Great Encounters #31: When the “Top Notch” players in Chicago “gave a dance”

December 31st, 2013

Great Encounters

Book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons


A 1928 story of Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines and Zutty Singleton

As told in Armstrong’s “Goffin Notebooks” memoirs, written in 1943 – 1944 and eventually published in 1947 as Horn of Plenty:  The Story of Louis Armstrong, by Robert Goffin



‘Earl – ‘Zuttie and ‘I – Stayed out of work so long until it was impossible for me to get my ‘Car out of the ‘Shop, ever after it was fixed. ‘Things gotten so ‘Tough with us until 15c (Fifteen cents) looked like $15.00 (Fifteen dollars). But we did not lose our Spirit. And we all kept that good ‘ol Clean Shirt ‘on everyday, and ‘ol ‘Earl Hines kept the Big Fresh ‘Cigar in his ‘mouth ‘everyday. Zuttie and ‘I both ‘admired that. We were still riding in this ‘Pneumonia ‘Special –’that’s the name we gave this ‘Hauling ‘Car. You’d be surprised to know how ‘happy we were. Lots of the ‘youngsters would just ‘Rejoice’ to get in there with us. One night the ‘Three of us ‘decided to go over on the ‘West Side of ‘Chicago and give a ‘Dance. After all – we were still ‘Hustling and the ‘Three of us would go ‘Anywhere as long as we felt that we could make a few “Dimes or ‘Dollars too. We still had our ‘Expenses to keep up at ‘home – And ‘money had to come from ‘Some place. – So we ‘Rented this ‘Dance Hall on the ‘West side. – It was a very small place – but was enough to make a ‘piece of ‘mone. Only ‘one thing’ – The Darkies ‘were so bad over there. The little joint was doing fine – With ‘Earl (pianot) – ‘Zuttie (drums) – ‘Myself (trumpet) – playing the music. I shall never forget the “UPRIGHT’ piano ‘Earl were playing. We had a pretty nhice ‘Crowd.’ – We ‘Three had just been saying how ‘nice it’s going to be after the ‘dance. And we’d ‘Divide up some ‘pretty nice ‘money for a change. Where the ‘Bandstand was ‘situated – it was straight back from the door.– The minute you’d come in to the ‘door you couldn’t help but see the ‘Bandstand. Comes ‘Intermission time – Just as the ‘people were deciding what to do during that ‘period in walks a ‘Drunken ‘Darkie –pulled out a “45 ‘Pistol and ‘Leveled it, directly at the direction of us on the ‘Bandstand. “Well Sir” – UMP. –

      The ‘Crowd ‘Scattered “Everywhere – that left the ‘Hall rather ‘Clean – so this Drunken ‘Darkie’ could get a ‘good’ view at us on that little ‘Bandstand.–Now when he ‘raised his ‘pistol again as if he really was going to ‘shoot at us.–”LAWD ‘TADAY”– We were so ‘Scared until ‘Earl Hines ‘tried to go through his ‘UPRIGHT piano.–And ‘Heaven knows where ‘Zuttie + ‘I went. But I know we came off of that ‘Bandstand ‘right away.–Somebody went and found the ‘Cops from somewhere out that way – And they ‘chased that Black “Sommitch” downstairs, and this ‘Drunken ‘Guy ‘ran under a ‘house.–And the ‘Cops’ Shot all up under that ‘house and Filled that ‘Guy full of ‘Holes.–Of course I was rather sorry to hear about that part of it. But later on, I heard that this “Spade” (colored boy) –had some ‘trouble over there with some Cops the week before our dance and he ‘Killed one of them. And they were on the ‘lookout for him ‘Anyway. So as we puts it –Death was really ‘on Him. Earl–Zuttie–Myself–did pretty good at the ‘ol Hustling game. After all–we were the ‘Top Notch’ players in ‘Chicago in those days.–


Excerpted from Horn of Plenty: The Story of Louis Armstrong, by Robert Goffin



“St. James Infirmary”

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