Christmas came and as a gift, my parents got me another 4-CD set, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, covering Armstrong's 1923-1934 recordings. And there was that Morgenstern name again! This was a cassette set and I remember listening to it on the Amtrak AutoTrain home, knocked out by "Potato Head Blues" and Dan's description of it in the notes, "What joyous music it is!"
Joy. That was it. That's what spoke to me then and it speaks to me now. I don't need to sum up what happened next; my friend Mick Carlon already wrote the definitive profile of me for Jazz Times and the great Paul Leslie just did a similarly great job in getting me to tell my story on his radio show last month.
But whatever has happened since can really be traced back to that day when I listened to 16 Most Requested Songs, 20 years ago today. At least I think it was 20 years ago today. You see, I had to return that cassette back to the library but a few months later, I wanted to hear it again so I check it out once more. By then, Louis Armstrong had overtaken me and I knowing that this might be important to remember, I checked the checkout stamps to see the date of when I first brought it home. I saw it and said, "Great, I need to remember that."
And for years, I did. But now, I guess age is taking toll and it's a little blurry but I'm fairly certain it's October 9. I originally thought maybe October 12 but that was Louis and Lucille Armstrong's wedding anniversary. I thought it might have been October 13 but that was the anniversary of my first day at the Armstrong House. I checked the 1995 calendar and saw October 9 was Columbus Day, which made me pause. But further research shows the Ocean County Library doesn't close on Columbus Day, so that would have been a perfect place for my mom to take me on my day off from school. So yeah, I'm sticking with October 9.
Either way, it's been 20 incredible years. And as a postscript, I spent last week hanging with George Avakian and tomorrow night, Dan Morgenstern is coming to see ME play the piano at a restaurant in New Jersey. My parents will be there, too, still probably in disbelief at all the places Louis Armstrong has taken me in the last 20 years.
So thank you, Pops. You are tops. Lots more to come.....