“My hobbie (one of them anyway)…is using a lot of scotch tape… My hobbie is to pick out different things during what I read and piece them together and make a little story of my own.”
—Louis Armstrong in a letter to a friend, 1953
When he was on the road, Armstrong would travel around with a reel-to-reel tape player and a bunch of custom-recorded mixtapes. He was quite the mashup artist:
When not pressing the valves on his trumpet or the record button on his tape recorder, Armstrong’s fingers found other arts with which to occupy themselves. One of them was collage, which became a visual outlet for his improvisational genius. The story goes that he did a series of collages on paper and tacked them up on the wall of his den, but Lucille, who had supervised the purchase and interior decoration of their house in Corona, Queens, objected. Armstrong decided to use his extensive library of tapes as a canvas instead, and the result is a collection of some five hundred decorated reel-to-reel boxes, one thousand collages counting front and back.
The New York Times has a great selection of the collages in “Louis Armstrong’s Life in Letters, Music and Art” (don’t miss the clip of Satchmo talking about his hobby):
Starting in the early 1950s, few pieces of paper were safe from the blade of Armstrong’s scissors: magazines, risqué photographs, even a Christmas card from Richard Nixonwound up cut and collaged. Most of the time, he taped his collages onto reel-to-reel tape boxes; they were purely decorative. Elsewhere, he turned larger pieces of paper into what amounted to a personal hall of fame.
The collages have been digitized and put online by the Louis Armstrong House Museum.