50 Years of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World"

Steve Adubato goes one-on-one with Ricky Riccardi, Director of Research Collections at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Louis Armstrong’s classic song, “What a Wonderful World.” Riccardi, describes what visitors can find at the historic Louis Armstrong House Museum.

2/13/18 #2111






"Ricky Riccardi, Director of Research Collections, the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Good to see you. Thanks Steve. All the way from Toms River, New Jersey. [laughter] Born and raised. And by the way the... it's out in Queens, right? The museum's in Corona, Queens. Yeah. Yeah. Louis Armstrong? Yeah. Died in 1971... his greatest contribution to American music and culture was? Is? Turn on the radio and I can almost guarantee you anything that comes on, I can trace it back to Louis Armstrong. In the 1920s when he began recording his innovations as a trumpet player, and as a vocalist, just changed the game. I mean more than just jazz, he kind of wrote the rules of American popular music. Sinatra learned to sing from him, Tony Bennett and Billie Holiday, any musician you can think of... I mean just the art of the solo. It could be Charlie Parker on the saxophone, it could be Jimi Hendrix on the guitar, it all comes from Armstrong. And just his rhythmic feel, this feel of swing. You know, we think of swing dancing, we think of swing music, but any good pop music swings. You pat your foot to it, you want to dance to it, you know when it's stiff, you know when it's swinging. Louis Armstrong taught the world how to swing. So to me, I know I'm biased, but he's the most influential musician. When did you become so interested in him? And why? I was born in 1980. So Armstrong died in '71. Never met him, never saw him. But when I was 15 years old I saw a movie, The Glenn Miller Story. Yeah. Jimmy Stewart... Armstrong comes out in the middle and just blows me away. I said, "Man this guy's great!" So I started listening to him, and the recordings... I didn't know what to listen for, but everything I was listening to was all from the 1950s, and it just changed my life. So I started reading about Armstrong... now this is the mid-1990s, and the standard narrative was Louis Armstrong, you know, genius in the 1920s, he does everything I just said, changed the world, but then becomes a commercial, you know, a sellout, Uncle Tom, this and that... Really? Oh yeah, no that was the narrative for years. So I'm a high school kid, I'm reading this stuff, and I'm saying, "Nah, I don't believe it." So I became fixated on... Didn't you write your Rut...? You were at Rutgers? I went to Rutgers. You did a research...? I wrote a... I got a master's in jazz history and research..."