In January 1970, First Lady Pat Nixon announced plans for a White House Record Library, naming a commission of five members to make selections in various musical categories: Paul Ackerman (country, folk, gospel), Irving Kolodin (classical); Johnny Mercer (popular), Helen Roach (spoken word), and Willis Conover (jazz).
The ubiquitous Conover was also named chairman of the commission. Of greater interest, however, are the choices he made in the jazz category in light of his role as producer-narrator of the White House tribute to Duke Ellington the previous April.
Conover selected 229 LPs, spanning recorded jazz from its beginnings in 1917 through the 1960s. He singled out a broad range of artists from all styles, 108 represented by a single LP and another 36 by multiple LPs. Those with three or more:
Two of the participants in the all-star tribute at the White House—Earl Hines and Gerry Mulligan—are on the multiple LP list, as are invited guests Dizzy Gillespie (who played at the after-hours jam session) and Benny Goodman. Moreover, Conover awarded each all-star musician one or more LPs in the library, save for Mary Mayo and Billy Taylor.
At a presentation in March 1973, Mrs. Nixon accepted the library on behalf of the White House Historical Association. The collection consisted of the commission-selected recordings donated by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In 1979, producer John Hammond, music critic Bob Blumenthal, and Rolling Stone editor Paul Nelson led a commission to update the library for President Carter, delivering an updated collection only seven days before President Carter left office.
The Reagan administration later moved the LPs to the basement, possibly because of Nancy Reagan’s reported distaste for the musical selections. As of this writing, nobody seems to know if the record library is still in use or if it is even at the White House.