The Wonderful Story of Louis Armstrong's First Christmas Tree

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One of the facts that we hear repeated with some frequency is that trumpeter Louis Armstrong got his first Christmas tree at age 40, and he loved it so much that he took it on tour with him for a month. While it's a great bit of trivia, I was curious enough to double-check it. Turns out, the story's even better the way his wife tells it:

"We finally went to bed. And Louis was still laying up in the bed watching the tree, his eyes just like a baby's eyes would watch something... So finally I said, "Well, I'll turn the lights out now on the tree." He said, "No, don't turn them out. I have to just keep looking at it. You know, that's the first tree I ever had."

Well, I hadn't realized that you know. Louis was 40 years old and it seems to me that in 40 years a person would have at least one tree. I was all swollen up inside when he told me that. We were to leave the next day for Kansas City. I figured Christmas is over; today's the 26th nowl I'll leave the tree. Louis said, "No, don't leave the tree; take the tree with you." And he had me take the tree on those one-nighters. Before I even unpacked a bag I had to set that tree up, his Christmas tree....

I kept that first little tree until way after New Year's, putting it up every night and taking it down every morning, in a dozen hotels. And then when I did take it down for the last time, Louis wanted me to mail it home. It was a real tree, not an artificial one, and I had to convince him-- I really had to convince him-- that the tree would dry up.

From James Lincoln Collier's Louis Armstrong: An American Genius, available here at Amazon.

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December 17, 2011 - 2:29am
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