Louis in the Summertime

Summertime, an’ the livin’ is easy

 Fish are jumpin’ an’ the cotton is high.

Oh, yo’ daddy’s rich and yo’ ma is good-lookin’

So hush, little baby, don’ you cry.

Those lyrics from the song “Summertime” in the opera Porgy and Bess summarize the feelings people experience during the summer. The summer is the time of year when it is acceptable to openly relax in a park or beach all day and even after the sun goes down. More people come out and interact with their neighbors and enjoy the nice weather during the summer and Louis Armstrong was no exception. Although he performed around the year, Louis still made time to enjoy the summer and today at the museum we use the summer to honor Louis and have fun.

The summer was a special time for Louis, because he could celebrate his birthday. Louis always believed his birthday was on July 4, 1900 and celebrated it on that day every year. Having his birthday coincide with Independence Day only added to Louis’ charm. Louis celebrated his last birthday at his house in Corona in 1971. Louis and Lucille had the party in their newly renovated garden and invited friends, family, and neighbors. A few days after his last birthday party, Armstrong passed away. Years later in 1986, a baptismal birth certificate was found that revealed Louis’ birthday was actually August 4, 1901. Although Louis may have had the wrong date, the summer was always an opportunity to have a good time. 

Louis also performed in different venues during the summer. One notable performance is the Newport Jazz Festival, which usually takes place in late July/early August. The festival first began in 1954 and has been going strong since. Louis first performed at the festival in 1957 and in 1970 there was a tribute to him featuring Mahalia Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Owns, and more. There is a special feeling of going to a music festival in the summer and performing for people who traveled for near and far to see you play. Below is a picture of Louis and Mahalia Jackson from the ‘70 Newport Jazz Festival.

Mahalia Jackson and Louis at the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival

Now at the museum, we use the summer to our advantage and celebrate Louis in different ways. Because Louis celebrated his birthday on July 4th every year we hold a celebration and offer guests red beans and rice, Louis’ favorite food. We also do this on August 4th, Louis’ second birthday. During the summer, the museum holds concerts that feature jazz musicians from around the country and world. Some of the concerts also include students from Corona that participated in our Satchmo’s Classroom program, which allows local school children to learn trumpet. Summertime was and still is a fun time at the Armstrong House and that is because of the legacy that Louis and Lucille have left. When the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, next summer we will be back in full force. 

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