Louis Armstrong Biography

Louis Armstrong Biography

Louis Armstrong, fondly known as “Satchmo,” “Satch,” and “Pops,” left an indelible mark on the world of music as an American trumpeter and vocalist. Born on August 4, 1901, and brought up in the vibrant city of New Orleans, Armstrong’s musical journey unfolded across five decades, spanning various eras in jazz history.

Emerging in the 1920s, Armstrong’s innovative prowess with the trumpet and cornet set him apart. A key figure in jazz, he played a pivotal role in transitioning the genre from collective improvisation to individual solo performances. Around 1922, he followed the footsteps of his mentor, Joe “King” Oliver, to Chicago, where he became part of the Creole Jazz Band [als; fr]. His reputation soared through spirited “cutting contests,” catching the attention of bandleader Fletcher Henderson. This led him to New York City, where he became a prominent soloist and recording artist, leaving an enduring musical influence.

By the 1950s, Armstrong had become a national musical icon, gracing radio and television broadcasts and making appearances in films. His impact on jazz was monumental, and He garnered several honors, including the Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal Performance. in 1965 for “Hello, Dolly!” Posthumously, he was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. 1972 and was inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.

Armstrong’s musical repertoire includes a variety of iconic songs such as “What a Wonderful World,” “La Vie en Rose,” “Hello, Dolly!,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “When You’re Smiling,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” are among his iconic songs. Notably, he collaborated with Ella Fitzgerald on three acclaimed records: “Ella and Louis” (1956), “Ella and Louis Again” (1957), and “Porgy and Bess” (1959). His filmography features notable appearances in films like “A Rhapsody in Black and Blue” (1932), “Cabin in the Sky” (1943), “High Society” (1956), “Paris Blues” (1961), “A Man Called Adam” (1966), and “Hello, Dolly!” (1969).

Beyond his instrumental prowess, Armstrong possessed a distinctive, gravelly voice and showcased his skills as an influential singer and adept improviser. He was also known for his mastery of scat singing. Towards the end of his life, Armstrong’s influence extended beyond jazz to impact popular music as a whole. He broke racial barriers, gaining widespread popularity among white and international audiences, becoming one of the first African-American entertainers to achieve such crossover success. Despite his avoidance of public discussions on racial issues, Armstrong took a notable stand for desegregation during the Little Rock crisis. In a time when societal barriers were formidable for black men, Armstrong defied the odds, accessing the upper echelons of American society and leaving an enduring legacy in the annals of music history.

Louis Armstrong Early Life

Louis Armstrong’s birthdate has been a topic of debate, with many believing it to be August 4, 1901, although Armstrong himself often claimed July 4, 1900. Mary Estelle “Mayann” Albert and William Armstrong were his parents, but his father left the family shortly after the birth of Armstrong’s sister, Beatrice “Mama Lucy” Armstrong, in 1903. Raised by his grandmother until the age of five, Armstrong then returned to live with his mother in the poverty-stricken neighborhood known as The Battlefield on Rampart Street in New Orleans.

At the age of six, Armstrong began attending the Fisk School for Boys, a school for black children in the racially segregated New Orleans school system. During this time, heresided with his mother and sister and was employed by the Karnoffskys, a Lithuanian Jewish family. Armstrong assisted their sons, Morris and Alex, in collecting items and delivering coal. In 1969, while recovering from health issues, Armstrong penned a autobiography, “Louis Armstrong + the Jewish Family in New Orleans, LA., the Year of 1907,” recalling his time with the Karnoffskys.

In the memoir, Armstrong shared memories of singing “Russian Lullaby” with the Karnoffskys and credited them with teaching him to sing “from the heart.” Despite a potential inaccuracy regarding the song’s lyrics, Armstrong expressed gratitude for the Karnoffskys’ care, as they fed and nurtured him. He discovered that the family also faced discrimination, and he wrote about the unjust treatment they received from “other white folks.” This experience influenced Armstrong’s views on discrimination and shaped his understanding of “real life and determination.”

