Eduardo Pulido meets Louis Armstrong- story researched and written by myself
The entrance to the now defunct subterranean jazz club El Pollo Dorado was lined with sharply dressed cats and their stylish chicks, most of them smoking as they chattered their way in. The corner where Augustinas meets Estado was the hottest place to be in Santiago, Chile during the 1950's, a place where the nighttime socialites and tourists came for good drinks, excellent food and superb music. This is where the animated Eduardo Pulido y su Orquestra Tropical showcased a new repertoire every night of the week, sans Sundays.
Thirty six year old Eduardo was the main attraction; he was Chile's unofficial Louis Armstrong impersonator. The plump, cheery drummer would scat to the blues and jazz, his balding chubby head in tune with sultry, melancholy lyrics. He was best known for his solo rendition of When the saints go marching in, tapping his famous drums to the beat and imitating Armstrong's thick voiced lyrics in what he called English, but it was closer to being amusing gibberish than a Germanic based language. The audience wasn't aware that it really wasn't English, and those who knew, like the English-speaking tourists who were usually among the spectators, didn't care since they came to see Pulido for this very reason. What kept audiences coming back was his improvisational comedic skits and solid musical delivery in almost any genre of music.
Perfumed with English Leather and always dressed in his finest, Eduardo stepped off the bus and walked in the mid- November night, the chilly spring air lifting his perennial good humor, two blocks away from El Pollo Dorado where he was starting his 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift as director of his Orquestra. Every night the jazz joint was packed, and the hum of the excited crowd thrilled Eduardo's heart, reaffirming his love for music.
With his sparkling dark brown eyes and amiable round face, Eduardo happily approached the usual crowd of smoking musicians who frequented the downtown club and greeted them with a joke as he ran his fingers through his wavy black hair. The group joked for a few minutes before Eduardo and his accordionist Rabanito (or Radish, a perfect name to define his physical attributes) headed down the narrow steps of the club, slipping past the line of expectant people, ready for a night's work. The lively Eduardo and his 5 man Orquestra began propping up their instruments on the stage as people crowded into the buzzing club.
It was a few minutes until show time when there was a commotion at the entrance of El Pollo Dorado. The gasps and cheering made almost everyone turn their heads to see the reason for the noise. Stepping out among a multitude of photographers and reporters, was a white suited Louis Armstrong, entering with his fourth and last wife, Lucille. The clapping audience jumped off their seats, screaming with joy, shocked and delighted at the appearance of such a famous musician.
The butternut skinned jazz legend smiled with his thick lipped grin, his good natured persona glowing in the white walled club. The announcement of Satchmo's arrival at the club to see the cat that impersonated him riled the spectators even more and Eduardo stood in awe from his spot on the stage.
Eduardo's exuberance shone through every pore of his taupe face.The dynamic storyteller felt close to tears, and began bowing in his witty way in order to show his gratitude and emotion of having one of his idols there to watch him play. The pride and happiness that took hold of his heart made him pine for his lovely young wife's presence, what a thing it would have been to have her there. Yet Maria was taking care of their three small children at home and here he was with one of the greatest honors his life had presented him with. This was his time to shine.
Louis Armstrong and Lucille sat among the cackling audience in posh, cavern-like jazz joint. It was a lively and enthusiastic crowd, and despite its ampleness, it had a cozy feel to it, in an upper classed, elegant way. Although the spectators were bustling with exhilaration in jolly Satchelmouth's presence, they were rather discrete and respectful. Even the photographers, who usually enjoy interrupting an artist's private moments were at ease, in comparison to the usual paparazzi frenzy.
The mood was a sharp contrast to the hectic, almost dangerous mob that greeted him a few weeks before in Argentina, the country to start the leg of his Latin Tour. It was also substantially calmer than the audiences he had played for the day before in Teatro Astor not too far from the Club de Jazz where he ate a good plate of chicken, rice and beans.
Eduardo's show November 15 of 1957 was one of the greatest spectacles El Pollo Dorado ever housed. The atmosphere was thick with enthusiasm and every minute was filled with engaging music. The creativity fermenting in his mind made for some remarkable comic improvisation and faithful impressions of the ambassador of swing. Eduardo knew his expert drummer's hands had delivered a masterful show, and he reveled in the beauty and grandness of presenting his art to one of the most revered jazz legends of his time. His playing was precisely why Satchmo paid a visit to El Pollo Dorado where the famous Chilean drummer crooned lyrics in Pop's fashion.
The craziness of the intermission made for some odd moments. The Chilean folksingers that took over while Eduardo and his Orquestra rested, were practically ignored as everyone crowded around Armstrong. Musicians and artists anxiously tugged on lit cigarillos, trying to get a word or two from the down to earth trumpeter, or at least stand close enough to say they met him.
Eduardo found his way through the spirited crowd where his friends made way so he could gratefully thank Armstrong for his attendance. Photographers started clicking away, capturing moments in time never to be forgotten.
Armstrong, in his distinctive deep voice and down South accent, expressed his pleasure in having witnessed such a fine performance and was honored to have Eduardo as an impersonator. Not knowing English, but understanding somehow, Eduardo's jovial smiling face offered thankfulness, and he extended his eager hand to the man he had been imitating for years. Louis Armstrong gracefully shook his hand in his warm genial way, his grin widening. The on looking crowd began to howl with excitement as the musicians all gathered to get their picture taken with Satchmo. Eduardo wrapped his arm around Armstrong in comradeship and posed for a photo that was later to be published in Chile's prestigious VEA magazine.
Armstrong left after that, leaving a proud and overwhelmed Eduardo bubbling with an even greater love for his music. There was no need for language in meeting his idol- their common love for music was language enough.
Eduardo walked into the dark, cramped house he rented (a house he and his family escaped 7 years later when they bought a beautiful sunny house in Renca, a good and humble neighborhood on the outskirts of Santiago) drunk from the splendor of that night's events. It was nearly 6 a.m. and the sun was ready to peek through the horizon when he kissed the raven-haired heads of his sleeping children, something he did every morning before going to sleep.
The gentlemanly drummer softly nudged his slumbering wife awake, his mouth ready to burst with the incredible news. When she awoke, he had a mighty story to tell.
That morning, Eduardo was lulled to sleep with a satisfaction in his craft he had never felt before.
[This legendary story was passed on by my mother,who was only 1 at the time of the event. I decided to take on this meeting for a Creative Writing assignment for class, and realized there were many gaps in the story that I had to fill. With research, perserverance and my late grandfather watching over me, I was able to compose the most accurate account of the events- so along with the amazing picture, goes this story]