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I’ve written earlier about the 1950s U.S. State Department policy of using jazz musicians as American ambassadors spreading good will around the world in the 1950s, during the cold war (http://blogs.kcrw.com/rhythmplanet/americas-jazz-ambassadors/)

A great example is Louis Armstrong’s trip to Ghana in 1957, shortly after the West African country’s independence from Britain:

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A lesser-known story concerns Satchmo’s return to America after the state-sponsored good will mission.  The story goes this way: Nixon was on the same plane going into Dulles Airport in Washington D.C..  Vice President Richard Nixon was a big fan, and chatted with Satchmo throughout the flight back from (probably Britain).  When they finally landed, Armstrong said he was tired and could the vice president please help him carry some of his luggage.  Nixon carried his trumpet case, which was filled with ganja.  Armstrong loved marijuana and smoked it everyday, including during his trip to Ghana.

For the record, Snopes has confirmed this account.

Potleaf

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2 Comments »

  • E. S. Thomas said:

    As college-aged aides to Quincy Jones and his Manager, Peter Long, in the 1970's, a group of us were often teased about our "old souls," such that, when introduced, it would be said that, "He's sold old, he carried Louis Armstrong's trumpet case!" The elders among us would laugh at the inside joke. My buddies and I, in our naievete', would accept the comment as well-intended praise and beam at the apparent acknowledgement and recognition.

    Needless to say, some twenty years later, I learned the "truthier" version of the story (emphasis mine…) from a music business type whom, himself, as a young man, had been on that tour. In explaining the origin of the phrase, he noted that, the trip also included a stop in Turkey, whereafter, the degree of angst and fretting among the entourage about the contents of that case was all set aside the moment, then-Vice President Nixon took hold of that bag and carried it right past customs in New York!

  • tom schnabel (author) said:

    was it New York, not Dulles in D.C.? there are a few variants of the story….thanks for your intel!

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