Jack Bradley, Louis Armstrong Photographer and Devotee, Dies at 86

Jack Bradley, an ecstatic fan of Louis Armstrong’s who turned his private photographer, creating an indelible and intimate document of the jazz large’s final dozen years, died on March 21 in Brewster, Mass., on Cape Cod. He was 87.

The trigger was issues of Parkinson’s illness, his spouse, Nancy (Eckel) Bradley, mentioned.

Mr. Bradley first attended a live performance by Armstrong and his band on Cape Cod within the mid-1950s. “I by no means heard something like that,” he mentioned in an interview in 2012 for a documentary about Armstrong, “Mr. Jazz,” directed by Michele Cinque. “My life was by no means the identical.”

Utilizing a Brownie, Mr. Bradley snapped his first photograph of Armstrong at one other efficiency — the primary of 1000’s he would take, first as a devotee after which as a part of his interior circle. He took footage of Armstrong at his house in Corona, Queens; in quiet moments backstage; at rehearsals and live shows; throughout recording classes; and in dressing rooms.

“With that face and his lovely smile,” Mr. Bradley was quoted as saying in a family-approved obituary, “how might anybody take a foul shot?”

Mr. Bradley did greater than take images. He turned a voracious collector of something associated to Armstrong’s life and profession: 16-millimeter movies, reel-to-reel tapes of recordings and conversations, 78 r.p.m. discs and LPs, magazines, manuscripts, sheet music, telegrams, fan letters, collectible figurines — even Armstrong’s slippers and fits, and a resort laundry receipt that included “90 hankies,” which he famously used to wipe away perspiration throughout performances.

“At some point Jack went into Louis’s examine and Louis was ripping up image and letters into little tiny items,” Ms. Bradley mentioned by telephone. “Jack mentioned, ‘No, you may’t do this!” and Louis mentioned, ‘You need to simplify.’ To Jack it was historical past and shouldn’t be thrown out.”

Mr. Bradley’s refusal to simplify introduced him renown as an Armstrong maven and led to a deal in 2005 wherein the Louis Armstrong Academic Basis awarded Queens School a $480,000 grant to acquire his collection for the Louis Armstrong Home Museum, the place Armstrong and his spouse, Lucille had lived.

“Our cornerstone is Louis’s stuff,” said Ricky Riccardi, the museum’s director of analysis collections, referring to the huge trove of fabric that Armstrong left behind when he died in 1971. “That can at all times stand by itself. However Jack’s is the proper complement. Louis was obsessive about documenting his life, and Jack was obsessive about documenting Louis’s life.”

The museum’s collections, now housed at Queens School, will probably be moved to an training middle nearing completion throughout the road from the museum, which has been closed in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr. Bradley was not a salaried worker of Armstrong however was compensated for every {photograph} he took by Armstrong’s supervisor, Joe Glaser. To earn extra cash, Mr. Bradley took some industrial images jobs as properly.

“I don’t assume he ever made greater than $10,000 in any 12 months,” his pal Mike Persico mentioned.

Dan Morgenstern, the jazz critic and historian, wrote in a Fb tribute to Mr. Bradley that he had referred to as him “One Shot” as a result of “he would snap simply as soon as, partly to save lots of movie but in addition as a result of he trusted his eye and timing.”

Mr. Bradley as soon as photographed Armstrong bare from behind, in a dressing room. In accordance with Mr. Morgenstern, Armstrong, when he heard the press of Mr. Bradley’s digicam, mentioned, “I need a type of!” An enlarged print of the photograph hung in Armstrong’s den.

John Bradley III was born on Jan 3, 1934, on Cape Cod, in Cotuit. His mom, Kathryn (Beatty) Bradley, had many roles, together with hairdresser. His father left the household when Jack was 10.

A love of the ocean impressed Mr. Bradley to attend the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, from which he graduated in 1958. He then left for Manhattan, the place he immersed himself in jazz golf equipment and met Jeann Failows, who labored for Mr. Glaser serving to to reply Armstrong’s mail. She and Mr. Bradley started relationship, and Armstrong, seeing him together with her, turned satisfied that Mr. Bradley was somebody he might belief.

“What we had in frequent,” Mr. Bradley instructed JazzTimes in 2011, utilizing certainly one of Armstrong’s nicknames, “was this endless love for the music. Pops by no means sought fame for fame’s sake. He simply needed to play his horn. Louis had a message — a message about excellence.

“I’ve by no means met a person who had extra genius for music,” he continued. “He might hear one thing as soon as, and it was locked in his mind without end.”

Mr. Bradley was typically by my Armstrong’s facet from 1959 to 1971, typically driving him to engagements and spending hours at Armstrong’s home. In all, the self-taught Mr. Bradley took an estimated 6,000 pictures of Armstrong.

One sequence of photos, taken in December 1959, exhibits Armstrong warming up earlier than a live performance at Carnegie Corridor and jamming together with his band earlier than taking the stage, then performing, greeting pals afterward and signing autographs for followers outdoors the stage door.

Mr. Bradley’s focus was not solely on Armstrong. He photographed many different jazz artists and is claimed to have taken one of many final footage of Billie Holiday in efficiency — on the Phoenix Theater in Greenwich Village in Might 1959. (She died that July.)

Within the 1960s, he was a service provider marine and managed a jazz membership, Bourbon Avenue, in Manhattan for a 12 months. Within the 1970s he was a companion within the New York Jazz Museum, in Midtown Manhattan. He additionally hung out because the highway supervisor for the pianist Erroll Garner and the trumpeter Bobby Hackett.

Mr. Bradley returned to dwell in Cape Cod after the jazz museum closed in 1977. He turned a constitution boat captain, lectured regionally on jazz and hosted an area radio program on which he interviewed jazz musicians. His spouse taught highschool Spanish.

Mr. Bradley crammed his huge jazz memorabilia assortment — of which the Armstrongiana was solely a component — into his modest home on Cape Cod in Harwich.

“He had it in closets, the attic, shoe packing containers, sea chests, the basement, the attic, every little thing however in oil drums,” mentioned Mr. Persico, who has helped manage the archive.

Mr. Bradley died in a nursing facility in Brewster. Along with his spouse, he’s survived by his sisters, Emmy Shanley and Bonnie Jordan, and his brother, Bob.

Ms. Bradley mentioned she didn’t thoughts that her marriage had been, in impact, shared with Armstrong.

“That was OK,” she mentioned. “The third man was plenty of enjoyable.”

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