Louis Armstrong in Charlottetown: An ugly incident revealed

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Islanders recall Louis Armstrong's troubled visit to P.E.I.

Islanders recall Louis Armstrong's troubled visit to P.E.I.

Historian Jim Hornby will present what he is calling an apology tribute to Louis Armstrong next week in Charlottetown, related to an incident the iconic jazz musician faced when he visited P.E.I. in 1958.

On July 24 of that year Armstrong played to 2,000 people at the sports arena on Fitzroy Street, a crowd about the same size as the one he had played for the night before in Halifax.

But for all the success of the concert, Armstrong had trouble finding a place to stay the night.

"They had this ugly incident where they were asked to leave the Charlottetown Hotel," said Hornby.

Other patrons complained about sharing accommodations with "negroes," said Hornby. The manager would certainly have known who Armstrong was, but threw him out anyway.

"They had a big show, but a very ugly incident. While Louis Armstrong said I played in 99 million hotels I could never stay at, this was all in the U.S. I don't think he expected to get this reception in P.E.I."

Armstrong found a bed next door, at what was then known as the Dundee Apartment Motel, run at the time by Fred and Loretta Perry of Souris.

Nobody talked about the incident much, said Hornby.

"People knew about it. It just wasn't talked about publicly," he said.

"I think the attitude was it would embarrass the Island to talk about it."

Hornby believes it is time to fully acknowledge the incident, and offer an apology of sorts.

On Monday evening at the Beaconsfield Carriage House Hornby will give a multimedia presentation of his findings, including artifacts from that day in 1958 and eye witness accounts. It will be followed by a jazz performance by local musicians.

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