When a Good Old Good Note Is Blown, All the Cats Dig It

Louis Armstrong? Apocryphal?

armstrong08Dear Quote Investigator: The renowned jazz trumpeter and vocalist Louis Armstrong believed in the universality of musical appeal. I think he once said:

When a good note’s blown, all the cats dig it.

The underlying challenge of this adage is to remain open to the appreciation of multiple musical styles and genres. I have relayed this perceptive quotation to others for many years, but I have not been able to find a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1965 U.S. Senator Jacob K. Javits placed into the “Congressional Record” an article dated March 23, 1965 from the “San Francisco Chronicle”. The newspaper discussed Louis Armstrong’s well-received visit to the country of East Germany, and the title used his nickname: “‘Satchmo’ Takes Another Country”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

. . . he has affected audiences of various races and tongues and creeds for a half century—again proving his contention that regardless of the language or political beliefs, “notes are all the same, everywhere” and “when a good old good note is blown, all the cats dig it.”

The wording differed slightly from the version given by the questioner. The word “good” was used twice. Also, the context indicated that the saying had been used by Armstrong at some time in the past; hence, an earlier citation probably exists, but this was the earliest close match located by QI.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1961 a story from Associated Press reported comments made by Armstrong that partially matched the saying under investigation. Armstrong used the words “cats” and “dig” but not the phrase “good note”: 2

Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong, back home after six months abroad, today summed up his triumphal concert tour of Europe and Africa:

“Listen, man. Cats are the same everywhere—all over the world. They all talk the same language. They all dig me and my horn.”

In March 1965 the “San Francisco Chronicle” appeared as mentioned previously. In April 1965 an editorial in the “The Corpus Christi Times” of Texas included an instance that exactly matched the version in the “Congressional Record”: 3

He has been an excellent good-will ambassador, because he is not interested in politics, just in music. “When a good old good note is blown, all the cats dig it,” he said.

Sen. Jacob Javits has suggested to President Lyndon B. Johnson that Armstrong be presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his services to his country. He would be a worthy recipient.

The next day an instance was printed in the “Independent Star News” of Pasadena, California. The words appeared in an article about an upcoming television program that celebrated Armstrong’s career. This instance was slightly different; one “good” was used instead of two: 4

“Notes are all the same everywhere,” says Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. “When a good old note is blown, all the cats dig it.”

Louis is guest-host to a bevy of stars on hand to pay tribute to his 50th Anniversary in show business on “Hollywood Palace” Saturday, May 1, on Channel 7 (9:30-10:30 PM).

A few days later the same text was published in the “Sandusky Register” of Sandusky, Ohio. 5

Shortly after Armstrong died in 1971, the music editor of the “Deseret News” in Salt Lake City, Utah recalled his words: 6

Satchmo went directly to the people. “I play the trumpet in any language,” he said. “When a good old good note is blown, all the cats dig it.”

In conclusion, Louis Armstrong can be credited with the remark recorded in the “San Francisco Chronicle” and the “Congressional Record” in 1965. Perhaps future researchers will locate superior direct evidence in the form of a newspaper interview, radio broadcast, or television transmission with Armstrong.

Image Notes: OKeh record label for the work “Heebie Jeebies” from Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five accessed via Wikipedia. Picture of Louis Armstrong from the New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection of the Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.

(Great thanks to Jim Brandenburg whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 1965, Congressional Record, U.S. Senate, Eighty-Ninth Congress, First Session, Volume 3, Part 6, April 7, 1965, (Senator Jacob K. Javits placed a reprint of newspaper article into the Congressional Record: Editorial titled “‘Satchmo’ Takes Another Country” from the “San Francisco Chronicle” of March 23, 1965), Quote Page 7278, Column 1, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. (HathiTrust) link link
  2. 1961 March 4, Racine Journal-Times, ‘Satch’, Back from Overseas Tour, Says That All the Cats Dig Him (Associated Press), Quote Page 8, Column 4, Racine, Wisconsin. (NewspaperArchive)
  3. 1965 April 24, Corpus Christi Times, Section: Editorial, Envoy, Quote Page 4, Column 2, Corpus Christi, Texas. (NewspaperArchive)
  4. 1965 April 25, Independent Star News, Section: TV Week, The Lens: 50 Years in the Business, Start Page 5, Column 2, Pasadena, California. (NewspaperArchive)
  5. 1965 April 28, Sandusky Register, Armstrong Guest-Host Of ‘Palace’, Quote Page 30, Column 3, Sandusky, Ohio. (NewspaperArchive)
  6. 1971 July 13, Deseret News, Musical Whirl: Go Early For Bard’s Festival by Harold Lundstrom, (Deseret News Music Editor), Quote Page A11, Column 5, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Google News Archive)