In the final recording of a storied musical career, “The Ambassador of Jazz,” Louis Armstrong Jr. in 1971 read Clement Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas.” Often overlooked by fans of Armstrong and Christmas alike, it’s been recorded on YouTube.
Armstrong does have a Vermont connection. His duet (with Ella Fitzgerald) of the 1943 hit ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ was one of the song’s most popular “covers.” Colchester Chronicle founder Inge Schaefer wrote in the May 1, 2015 Burlington Free Press that Armstrong played Bayside Pavilion in Malletts Bay. The year of the July 3 concert is not recorded.
Bayside Pavilion, also known as Clarey’s Pavilion, was located across Lakeshore Drive from what is now the town beach. A commercial complex is located on its site. Bayside was a popular regional dance hall when dancing was a popular form of entertainment. Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, Glen Miller, and the Dorsey Brothers were among the ‘big acts’ to play Bayside.
Armstrong historians say he had a fondness for recording narratives, including The Gettysburg Address. Most he recorded for himself, but “The Night Before Christmas” recording was sold for 25 cents with the purchase of a carton of cigarettes. Just four months after the recording, he died in July 1971.
Better known to Vermonters of another era was a “Night Before Christmas” recording by Weston Cate, president of the Vermont Historical Society. His recording was a Christmas Eve tradition on many Vermont radio stations. – Editor