What happens when two musical giants collide, when two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees defying genres and generations share the stage? On October 28, 1970 just that happened on Johnny Cash's TV variety show, when he welcomed "the great Louis Armstrong." Cash opened the introduction, remarking: "This country has given the world three original art forms – country music, jazz and Louis Armstrong."
Promoting his 1970 collection of country and western standards (fittingly titled Country & Western) and sporting an oversized cowboy hat, Armstrong sang "Crystal Chandeliers," the country classic originally sung by Charley Pride; and "Ramblin' Rose," a song made popular by Nat King Cole.
With the performance wrapped, Armstrong took a seat beside Cash, both musicians holding their instruments of choice: a trumpet and a guitar, respectively. "You've been at it a long time," Cash said to Armstrong. "I know that. We did a little research on some of your recordings; we find that on July 16, 1930, you played trumpet on a session with the late Jimmie Rodgers, the Father of Country Music. That was in Hollywood, right?"
Armstrong explained the ostensibly unlikely pairing: "We had a meeting one morning and Jimmie said, 'Man, I feel like singin' some blues.' I said, 'OK daddy, you sing some blues and I'm gonna blow behind ya.' That's the way the record started."
At Cash's behest, Satchmo and the Man in Black set about recreating those Armstrong-Rodgers sessions from July 16, 1930. "We'll get Bill Walker to play piano, and I'll try to sing Jimmie Rodgers lyrics, those lyrics he recorded, and you wail like you did on the record," said Cash. "Can we do that?"
"We'll say, 'We give it to them in black and white,'" quipped Armstrong before the pair launched into song, on stage at Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry.
Like this rare performance, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, unites the artists who have shaped music history and the course of rock and roll for more than 50 years. Johnny Cash is featured in the Museum's Cities and Sounds exhibit, while Armstrong is among the artists highlighted in a special exhibit, Jammin’, Jazzin’ & Jivin’: Jazz on Film, which features 27 posters spanning nearly 70 years of jazz-related cinema. These promotional posters are works of art in themselves. Jammin’, Jazzin’ & Jivin’: Jazz on Film helps illustrate the connection between jazz and its close relatives – rhythm and blues, boogie-woogie – and how these genres found audiences in the African American community and eventually worldwide. Numerous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees including Nat King Cole, Bessie Smith and Quincy Jones are featured.