Untapped is proud to introduce our new Untapped New Orleans Spotify Playlist. The goal is to create a representative playlist of local artists. We’ll introduce artists on the list and some of the songs that they are well known for. Let us know who you think we should add!
Louis Armstrong and Louis Prima are closely connected. Both were gravelly-voiced trumpet players, both were bandleaders, and both left New Orleans for Chicago to pursue their careers. In the ‘20s and ‘30s, Armstrong played with Joe “King” Oliver and eventually formed his own groups, recording a number of influential standards, becoming a foundational influence in jazz, and setting a high standard for cornet and trumpet players from New Orleans.
Prima was heavily influenced by Armstrong. After moving through Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, Prima revived his career with a regular Las Vegas show. His style was so similar to Armstrong’s that when Disney hesitated to cast African-American Armstrong in the role of orangutan King Louie in the 1967 “The Jungle Book,” they had Prima play the King of the Swingers instead.
Armstrong settled in New York in Corona, Queens, and lived there until his death in 1971. Prima too lived away from New Orleans until he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1975 and was moved back. He died in 1978.
The French Quarter Festival has cleverly paired the two on the Harrah’s Casino Louis Louis Pavilion Stage on the riverfront.
“West End Blues”
The title refers to the West End lakefront neighborhood in New Orleans. Joe “King” Oliver wrote the song, but the most famous version is by Armstrong and his Hot Five in 1928. Armstrong sings scat over parts of the song, and his trumpet solos are considered some of the finest ever played.
“A Foggy Day”
One of the great tracks from “Ella and Louis,” a dream team of jazz talent – Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and the Oscar Peterson Quartet. The album consists of eleven slow tempo ballads which give both Armstrong and Fitzgerald room to work their magic.
“What a Wonderful World”
Armstrong showcases his unmatchable tone on this song that was written for him to record in 1968 (after Tony Bennett turned it down). This is the quintessential Louis Armstrong song, for better or worse.
“Sing Sing Sing”
Prima penned this 1937 swing classic which has been covered by all the greats, notably Benny Goodman. If you’ve never heard it before, the tune at least will probably be familiar.
“Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody (Medley)”
It would be a crime not to include this song, especially since lyrics from the first song are on his grave in Metairie Cemetery: “When the end comes, I know, they’ll all say ‘just a gigolo’ as life goes on without me.”
“Angelina/Zooma Zooma (Medley)”
This live recording is probably the closest anyone can get to the virtuosity of Prima live and in person – note the raucous audience reactions at 0:12 when the song begins and at 1:26 when he starts singing in Italian.