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Louis Armstrong

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Essay title: Louis Armstrong

Jazz…the music that soothes the soul. The music that brings all people of different origins, backgrounds, and colors together. The music that was born in the streets of Liberty and Perdido Streets of New Orleans. This was the same place where, the “king of jazz” grew up, Louis Armstrong. The same place he started his endless journey to become the single most important figure in the early history of jazz. His everlasting spirit and music are still enjoyed today, in celebration of his life he once shared with us.

Louis Armstrong was born and raised in the poorest part of the New Orleans. He was the first son of Mary Albert and William Armstrong on August 4, 1901 (Alden 1). However, there is some controversy over his birth-date. He claims he was born July 4, 1900, but it is not for sure what his real birth-date is (Panassie 1).

Louis had a very tough childhood. He had already begun work at the age of 7. He worked for a family, that later helped him buy his first cornet. At the age of 12, he was arrested for firing a bullet in the air on New Year’s Eve. Consequently, he was placed in Colored Waif’s Home for Boys. There, Captain Joseph Jones gave him his first lessons, in being a trumpet player (Alden 1). When he was released from the home, he started going to different night clubs to listen and learn more about the music he loved. Joe “King” Oliver noticed and was impressed by Louis’ attendance at the clubs. Therefore, he began to teach him how to play more trumpet. This is when Louis’ reputation began to rise (Panassie 1).

When Armstrong was in Chicago, he played with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Accompanied by them, he made his very first recording in 1923. This is how he also received the nick name, ‘Satchmo’. He later moved back to New Orleans and made another recording with the Fletcher Henderson Band. This was in 1924 (Alden 1). He then went to New York where he blew away his listeners. Some say, Satchmo and the rest of his band played so well, many other musicians wanted to give up! They played more waltzes and Latin rhythms, rather than blues and rags that were played in Oliver’s band. He also played with Clarence Williams, during this time in New York, who only made his career grow (Panassie 2). He then moved back to Chicago and played with the Dickerson Orchestra. During this time, he unintentionally created, what we now call, ‘scatsinging’ during an on air show on the radio. He was in the middle of a song and the music stand knocked over. He ignored it and just kept singing without knowing the words. This was the birth of a new fad…scatsinging.


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