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. He also has a connection to Kansas Public Radio and one of the most famous basketball games in KU history.
Louis and his band were on the KU campus for a concert on March 23, 1957. That same night, an hour to the east in Kansas City, Wilt Chamberlain and the Jayhawks were playing for the national title against the North Carolina Tar Heels. In an epic, triple-overtime game, KU lost to Carolina 54-53. A dejected KU team came back to Lawrence at 2:15 in the morning.
Who was there to greet them? Louis Armstrong. A young KU student had a tape recorder and he talked with 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, Mo. – into a one-hour special broadcast.
“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 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 David’s project and was able to chat with David and Dr. Potts for a magazine feature scheduled for the March 15 issue.
After the March 28 broadcast, the project will be available for streaming at KPR’s website.