1938: New York, NY

Remarkably energized jam session featuring Armstrong, Jack Teagarden and the legendary Fats Waller, in his only recordings with Satch.

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Paul Whiteman's Christmas Eve Concert (radio)
December 24, 1938: New York, NY

Holiday performance at Carnegie Hall, accompanied by the Lyn Murray Choir.

Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
January 18, 1939: New York, NY

In the studio with his own orchestra for the first time in eight months.

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Louis Armstrong With The Casa Loma Orchestra
February 20, 1939: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
April 5, 1939: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong
April 25, 1939, New York City

A happy set of recordings harkening back to the old OKeh days and the Hot Fives. Armstrong's recording of Happy Birthday was delivered to Bing Crosby on his 35th birthday on May 2, 1939.

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
June 15, 1939: New York, NY

"Poor Old Joe" was rerecorded in December, but this version saw light on an Argentinean disc.

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ASCAP Award Concert, Carnegie Hall (radio)
October 6, 1939: New York, NY

Waldorf Astoria Hotel (radio)
October 14, 1939: New York, NY

Two giants meet, along with Fletcher Henderson and Lionel Hampton. Armstrong and Goodman reportedly didn't much care for each other.

Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
December 18, 1939: New York, NY

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Radio Broadcast (radio)
December 18, 1939: Cotton Club, New York, NY

Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
March 14, 1940: New York, NY

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Radio Broadcast (radio)
March 22, 1940: Cotton Club, New York, NY

Radio Broadcast (radio)
March 24, 1940: Cotton Club, New York, NY

Radio Broadcast (radio)
April 9, 1940: Cotton Club, New York, NY

Louis Armstrong And The Mills Brothers
April 10, 1940: New York, NY

For the final time, Pops shares a studio with the Millses, recording four sensational vocal treasures.

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Louis Armstrong And The Mills Brothers
April 11, 1940: New York, NY

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Radio Broadcast (radio)
April 15, 1940: New York, NY

Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
May 1, 1940: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
May 27, 1940: New York, NY

One-time gathering of these musicians. Alterate takes of Perdido Street Blues and 2:19 Blues have been reported.

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
May 27, 1940: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And His Hot Seven
March 10, 1941: New York, NY

A scaled-down cast of characters culled from the Armstrong Orchestra -- with the exception of John Williams on bass. A brief return to the classic 1920's format and a premonition of the soon-to-be created All-Stars. Take A of In The Gloaming is purportedly available.

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Louis Armstrong And His Hot Seven
April 11, 1941: New York, NY

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
November 16, 1941: Chicago, IL

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WBBM Broadcast (radio)
November 17, 1941: Grand Terrace, Chicago, IL

WBBM Broadcast (radio)
November 27, 1941: Chicago, IL

MBS Broadcast (radio)
April 1, 1942: Casa Manana, Culver City, CA

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MBS Broadcast (radio)
April 4, 1942: Casa Manana, Culver City, CA

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MBS Broadcast (radio)
April 10, 1942: Casa Manana, Culver City, CA

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MBS Broadcast (radio)
April 15, 1942: Casa Manana, Culver City, CA

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Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra
April 17, 1942: Los Angeles, CA

This session concludes Louis' pre-war output of commercial recordings. At about this time, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) calls for a self-imposed ban on recording for the duration of World War II. An alternate take of COQUETTE is purportedly available.

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Soundies (film)
April 20, 1942: Los Angeles, CA

These four "Soundies" are promotional films that are genuine predecessors to MTV. They are wonderfully clean samples of Louis at work in his prime (though the soundtracks are prerecorded). Though the material is largely dated ("You Rascal You" and "Shine" having been featured in a short film a decade earlier), an instant classic is created in "Swingin' on Nothing", which features a hefty Velma Middleton doing her astounding breakdance routine.

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MBS Broadcast (radio)
April 22, 1942: Casa Manana, Culver City, CA

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Next: The Louis Armstrong Discography: The War Years (1942 - 1946)