LOUIE BLUIE (Dir. Terry Zwigoff, 1985)

“She sauntered over to me and she says ‘You’re Armstrong. I know you’re Armstrong. But you’re not Louie Armstrong, that Louie. You’re just plain ol’ Louie Bluie, that’s what you are.’ And so I used the name to record under later.” – Howard Armstrong

Last month the Criterion added to their esteemed collection CRUMB – Terry Zwigoff’s classic 1995 documentary about legendary cartoonist Robert Crumb.

The same day, August 10th, a lesser known Zwigoff film, his 1985 debut doc LOUIE BLUIE, also got the deluxe treatment and that’s very good news for fans of the blues, comic art, and hilarious tall tales that just might be true.

“Louie Bluie” is the nickname Howard Armstrong (1909-2003) – a fiddle and mandolin player who recorded in the late ’20s and ’30s who is also known for his amazing artwork of various mediums.

Armstrong sits down with friends (mainly guitarist Ted Bogan) and tells wonderful stories about his youth filled with colorful phrasing and sharp wit.

Zwigoff’s subject picks on Bogan for being a dog towards women and he picks with Bogan on several jams which give this delightful doc a toe tapping rhythm between anecdotes.

There’s not much of a narrative here, but it hardly matters as the material and music are so good.

When Zwigoff zooms in on Armstrong’s art, we can see why this old time musician appealed to the ’78 collecting, comic book loving director.

Armstrong started drawing when he was a child capturing himself, family members, various other folks and scenes from his Tennessean birthplace.

Armstrong’s art is astounding – whether it’s created by crayon, paint, or ink squeezed from crepe paper. At one point he shows a friend his “Pornography Bible” – a thick bound book of art and text about sex that Armstrong keeps under lock and key.

Armstrong: “I have to keep it locked up to keep the man from locking me up.”

LOUIE BLUIE is only an hour long but it’s an hour very well spent with a fascinating funny and terrifically talented man who should be better known.

If you want more there’s a little over 30 minutes of “unused footage” featuring more music and amusing stories.

Other bonus features include an illuminating Zwigoff commentary and a stills gallery that is really worth paging through if only to see more of the “Pornography Bible”.

More later…

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