On this Day in Movie History, April 20, 1931: Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Records “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South”


On this day, April 20, 1931 trumpeter Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong recorded the classic, “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South”, for Okeh Records. The song waxed in Chicago, Illinois was written by Clarence Muse, Leon René and Otis René. It was sung in the movie Safe in Hell by Nina Mae McKinney.

Satchmo would use the tune as his theme song for decades, recording it almost a hundred times during his career.

The lyrics concern the Great Migration in the United States, the movement of African-Americans from the South to cities in the North, with the singer talking about the “dear old Southland… where I belong”, and contain many racial stereotypes.

Armstrong’s popularity among African American audiences dropped because of the song, but at the same time it helped the trumpeter to make his fan base broader.

There is a 1942 film short of the song where Armstrong and others played slaves and farm workers


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