September 5, 1957 – “On the Road” is In the Bookstore

On September 5, 1957, a story recorded on a 120-foot-long scroll of cut-and-taped typing paper was published as a  320-page book.  On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, was an autobiographically-based testament to the emerging Beat Generation, fueled by jazz, poetry, and notes taken during seven years of (probably) drug-laced road trips.  Kerouac maintained that coffee was the only stimulant he used during the three weeks in New York City in April of 1951 that he spent typing the single-spaced, sans-paragraphs, sans-margins manuscript.

According to who you asked, On the Road was either “timeless,” “elusive and precious,” “a cultural event,” “the saga of a solitary seeker,” “a historic occasion,” “a major novel,” “passe and at times corny,” “an authentic work of art,” “life-changing,” or “not writing, that’s typing.”  Thinly-veiled friends and acquaintances populated the novel as the narrator, Sal Paradise, traveled west across America and into a series of experiences he hoped would help him make sense of the world around him.  He searched for life’s meaning in music, drugs, women, odd jobs, and fellow road-travelers high and low: “holy con-men” and “poetic con-men,” migrant workers, heroic ex-prisoners, prostitutes, down-and-outers, and failures.  In the end, Sal returns to New York City believing that “nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old.”

In 2007, Viking Press released a less-edited version of Kerouac’s manuscript titled On the Road: The Original Scroll. The fiftieth-anniversary edition restored several deleted sections, including some sexual passages deemed pornographic in 1957, and substituted the real names of the people in Jack’s life for the fictional names of the novel’s characters.

Image Credit: Signet Books

July 23, 1957 – Louis and Ella Together in Los Angeles

On July 23, 1957, jazz giants Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recorded ten songs for their new album from Verve Records, Ella and Louis Again.  In one remarkable day, backed up by a stellar band including Oscar Peterson on piano, Herb Ellis on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and Louis Bellson on drums, Louis and Ella put their individual vocal talents and Louis’ trumpet mastery to work in what must have been a marathon session.  Together, they recorded Love is Here to Stay, Learnin’ the Blues, Autumn in New York, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, They All Laughed, Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You?, and Stompin’ At the Savoy.  With the same backup band, Ella recorded These Foolish Things, Comes Love, and Ill Wind.  Ella was forty that day and reaching the peak of her career at the Verve label, which her agent, Norman Grantz, created around her.  Louis was 55, with many records and over thirty films to already to his credit.

Image Credit: Verve Records