Episode 11: Ricky Riccardi

Ricky Riccardi’s devotion to Louis Armstrong began when he was a high school freshman in Toms River, New Jersey. Then 15, the future director of research collections at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in New York caught Armstrong’s cameo in The Glenn Miller Story. Already a fan of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Riccardi heard the similarities between Armstrong and Preservation Hall. Although the singer-trumpeter’s appearance in The Glenn Miller Story is brief, it inspired Riccardi to borrow an Armstrong cassette tape, 16 Most Requested Songs, from the library. The tape knocked him out. So began Riccardi’s lifelong study of the jazz star from New Orleans who charmed the world.

By his senior year in high school, Riccardi set his sights on earning a master’s in jazz history and research from Rutgers University. In 2007, after graduate school, he launched an Armstrong blog, dippermouth.blogspot.com, hoping it would stir interest in the book he was writing about the great Satchmo. The blog eventually drew the attention of Armstrong followers from throughout the world, including New Orleans writer Jon Pult, then the booker for lectures at Satchmo SummerFest. In 2008, Riccardi presented his first Armstrong video series at the festival. He’s returned every year since.

In 2009, Riccardi left his house-painting job to accept an archivist position at the Armstrong House Museum. The following year, Pantheon Books subsequently published his book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years. In 2020, Oxford University Press will publish Riccardi’s second book, Heart Full of Rhythm, an account of Armstrong’s big-band years.

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