On this day in music history: September 15, 19…

On this day in music history: September 15, 1967 – “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong is released. Written by George Douglas (aka Bob Thiele) and George David Weiss, it is the sixty ninth single release for the jazz music icon from New Orleans, LA. Making chart history in May of 1964 becoming the oldest male artist to top the Hot 100 with “Hello Dolly”, ironically one of his signature songs barely makes a ripple on that chart initially. In 1967, Armstrong is approached by ABC Records A&R executive Bob Thiele about recording a song he’s written with George David Weiss. The song is “What A Wonderful World”, initially offered to Tony Bennett, who turns it down. Armstrong loves it and agrees to sign to the label and record it .The track is recorded at United Studios in Las Vegas, NV, while the musician is in town performing at the Tropicana Hotel. Also present is ABC president Larry Newton who doesn’t like “What A Wonderful World”. His opposition is so strong, that he has to be locked out of the studio. Another challenge is with the studio being located close to railroad tracks. The loud horns from passing Union Pacific trains is a constant distraction. The session is finally finished by 6 am, with the orchestra being owed additional money for the overtime session. Louis graciously accepts only a $250 fee (then union scale) to make sure that the orchestra are fully paid. With Newton still in opposition, Bob Thiele has to force its release. Even then, the ABC president refuses to allow any promotion for the record. As a result, the single bubbles under the Billboard Hot 100 at #116, selling less than 1,000 copies and disappears quickly from view. In the UK, it is a completely different story. It’s licensed to HMV Records and released in February of 1968, quickly becoming a smash and spends four weeks at number one on the UK singles chart beginning on April 24, 1968. It is the last major hit for Louis Armstrong before his passing in July of 1971. Having failed in the US on its original release, the song has a surprising and unexpected redux over two decades later. Director Barry Levinson uses it in his film “Good Morning, Vietnam”, with Robin Williams as Armed Forces Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer. A&M Records releases it as a single in early 1988, in wake of the films’ success. It becomes a surprise hit, peaking at #32 on the Hot 100 on April 2, 1988 and #7 on the AC chart, driving the soundtrack to Platinum plus status. Now an acknowledged standard, “What A Wonderful World” has been recorded by numerous artists including Roy Clark, Anne Murray, Rod Stewart, Joey Ramone, and Eva Cassidy. One of the best known versions outside of Louis Armstrong’s, is by the late Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, recorded in a medley with “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. Louis Armstrong’s original recording of “What A Wonderful World” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.