Louis Armstrong’s 1964 Interview with a Pair of Intrepid Kid Reporters

In the sum­mer of 1964, two young boys from the North Shore sub­urbs of Chica­go took a tape recorder and set out to inter­view jazz leg­end Louis Arm­strong for their high school radio sta­tion. Arm­strong was play­ing a con­cert at the Ravinia Fes­ti­val in High­land Park, not far from the boys’ school in Win­net­ka. He agreed to an inter­view, and as a group of pro­fes­sion­al reporters from the city’s major news out­lets wait­ed impa­tient­ly out­side his dress­ing room door, Arm­strong spent 20 min­utes answer­ing ques­tions for a lit­tle 10-watt FM radio sta­tion.

The sto­ry is told above, in the lat­est install­ment of PBS’s ongo­ing ani­ma­tion project with Blank on Blank, a group that brings unheard inter­views back to life. Michael Ais­ner, who was 15 when he met Arm­strong, and his friend James R. Stein, who was 14, recount their adven­ture and play a few high­lights from the inter­view. Arm­strong explains how he got the nick­name “Satch­mo” and talks a lit­tle about his Dick­en­sian child­hood and how he learned to play the coro­net in the Home for Col­ored Waifs in New Orleans. He talks about the need for prac­tic­ing hard every day, and about the tal­ent that was his tick­et out of the slums. “You’ve got to be good,” Arm­strong says, “or bad as the dev­il.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

Louis Arm­strong and His All Stars Live in Bel­gium, 1959

Watch the Ear­li­est Known Footage of Louis Arm­strong Per­form­ing Live in Con­cert (Copen­hagen, 1933)

Muham­mad Ali Plans to Fight on Mars in Lost 1966 Inter­view with Child Reporter

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