Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong restored.jpg
Armstrong in 1953
Louis Daniel Armstrong[1]

(1901-08-04)August 4, 1901
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedJuly 6, 1971(1971-07-06) (aged 69)
Corona, Queens, New York, U.S.
Other names
  • "Satchmo"
  • "Satch"
  • "Pops"
  • "Louie"
  • Musician
  • composer
  • singer
Daisy Parker
(m. 1918; div. 1923)

Lil Hardin Armstrong
(m. 1924; div. 1938)

Alpha Smith
(m. 1938; div. 1942)

Lucille Wilson
(m. 1942; his death 1971)
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • trumpet
Years active1919–1971
Associated acts

Louis Daniel Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971), nicknamed Satchmo,[2] Satch, and Pops,[3] was an American trumpeter, composer, vocalist and occasional actor who was one of the most influential figures in jazz. His career spanned five decades, from the 1920s to the 1960s, and different eras in the history of jazz.[4] In 2017, he was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

Armstrong was born and raised in New Orleans. Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an "inventive" trumpet and cornet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance.[5] Around 1922, he followed his mentor, Joe "King" Oliver, to Chicago to play in the Creole Jazz Band. In the Windy City, he networked with other popular jazz musicians, reconnecting with his friend, Bix Beiderbecke, and made new contacts, which included Hoagy Carmichael and Lil Hardin. He earned a reputation at "cutting contests", and relocated to New York in order to join Fletcher Henderson's band.

With his instantly recognizable rich, gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes. He was also very skilled at scat singing. Armstrong is renowned for his charismatic stage presence and voice almost as much as for his trumpet playing. Armstrong's influence extends well beyond jazz, and by the end of his career in the 1960s, he was widely regarded as a profound influence on popular music in general. Armstrong was one of the first truly popular African-American entertainers to "cross over", that is, whose skin color became secondary to his music in an America that was extremely racially divided at the time. He rarely publicly politicized his race, often to the dismay of fellow African Americans, but took a well-publicized stand for desegregation in the Little Rock crisis. His artistry and personality allowed him access to the upper echelons of American society, then highly restricted for black men.

Early life

Louis Armstrong (2002), hand-colored etching by Adi Holzer

Armstrong often stated that he was born on July 4, 1900.[6] Although he died in 1971, it was not until the mid-1980s that his true birth date, August 4, 1901, was discovered by Tad Jones by researching baptismal records.[7] At least three other biographies treat the July 4th birth date as a myth.[8][9][10]

Armstrong was born in New Orleans to Mary Albert and William Armstrong. Albert was from Boutte, Louisiana, and gave birth at home when she was about sixteen. William Armstrong abandoned the family shortly after.[11] About two years later, he had a daughter, Beatrice "Mama Lucy" Armstrong, who was raised by Albert.[12]

Louis Armstrong was raised by his grandmother until the age of five when he was returned to his mother.[11] He spent his youth in poverty in a rough neighborhood known as The Battlefield.[13] At six he attended the Fisk School for Boys,[14] a school that accepted black children in the racially segregated system of New Orleans. He did odd jobs for the Karnoffskys, a family of Lithuanian Jews. While selling coal in Storyville, he heard spasm bands, groups that played music out of household objects. He heard the early sounds of jazz from bands that played in brothels and dance halls such as Pete Lala's, where King Oliver performed.[15]

The Karnoffskys[16] took him in and treated him like family. Knowing he lived without a father, they fed and nurtured him.[17][18] In his memoir Louis Armstrong + the Jewish Family in New Orleans, La., the Year of 1907, he described his discovery that this family was also subject to discrimination by "other white folks" who felt that they were better than Jews: "I was only seven years old but I could easily see the ungodly treatment that the white folks were handing the poor Jewish family whom I worked for."[19] He wore a Star of David pendant for the rest of his life and wrote about what he learned from them: "how to live—real life and determination."[17] His first musical performance may have been at the side of the Karnoffsky's junk wagon. To distinguish them from other hawkers, he tried playing a tin horn to attract customers. Morris Karnoffsky gave Armstrong an advance toward the purchase of a cornet from a pawn shop.[20]

