From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

I’m Confessin’ That I Love You

Music, in the best sense, does not require novelty; nay, the older it is, and the more we are accustomed to it, the greater its effect.


It was 1957, and I was twelve years old. Dad, who was a music buff, took me to an early evening concert at Valley Junior College. This was a rare event because he was usually grinding out courses in management, hoping to advance his career at a local California aerospace company. His real passion was jazz, and this particular night gave us the exciting opportunity to see Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. We fidgeted in annoying, fold-up chairs but counted ourselves lucky to be seated directly in front of a special platform built to accommodate the large crowd gathering to see Louis and his “All Stars.”

Louis stepped casually onto the stage, chuckled slyly and pattered, “We really gonna lay somethin’ on ya!”

I was mesmerized from the instant the first electric notes were struck. Dad had played Louis’s records for me many times, but they paled compared to the real thing. The drummer shimmied as if in a trance when he beat his rhythm; the trombone player sent soft, slide tones soaring; the clarinetist oozed sweet melody and pitch. Added to this was the vivacious vocal performance of the hefty Vilma Middletown, who nearly brought down the house, as well as the makeshift stage, which wobbled precariously as she bounced and swayed to the beat of each intricate piece. Music came pouring out of them, exploding in tempo and energy. Dad’s toes tapped wildly, and my heart pounded uncontrollably along with the pulsating tempo.

The perspiration on Louis’s brow glistened almost as much as his battered but glittering trumpet. From the crack of the opening note, his performance was a dazzling display of virtuosity and inspiration, earning his reputation as an improvisational genius.

His endurance and power were legendary, his singing style as original as his trumpet playing. His lips were iron, and his lungs had the strength of a hurricane, blending and twisting notes in his unexcelled technique. He bent notes as he sang, just as he did when he played. He growled and grated, grunted and wheezed. And his gregarious spirit was nothing less than infectious.

Then, something extraordinary happened. Just as Louis lowered his horn at the end of a tune, a small object flew off the stage. I glanced down to see a burnished brass object laying at my feet. It was a trumpet mouthpiece. I sat transfixed, staring reverently at the object as though it were something sacred. This was not just any mouthpiece. This was the Hope Diamond of trumpet mouthpieces. It was Louis’s, and through it, he shared his soul with the world. Dad urged me to pick it up. Slowly, I reached out and cupped it tentatively in my trembling hands.

As I lifted it from the floor, I heard a gravelly voice above me say in a secretive tone, “Careful now, it’s ver-ry hot!” I looked up into a face that seemed sculpted from the Earth’s own clay, a pair of soft twinkling eyes and a generous mouth grinning fully at me. I nestled the mouthpiece into the handkerchief Louis extended to me. He enfolded it along with my hands and, with a gentle squeeze, cocked his head to one side, winked at me and purred, “This next one’s just for you, Honey.”

As he belted out, “I’m Confessin’ That I Love You,” Dad stretched his arm around me proudly and sang along unabashedly. I was spellbound—not only by Louis’s song, but also by Dad’s love for me.

Louis is gone now and so is Dad, but that melody and that magical moment still linger in my heart. I still hear Dad’s jubilant voice, those golden notes dripping like honey from Louis’s horn, and together we murmur the words that had become his signature expression: “Oh, yeah!”

JoAnn Semones

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