Phil Wilke
Kansas Public Radio

KPR uncovers long-lost tapes of jazz legend Louis Armstrong celebrating KU basketball

Wed, 03/25/2015

LAWRENCE – Louis Armstrong – Satchmo, Pops – is one of the legends of jazz, renowned for his charismatic stage presence and voice almost as much as for his trumpet-playing. Kansas Public Radio has uncovered a connection between Satchmo and one of the most famous basketball games in KU history.

Armstrong and his band were on the KU campus for a concert March 23, 1957. That same night, an hour to the east in Kansas City, Wilt Chamberlain and the Jayhawks were playing for the NCAA basketball title against the North Carolina Tar Heels. In an epic, triple-overtime game, KU lost to Carolina 54-53. A dejected KU team returned to Lawrence at 2:15 in the morning.

Who was there to greet them? Louis Armstrong … and a young KU student had a tape recorder and talked to the famous musician.

Now, almost 60 years later, KPR’s David Basse is mixing tape of the original concert, the student interview and a recently recorded interview with that young KU student – now a retired physician living in Independence, Missouri – into a one-hour special that will be broadcast on the "The Jazz Scene" at 3 p.m., Saturday, March 28.

“I am overwhelmed by the opportunity that Dr. Don Potts has afforded us, allowing Kansas Public Radio to be the first to air an historic KU concert of Louis Armstrong and his touring band,” Basse said. “On March 23, 1957, as a student working at the station, Dr. Potts recorded the music for broadcast on KANU.”

Don and Barbara Potts are longtime jazz fans. During Don’s medical career, Barbara was mayor of Independence and the founder of Hope House, a domestic violence shelter and social service agency.

“I drove Don up to KPR for a lunch, back when Dr. Seaver (longtime host of "Opera Is My Hobby") was alive. They had a great farewell, and as we drove home, Don told me about the tape and asked if I’d like to air it,” Basse said.
Chris Lazzarino is a jazz lover and writer for the KU Alumni magazine. He heard about Basse's project and was able to chat with him as well as Dr. Potts for a feature in the March issue.

After the March 28 broadcast, the project will be available for streaming at KPR’s website. The completed broadcast also will be archived at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, New York.

KPR, a 15-time Kansas Association of Broadcasters Station of the Year, licensed to the University of Kansas, broadcasts on 91.5 FM in Lawrence, 89.7 FM in Emporia, 91.3 FM in Olsburg-Junction City, 89.9 FM in Atchison, 90.3 FM in Chanute, and 99.5 FM and 97.9 FM in Manhattan. KPR can be heard online at KPR also operates KPR2, a news-talk programming stream, which can be heard on an HD receiver or on KPR’s website.

Photos: Images courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum.

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