History of The Real Ambassadors – Monterey Jazz Festival 1962

The Real Ambassadors Monterey Jazz Festival 1962. Photo courtesy of the Brubeck Collection, Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

The Real Ambassadors is a jazz musical created by Dave and Iola Brubeck, in collaboration with Louis Armstrong and his band. This musical addressed the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the music business, America’s place in the world during the Cold War and the nature of God. Based in the fictional African nation of Talgalla, the main character was based on the life of Louis Armstrong.

Louis Armstrong along with many other jazz icons traveled  around the world on behalf of the U.S. State Department.  This campaign was created to spread American culture and music around the world during the Cold War. Armstrong and his fellow musicians were tasked with carrying the idea of the “American Dream” around the world as official representatives of the US Government.  They were charged with carrying this ideal as Ambassadors while they were unable to experience those same equal rights in their home land of America.

The Real Ambassadors was born of Dave and Louis’ shared belief in equality for all and the utter refusal to tolerate racial discrimination in their own lives. Set in the early 1960’s, the show chronicles the adventures of a fictional version of Louis Armstrong and his band touring the world as “Ambassadors of Good Will” for the U.S.A.

Conceived in 1956, “The Real Ambassadors” took its first steps in 1961, when Dave, Louis and their bands came together with the top jazz vocal group of all time, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross to record the score. It was performed only once… in concert version, by Dave, Louis and the album cast, at the 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival and was a smash hit.

Unfortunately, no audio or video recording was captured on that evening.

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Photo courtesy of the Brubeck Collection, Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

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