Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, which will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on December 2, is now listed on amazon.com.
This is what the dust jacket will look like. The picture is by Philippe Halsman. It was taken in 1966 at a photo shoot that also produced the better-known image that accompanied Life‘s cover story on Armstrong.
In case you’re wondering, I couldn’t be happier with the design for Pops. Not only does it have tremendous visual impact, but Halsman’s photo is one of the few pictures of Armstrong taken by a professional photographer that captures something of the interior complexity to which I allude in the prologue:
The legend of Louis Armstrong is not the whole story, just as there was more to him than the grinning jester with the gleaming white handkerchief who sang “Hello, Dolly!” and “What a Wonderful World” night after night for adoring audiences. “To friend and foe alike,” the trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton wrote, “there was, deep below the surface of companionship and bonhomie, an impenetrable wall in which every stone was an enigma.” His disposition was not always cloudless, either, though he preferred not to share his occasional sorrows with strangers. Armstrong taped dozens of his private conversations during the last quarter-century of his life, and these tapes, which until recently were inaccessible to scholars, show that his personality was tougher and more sharp-edged than his fans knew. Off stage he could be moody and profane, and he knew how to hold a grudge. “I got a simple rule about everybody,” he told a journalist. “If you don’t treat me right–shame on you!”
I’ve done my very best to penetrate Armstrong’s inviting yet enigmatic surface in Pops. I hope you find the results illuminating.