60 years ago today, Louis Armstrong & His All-Stars arrived in Ghana for a two-day trip arranged by renowned American journalist Edward R. Murrow. Satchmo’s wife Lucille also came along for the journey, which marked both Armstrong’s first visit to Africa.
Armstrong and his entourage were reportedly greeted by 10,000 adoring fans when they arrived at the airport in Accra, the capital of what was then known as the British Cold Coast colony (it would officially become the Republic of Ghana in March 1957, after declaring independence from its British colonizers). Just a few hours later, Armstrong & His All Stars were performing in front 100,000 people at a free concert on the city’s Old Polo Ground. Unfortunately, the show came to an abrupt end after part of the massive crowd rushed the stage, eliciting a violent response from the colonial police force.
Later that night, Armstrong and his band took the stage with a local group at Accra’s Paramount Night Club. The music continued the following day, as Armstrong attended an open air tribal dancing and drumming performance before playing another show at the city’s opera house that night. For most of these activities, Armstrong and his wife were accompanied by Ghanaian independence leader (and future president) Kwame Nkrumah, who was prime minister of the colony’s legislative assembly at the time.
Accra’s Gold Coast Today newspaper predicted that Armstrong’s trip would make for “two of the liveliest–and noisiest–days in living memory,” and by the time he departed on May 25, it looked like they were right.
Much of the visit was eventually immortalized in Murrow’s 1957 CBS documentary Satchmo the Great. A few clips from the film can be found below (though, as one YouTube commenter has noted, 0:15-0:30 is actually footage from Armstrong’s 1960 trip to Ghana).