Armstrong’s inaugural musical performance possibly occurred at the Karnoffskys’ mobile junk wagon, where he endeavored to draw in customers with the sounds of a tin horn. Morris Karnoffsky went a step further by offering Armstrong an advance, enabling him to acquire a cornet from a pawn shop, thereby initiating his musical odyssey. In his later years, Armstrong, in homage to the Karnoffsky family’s substantial influence on his life, wore a Star of David gifted to him by his Jewish manager, Joe Glaser.

At the age of eleven, Armstrong left school, and he and his mother moved to a one-room house on Perdido Street. There, he joined a quartet of boys who sang in the streets for money. Armstrong’s musical education continued when cornetist Bunk Johnson claimed to have taught him to play by ear at Dago Tony’s honky-tonk, although Armstrong later credited King Oliver for his musical influence. Reflecting on his youth, Armstrong remarked that whenever he played his trumpet, he felt a connection to the heart of New Orleans, which had given him something to live for.Armstrong’s adolescence took a tumultuous turn when, on December 31, 1912, he impulsively borrowed his stepfather’s gun, firing a blank into the air. This act led to his arrest, and he spent the night at the New Orleans Juvenile Court. Subsequently, he was sentenced to detention at the Colored Waif’s Home, where life was stark and disciplinary measures were harsh under the command of Captain Joseph Jones.

At the Colored Waif’s Home, Armstrong honed his cornet skills by participating in the band. Peter Davis, Armstrong’s initial instructor chosen by Captain Jones, recognized his talent and designated him as the bandleader. The young Armstrong’s musical prowess caught the attention of Kid Ory.

Set free on June 14, 1914, under the care of his father, and new stepmother, Gertrude, Armstrong’s living situation became strained after the birth of Gertrude’s daughter. Unwelcomed by his father, he returned to his mother, Mary Albert, sharing a bed with her and his sister in their modest home in The Battlefield. Despite the challenges, Armstrong sought employment as a musician, landing a position at a dance venue owned by Henry Ponce, who had ties to organized crime. It was here that he befriended the towering drummer, Black Benny, serving as both guide and protector.

Around the age of fifteen, Armstrong engaged in a turbulent relationship, pimping for a woman named Nootsy. However, the alliance ended violently when Nootsy stabbed Armstrong in the shoulder, prompting his mother to intervene and nearly choke Nootsy to death.

Although Armstrong briefly pursued studies in shipping management at a local community college, financial constraints forced him to abandon this path. While selling coal in Storyville, he encountered spasm bands that played unconventional music using household items. It was in venues like Pete Lala’s, where King Oliver performed, that Armstrong first experienced the early sounds of jazz emanating from the bands that played in brothels and dance halls. This exposure marked a pivotal moment in his musical journey, foreshadowing the extraordinary contributions he would make to the world of jazz.

Louis Armstrong Career

In the early stages of his career, Armstrong found himself immersed in the vibrant musical scene of New Orleans, initially playing in brass bands and later on riverboats, marking his debut on an excursion boat in September 1918. Joining the band of Fate Marable, Armstrong embarked on a journey with the Streckfus Steamers line, touring the Mississippi River on the steamboat Sidney.

Under the mentorship of Fate Marable, a musician proud of his musical knowledge, Armstrong was introduced to the discipline of sight reading. Describing this period as his “University,” Armstrong gained valuable experience working with written arrangements, broadening his musical horizons. In 1919, when King Oliver, Armstrong’s mentor, decided to head north and vacated his position in Kid Ory’s band, Armstrong stepped into the role, marking a significant milestone in his burgeoning career. Additionally, he assumed the position of second trumpet for the Tuxedo Brass Band during this time.

Armstrong’s stint on the riverboats proved instrumental in the maturation and expansion of his musicianship. By the age of twenty, he had developed the ability to read music, positioning himself as Pioneering one of the initial jazz musicians showcased in prolonged trumpet solos. In these solos, Armstrong injected his distinctive personality and style, setting a precedent for future jazz performers. Moreover, during this period, he began showcasing his vocal talents, incorporating singing into his performances, further solidifying his reputation as a versatile and groundbreaking artist.

