Love, Louis: Collection of Armstrong love letters on auction block

Love, Louis: Collection of Armstrong love letters on auction block

Louis Armstrong circa 1945 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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wwltv.com

Posted on December 3, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
Email: dmassa@wwltv.com

NEW ORLEANS - A collection of more than a dozen so-called love letters and postcards said to be written by music icon Louis Armstrong to an alleged mistress and mother of a woman identified as his illegitimate child will be auctioned later this month.

The California auction company Profiles in History is handling the Dec. 15 online and phone auction.  The Armstrong materials are said to be valued between $60,000 and $80,000.

Some of the letters are handwritten, while others are typed on “Satchmo” letterhead, featuring a trumpet motif, according to the auction catalog.  Many feature sexually explicit language.

The writings are said to be from Armstrong’s alleged 20-year affair with a mistress, Lucille “Sweets” Preston, and were in the possession of the child from that relationship, identified only as Sharon.

“First, I want you to know that I love you & Sharon dearly and from the bottom of my heart; and always will.  I’m Hip that you two Chicks Dig this,” Armstrong writes in one letter to Preston and their daughter, dated November 27, 1965.

“I love you madly.  A Kiss for Mother too.  Your next husband,” is how he closes the letter.

According to the auction catalog, the material was in the possession of “Sharon,” the woman who identifies herself as Armstrong’s daughter from his relationship with his alleged mistress, Lucille “Sweets” Preston.  Preston is identified by the auction catalog as the widow of Armstrong’s friend and fellow entertainer Luther “Slim” Preston.  He died in 1950, according to the auction listing.

The materials up for bid are said to date from 1946 through 1968, three years before Armstrong died.  The earliest two letters are written to “Slim and Sweets” and demonstrate his friendship with the couple, says the catalog. 

“According to Sharon, Armstrong and Sweets started dating immediately following Slim’s death,” explains the catalog, adding that, “in September 1945, Sharon was conceived.”

Local and national Armstrong historians, including Bruce Raeburn at the Tulane University Hogan Jazz Archive, say it is hard to pinpoint the authenticity of any claims made about Armstrong and any mistress or children. Raeburn said there have been many such claims over the years.

Armstrong was married four times but the man known as “Pops” was never known to have any children, according to the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, New York, the home in which Armstrong and his wife Lucille lived.

Armstrong signs a 1954 letter, written on letterhead from “The Marlborough, Winnipeg, Canada,” by calling himself “Your future husband…Ol’ Satchmo.”  In the letter he begins by telling Preston, whom he calls “Dear Darling,” that two phone calls from her “lifted me up to the highest peek (sic) that a man could be lifted to….  You don’t have the least idea how happy I was when I heard your sweet (cute) lil’ voice say hello.” 

In another letter, he refers to the fact that his fourth wife, Lucille, who died in 1983, knows of their affair but that Armstrong’s manager and friend Joe Glaser would arrange child support payments for Sharon.

“He suggested that you should get your check from his office.  Then there won’t be any hic cups on Lucille’s part who would rather be hit by a Leppard (sic) than to hear your name.  She is so envious of you it isn’t funny.  To me it is a case of wounded vanity.”

The collection contains five handwritten letters, four typed letters, handwritten postcards and even a photo inscribed to “Mother Sweets Baby Sharon To My Darlings whom I Love.”

Also featured is an audio recording in which Armstrong, while traveling in Berlin, sings a lullaby to young Sharon.

Another Armstrong letter, written to a friend while listening to Duke Ellington’s orchestra on the radio, is part of a Dec. 18 auction of historical documents by the same firm.
 

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