I got an e-mail last week from Andrea Schulz, my editor at Harcourt, telling me that the sales and marketing people were dissatisfied with “A Cluster of Sunlight” as a title for my Louis Armstrong biography. “No one feels a sense of Armstrong emanating from it,” she told me apologetically. “They want something more straightforward.” I gnashed my teeth for a moment, then set to the task of coming up with yet another title. I’m relieved to say that it wasn’t hard. All I had to do was consult the following footnote on page nine of the first chapter, in which I describe a televised encounter between Armstrong and Edward R. Murrow:
In Armstrong’s diphthong-rich New Orleans accent, so similar to that of deepest Brooklyn, “Murrow” became “MOY-roh.” It was less surprising that Murrow should have called him “Louie.” “All White Folks call me Louie,” he wrote in 1944. Many blacks did so, too, including most of his sidemen and at least one of his four wives, though he pronounced his first name “LEW-is,” as can be heard on his 1963 recording of “Hello, Dolly!” “Satchmo,” his favorite nickname, was rarely used by his closest friends, who usually called him “Pops.” (Armstrong had trouble remembering names, and fell early on into the habit of addressing anyone whose real name slipped his mind as “Pops.”)
Everyone I know who knew Armstrong personally has told me at one time or another that my book ought to be called “Pops.” I suggested it to Andrea, who ran it past the sales people. On Friday she reported back as follows: “I think we’ve got consensus for ‘Pops.’ How does that work for you? I think it would make a good strong cover, too.” I agree, so that’s that–I think. As of today, I am officially the author of Pops: The Life of Louis Armstrong, out next fall from Harcourt.
Take a bow, Pops.