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Louis Armstrong’s Biography and Discography

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Louis Armstrong’s Biography and Discography


Pops, Satchmo, Dippermouth, Satch, Dipper, Papa Dip, Ambassador Satch , Little Louis …. Lots of nicknames can be used to mention about Louis Armstrong, but above all you can name him as ‘The King of Jazz’. Armstrong is the most influential jazz trumpeter of all-time. He first achieved fame as a trumpeter, but towards the end of his career he was best known as a vocalist and was one of the most influential jazz singers. His amazing technical abilities, the joy and spontaneity, and amazingly quick, creative musical mind still dominate Jazz to this day. Louis Armstrong is not only a jazz player. He influenced all brass players in all branches with his flexibility and range on trumpet.

Like almost all early Jazz musicians, Louis Armstrong was from New Orleans. Armstrong claimed that his birth date is July 4, 1900 at his book “Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans”. He wrote “I am about to be fifty nine years old… This fourth of July-1959… Born July fourth 1900…” however historical evidence discovered nearly two decades after his 1971 death suggested a different birth date, August 4, 1901. Armstrong grew up in a poor family in a rough section of New Orleans. He started working at a very young age to support his family, singing on street corners, working on a junk wagon, cleaning graves for tips, and selling coal. His travels around the city introduced him to all kinds of music, from the blues played in the Storyville to the brass bands accompanying the New Orleans. The music that surrounded him was a great source of inspiration. A born musician, Armstrong had already demonstrated his singing talents on the streets of the city and eventually taught himself to play the cornet. He received his first formal music instruction in the Colored Waif's Home for Boys, where he was confined for a year and a half as punishment for firing blanks into the air on New Year's Eve.

As the young Armstrong (called ‘Little Louis’ by King Oliver) began to perform with pick-up bands in small clubs and play funerals and parades around town, he captured the attention and respect of some of the older established musicians of New Orleans. Joe "King" Oliver, a member of Kid Ory's band and one of the finest trumpet players around, became Armstrong's mentor. When Oliver moved to Chicago, Armstrong took his place in Kid Ory's band, a leading group in New Orleans at the time. A year later, he was hired to work on riverboats that traveled the Mississippi.

In 1922, Oliver invited Armstrong to Chicago to play second cornet in his Creole Jazz Band. As a member of Oliver's band, Armstrong began his lifetime of touring and recording. In 1924, he moved on to New York City to play with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra at the Roseland Ballroom. Armstrong continued his touring and recording activities with Henderson's group and also made recordings with Sidney Bechet, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith. In 1925, Armstrong returned to Chicago and made his first recordings as a band leader with his Hot Five (and later his Hot Seven). From 1925 to 1928 he continued a rigorous schedule of performing and recording, which included ‘Heebie Jeebies’, the tune that introduced scat singing to a wide audience and ‘West End Blues’, one of the most famous recordings in early jazz.

In 1929, Armstrong returned to New York City and made his first Broadway appearance. His 1929 recording of ‘Ain't Misbehavin'’ introduced the use of a pop song as material for jazz interpretation, helping set the stage for the popular acceptance of jazz that would follow. During the next year, he performed in several U.S. states, including California, where he made his first film and radio appearances. In 1931, he first recorded “When It's Sleepytime Down South”, the tune that became his theme song. In 1932, he toured England for three months, and during the next few years, continued his extensive domestic and international tours, including a lengthy stay in Paris.

When Armstrong returned to the U.S. in 1935, Joe Glaser became his manager. Not only did Glaser free Armstrong from the managerial battles and legal difficulties of the past few years, he remained his manager for the duration of his career and helped transform Armstrong into an international star. Under Glaser's management, Armstrong performed in films, on the radio, and in the best theaters, dance halls, and nightclubs. He worked with big bands, playing music of an increasingly commercial nature as well as small groups that showcased his singing of popular songs.

In 1942, Armstrong married Lucille Wilson, a dancer at the Cotton Club where his band had a running engagement. The following year, they purchased a home in Corona, Queens, where they lived for the rest of their lives. In 1947,

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