Louis Armstrong

August 4, 1901 - July 6, 1971
  • Armstrong was born in New Orleans, and his family was very poor. The city was a great place for him to express his musical talents, and he was performing on the streets when he was young.
  • His mentor was a cornet player named King Oliver. When Oliver moved to Chicago in 1918, Armstrong replaced him in Kid Ory's Band, which was big in New Orleans. In 1922, he moved to Chicago and joined King Oliver's band.
  • Armstrong is a legend in the jazz community for being the genre's first important soloist and an innovator in trumpet playing and scat singing, but most people know him for his hit songs "What A Wonderful World" and "Hello, Dolly!," which aren't typical of his work.
  • He entered the world of acting when he played Henry in the 1936 Bing Crosby film Pennies from Heaven. This led to frequent appearances in TV and film, showcasing his affable personality and making him the most famous Jazz musician in the world.
  • His nickname was "Satchmo," which is short for Satchel Mouth. He was also known as "Dippermouth" and "Pops."
  • He performed constantly, doing about 300 shows a year.
  • Armstrong gave this famous quote when asked to define jazz: "Man, if you gotta ask, you'll never know." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France, for all above
  • According to the Louis Armstrong House Museum, based out of the singer's longtime residence in Queens, the nickname Satchmo was coined by Percy Brooks, the editor of Melody Maker magazine. Armstrong was visiting Great Britain when Brooks greeted him with a riff on his childhood moniker.
  • He was married four times: To Daisy Parker, a Louisiana prostitute, from 1918-1923; to Lil Hardin, a pianist and fellow bandmate with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band from 1924-1938; to Alpha Smith from 1938-1942; and to Cotton Club singer Lucille Wilson from 1942 until his death in 1971.

    None of his marriages produced children, but in 2012, Sharon Preston-Folta claimed she was Armstrong's daughter, the product of a '50s affair with Lucille "Sweets" Preston, a dancer at the Cotton Club where Armstrong often performed. Several letters between the singer and Sweets seem to confirm Prestin-Folta's story.
  • His robust trumpet playing led to severe lip problems that affected the way he approached the instrument. Joe Muranyi, a clarinetist who was one of Armstrong's All-Stars in the late-'60s, says, "Part of the change in Louis' style could be attributed to the lip trouble he had in the early '30s. There are tales of blood on his shirt, of blowing off a piece of his lip while playing. This certainly influenced the way he approached the horn; yet what we hear on these tracks has at least as much to do with musical development as with physical matters."
  • Armstrong was very popular with white audiences and was often criticized for not using his influence to speak out against racism during the Civil Rights era. He did, however, refuse to go on the State Department-sponsored tour of the Soviet Union in 1957 over Southern states refusing to integrate schools. Likewise, he wouldn't perform in his hometown of New Orleans until 1965, after the Civil Rights Act was passed.

    When the 1965 freedom marches in Selma, Alabama, erupted into violence against African Americans, Armstrong responded:

    "They would beat Jesus if he was black and marched. Maybe I'm not in the front line, but I support them with my donations. My life is in my music. They would beat me on the mouth if I marched, and without my mouth I wouldn't be able to blow my horn."

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