When Armstrong was eleven, he dropped out of school.[14] His mother moved into a one-room house on Perdido Street with him, Lucy, and her common-law husband, Tom Lee, next door to her brother Ike and his two sons.[21] Armstrong joined a quartet of boys who sang in the streets for money. He also got into trouble. Cornetist Bunk Johnson said he taught the eleven-year-old to play by ear at Dago Tony's honky tonk.[22] In his later years Armstrong credited King Oliver. He said about his youth, "Every time I close my eyes blowing that trumpet of mine—I look right in the heart of good old New Orleans ... It has given me something to live for."[23]

Armstrong with his first trumpet instructor, Peter Davis, in 1965

Borrowing his stepfather's gun without permission, he fired a blank into the air and was arrested on December 31, 1912. He spent the night at New Orleans Juvenile Court, then was sentenced the next day to detention at the Colored Waif's Home.[24] Life at the home was spartan. Mattresses were absent. Meals were often little more than bread and molasses. Captain Joseph Jones ran the home like a military camp and used corporal punishment.[25]

Armstrong developed his cornet skills by playing in the band. Peter Davis, who frequently appeared at the home at the request of Captain Jones,[26] became Armstrong's first teacher and chose him as bandleader. With this band, the thirteen year-old Armstrong attracted the attention of Kid Ory.[27]

On June 14, 1914, Armstrong was released into the custody of his father and his new stepmother, Gertrude. He lived in this household with two stepbrothers for several months. After Gertrude gave birth to a daughter, Armstrong's father never welcomed him, so he returned to his mother, Mary Albert. In her small home, he had to share a bed with his mother and sister.[28] His mother still lived in The Battlefield, leaving him open to old temptations, but he sought work as a musician. He found a job at a dance hall owned by Henry Ponce, who had connections to organized crime. He met the six-foot tall drummer Black Benny, who became his guide and bodyguard.[29]

Armstrong played in brass band parades in New Orleans. He listened to the music of local musicians such as Kid Ory and his idol, King Oliver.[30][page needed]

Other Languages
Адыгэбзэ: Луи Армстронг
адыгабзэ: Луи Армстронг
Afrikaans: Louis Armstrong
Alemannisch: Louis Armstrong
aragonés: Louis Armstrong
asturianu: Louis Armstrong
Aymar aru: Louis Armstrong
azərbaycanca: Lui Armstronq
Bân-lâm-gú: Louis Armstrong
башҡортса: Луи Армстронг
беларуская: Луі Армстранг
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Луіс Армстранг
български: Луис Армстронг
Boarisch: Louis Armstrong
bosanski: Louis Armstrong
brezhoneg: Louis Armstrong
čeština: Louis Armstrong
español: Louis Armstrong
Esperanto: Louis Armstrong
Fiji Hindi: Louis Armstrong
føroyskt: Louis Armstrong
français: Louis Armstrong
hrvatski: Louis Armstrong
Bahasa Indonesia: Louis Armstrong
interlingua: Louis Armstrong
íslenska: Louis Armstrong
italiano: Louis Armstrong
Kabɩyɛ: Louis Armstrong
Kapampangan: Louis Armstrong
Kiswahili: Louis Armstrong
Kreyòl ayisyen: Louis Armstrong
Кыргызча: Луи Армстронг
Lëtzebuergesch: Louis Armstrong
lietuvių: Louis Armstrong
Limburgs: Louis Armstrong
Lingua Franca Nova: Louis Armstrong
Livvinkarjala: Louis Armstrong
македонски: Луис Армстронг
Malagasy: Louis Armstrong
მარგალური: ლუი არმსტრონგი
Bahasa Melayu: Louis Armstrong
Nederlands: Louis Armstrong
norsk nynorsk: Louis Armstrong
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Armstrong Lui Daniel
Papiamentu: Louis Armstrong
Piemontèis: Louis Armstrong
Plattdüütsch: Louis Armstrong
português: Louis Armstrong
Qaraqalpaqsha: Louis Armstrong
română: Louis Armstrong
Runa Simi: Louis Armstrong
русиньскый: Луї Армстронґ
саха тыла: Луи Армстроҥ
Seeltersk: Louis Armstrong
sicilianu: Louis Armstrong
Simple English: Louis Armstrong
slovenčina: Louis Armstrong
slovenščina: Louis Armstrong
српски / srpski: Луј Армстронг
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Louis Armstrong
татарча/tatarça: Lui Armstrong
Türkçe: Louis Armstrong
українська: Луї Армстронг
vepsän kel’: Armstrong Lui
Tiếng Việt: Louis Armstrong
Volapük: Louis Armstrong
Yorùbá: Louis Armstrong
žemaitėška: Loisos Armstrongos