“To Jack Bradley, the ‘Greatest’ Photo Taker”: Treasures from the Jack Bradley Collection

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The exhibit “”To Jack Bradley, the ‘‘Greatest’’ Photo Taker”: Treasures from Jack Bradley Collection” celebrates the legacy of Louis Armstrong through the private access that long-time friend and photographer Jack Bradley had of Satchmo on stage, back stage, on the road and at home.

On the surface, Louis Armstrong and Jack Bradley couldn’t have been more different. Armstrong was a world-renowned musician, one of the most recognizable icons on the planet. Bradley was a salty sailor from Cape Cod, a graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and a great lover of jazz. When they met through mutual friend Jeann Failows in 1959, neither man probably realized that they’d grow to be such close friends. Over the last dozen years of Armstrong’s life, the trumpeter would tell friends that Bradley was his “white son.”

With unprecedented intimate access to Armstrong, Bradley snapped thousands of photos of Satchmo on and off stage and collected any artifacts he could find that were identified with his hero: over 2,500 sound recordings, fan mail, set lists, diet charts, handwritten notes, laundry receipts, rare books, figurines, posters, and more. As the years passed, Bradley grew into the world’s foremost private collector of all things Armstrong. Michael Cogswell, Executive Director of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, observes, ““It’’s extremely rare that a dedicated collector enjoyed a dear friendship with his subject. Jack took photos that no one else could have taken and saved artifacts, such as set lists, that seemed ephemeral at the time but that are now priceless.””

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