Louis Armstrong is a very talented musician, actor, and singer. He has lived a prosperous life with a lot of success and an equal amount of downfalls. Louis Armstrong’s story goes back to over one hundred years ago. Nicknamed Satch, Satchmo, Satchelmouth, Dipper, and Dippermouth Louis Armstrong took over and changed the jazz industry to what we know it as today. Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana. His father, William Armstrong, abandoned the family during Louis’ infant years.
Louis Armstrong’s mother, Mayann Armstrong was a prostitute in Louis’ early years. Louis spent the first years of his life living with his paternal grandmother, Josephine Armstrong. After age five, Louis lived in a two room house near Liberty and Perdido Streets with his mother and sister, Beatrice who was nicknamed Mama Lucy. The family lived in stark poverty. Louis Armstrong started work for a wealthy white family, the Karnofsky’s, collecting used bottles and rags and delivering coal at age seven. In third grade Louis dropped out of school and quit working for the Karnofsky family.
All Louis did at this time was roam around the streets of New Orleans this is when he started to gain an interest in jazz. At age twelve Louis fired a pistol in the streets of New Orleans on New Years and was confined in the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys. At the school he learned to play cornet. After being released at age fourteen, Louis Armstrong worked selling papers, unloading boats, and selling coal from a cart. As Louis was working and hanging in the streets he heard a lot of jazz being played at local dancehalls, parties, bars, and balls.
Even though Louis didn’t own any instruments he still frequented many clubs to listen to the bands play. He mostly went to the Funky Butt Hall and listened to Joe “King” Oliver. Joe “King” Oliver was his favorite and the older man acted as a father to Louis, even giving him his first real cornet, and instructing him on the instrument. By 1917 he played in an Oliver inspired group at dive bars in New Orleans’ Storyville section. In 1919 he left New Orleans for the first time to join Fate Marable’s band in St. Louis.
Marable led a band that played on the Strekfus Mississippi river boat lines. When the boats left from New Orleans Louis Armstrong also played regular gigs in Kid Ory’s band. Louis stayed with Marable until 1921 when he returned to New Orleans and played in Zutty Singleton’s. He also played in parades with the Allen Brass Band, and on the bandstand with Papa Celestin’s Tuxedo Orchestra, and the Silver Leaf Band. When King Oliver left the city in 1919 to go to Chicago, Louis took his place in Kid Ory’s band from time to time.
In 1922 Louis received a telegram from his mentor Joe Oliver, asking him to join his Creole Jazz Band at Lincoln Gardens in Chicago. This was a dream come true for Louis and his playing in the band soon made him a sensation among other musicians in Chicago. While playing in Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, Louis Armstrong met Lillian Hardin, a piano player and arranger for the band. They got married on February 5, 1924. The young Louis Armstrong became popular through his ingenious ensemble lead and second cornet lines, his cornet duet passages with Oliver, and his solos.
He recorded his first solos as a member of the Oliver band in such pieces as “Chimes Blues” and “Tears,” which Lillian and Louis Armstrong composed. Encouraged by his wife, Louis Armstrong quit Oliver’s band to seek further fame. He played for a year in New York City in Fletcher Henderson’s band and on many recordings with others before returning to Chicago and playing in large orchestras. There he created his most important early works, the Armstrong Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings of 1925–1928, on which he emerged as the first great jazz soloist.
By then the New Orleans ensemble style, which allowed few solo opportunities, could no longer contain his explosive creativity. He retained vestiges of the style in such masterpieces as “Hotter than That,” “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue,” “Wild Man Blues,” and “Potato Head Blues” but largely abandoned it while accompanied by pianist Earl Hines in “West End Blues” and “Weather Bird”. By that time Louis Armstrong was playing trumpet, and his technique was superior to that of all competitors. All of his musical energy and genius made these recordings major innovations in jazz.
Louis Armstrong was a famous musician by 1929, when he moved from Chicago to New York City and performed in the theatre review Hot Chocolates. He toured America and Europe as a trumpet soloist accompanied by big bands; for several years beginning in 1935, Luis Russell’s big band served as the Louis Armstrong band. During this time he abandoned the often blues-based original material of his earlier years for a remarkably fine choice of popular songs by such noted composers as Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin, and Duke Ellington. With his new collection came a new, simplified style: he created melodic araphrases and variations as well as chord-change-based improvisations on these songs. His trumpet range continued to expand, as demonstrated in the high-note showpieces in his repertoire. His beautiful tone and gift for structuring bravura solos with brilliant high-note climaxes led to such masterworks as “That’s My Home,” “Body and Soul,” and “Star Dust. ” One of the inventors of scat singing, he began to sing lyrics on most of his recordings, varying melodies or decorating with scat phrases in a gravel voice that was immediately identifiable.
Although he sang such humorous songs as “Hobo, You Can’t Ride This Train,” he also sang many standard songs, often with an intensity and creativity that equaled those of his trumpet playing. Louis and Lillian Armstrong separated in 1931. From 1935 to the end of his life, Armstrong’s career was managed by Joe Glaser, who hired Louis’ bands and guided his film career and radio appearances. Though his own bands usually played in a more conservative style, Louis was the dominant influence on the swing era, when most trumpeters attempted to emulate his inclination to dramatic structure, melody, or technical virtuosity.
Louis and Lillian got divorced on September 30, 1938 Louis Armstrong married Alpha Smith on October 11, 1938. The fame and continued travel was too much for Alpha. They got divorced on October 2, 1942. Louis wasted no time in finding another wife, he remarried on October 12, 1942. For the next nine years the Louis Armstrong Orchestra continued to tour and release records, but as the 1940s drew to a close the public’s taste in Jazz began to shift away from the commercial sounds of the Swing era and big band Jazz. The so-called Dixieland Jazz revival was just beginning and Be Bop was also starting to challenge the status quo in the Jazz world.
The Louis Armstrong Orchestra was beginning to look tired and concert and record sales were declining. Critics complained that Louis Armstrong was becoming too commercial. In 1947 Glaser fired the orchestra and replaced them with a small group that became one of the greatest and most popular bands in Jazz history. The group was called the Louis Armstrong Allstars and over the years featured exceptional musicians like Barney Bigard, Jack Teagarden, Sidney ‘Big Sid’ Catlett, vocalist Vilma Middleton, and Earl Hines.
The band went through a number of personnel changes over the years but remained extremely popular worldwide. They toured extensively travelling to Africa, Asia, Europe and South America for the next twenty years until Louis’ failing health caused them to disband. Armstrong became known as America’s Ambassador. In 1963 Armstrong scored a huge international hit with his version of “Hello Dolly”. This number one single even knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts. In 1968 he recorded another number one hit with the touchingly optimistic “What A Wonderful World”.
Armstrong’s health began to fail him and he was hospitalized several times over the remaining three years of his life, but he continued playing and recording. On July 6th 1971 the world’s greatest Jazz musician died in his sleep at his home in Queens, New York. On July 8th more than 30,000 mourners solemnly file past his casket at the Seventh Regiment Armory. A funeral at the modest Corona Congregational Church the next day attracts thousands more than the church can hold. He is buried in Flushing Cemetery in Queens, just a few miles away from his home in Corona.