Louis Armstrong Personal Life

The Louis Armstrong House Museum sheds light on the intriguing aspect of how the iconic musician pronounced his own name. According to home-recorded tapes within the museum’s collections, Louis Armstrong pronounced his name as “Lewis.” This is evidenced by a snippet from his 1964 record “Hello, Dolly,” where he sings, “This is Lewis, Dolly.” However, it’s worth noting that in a 1933 recording, he made a record called “Laughin’ Louie,” showcasing a variation in pronunciation.

The use of “Louie” as a nickname was widespread, with many broadcast announcers, fans, and acquaintances referring to him as such. Even in a videotaped interview from 1983, Lucille Armstrong, his wife, affectionately called him “Louie.” Among musicians and close friends, the endearing term “Pops” was a common way to address him.

In a memoir penned for Robert Goffin between 1943 and 1944, Armstrong provided insight into his name dynamics. He mentioned, “All white folks call me Louie,” suggesting that he may not have used that name himself or that he was addressed differently by white individuals, perhaps not using nicknames like Pops. Interestingly, the 1920 U.S. Census registered him as “Lewie.”

On various live records, the name “Louie” is heard on stage, such as in the 1952 “Can Anyone Explain?” from the live album In Scandinavia vol.1. Similarly, in his 1952 studio recording of the song “Chloe,” the background choir sings “Louie … Louie,” prompting Armstrong to respond humorously with “What was that? Somebody called my name?” It’s also highlighted that “Lewie” reflects the French pronunciation of “Louis” and is commonly used in Louisiana. This multifaceted exploration of his name adds an intriguing layer to the legacy of the jazz legend.

Louis Armstrong Family

Louis Armstrong’s personal life was marked by a series of marriages and relationships. While entertaining at the Brick House in Gretna, Louisiana, he met Daisy Parker, a local prostitute, and initiated an affair. Despite discovering that she had a common-law husband, Armstrong continued to visit her, eventually seeking her out at her home to spend time away from her work. In a surprising turn of events, on On March 19, 1919, Armstrong and Parker tied the knot at City Hall. after checking into Kid Green’s hotel the previous evening. They also adopted a three-year-old boy named Clarence, whose mother (Armstrong’s cousin Flora) had passed away shortly after childbirth. Clarence suffered from mental disabilities due to a head injury at an early age, and Armstrong dedicated the rest of his life to caring for him. However, his marriage to Parker came to an end when they separated in 1923.

Following the dissolution of his first marriage, Armstrong married Lil Hardin Armstrong on February 4, 1924. Lil, who was King Oliver’s pianist, played a significant role in shaping and advancing Armstrong’s career. Despite their collaborative efforts, they separated in 1931 and finalized their divorce in 1938. Armstrong’s next marriage was to Alpha Smith, a relationship that began in the 1920s during his performances at the Vendome. This marriage lasted four years, ending in divorce in 1942.

In October 1942, Armstrong he wed Lucille Wilson, a vocalist at the Cotton Club in New York. This union endured until Armstrong’s death in 1971, making it his longest-lasting marriage. Despite his various marriages, Armstrong did not have any biological children. However, in December 2012, a woman named Sharon Preston-Folta claimed to be his daughter from an affair in the 1950s with Lucille “Sweets” Preston, a dancer at the Cotton Club. Armstrong, in a 1955 letter to his manager Joe Glaser, acknowledged the paternity of Preston’s baby girl and directed Glaser to provide a monthly allowance to both the mother and child. This revelation added a complex layer to Armstrong’s familial history.

Louis Armstrong Net Worth And Income

Louis Armstrong, an iconic American jazz trumpeter and singer, left an indelible mark on the world of music. At the time of his passing in 1971, his wealth was approximated to be $5 million. equivalent to around $35 million in today’s dollars. Born into extreme poverty in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a family with a history of slavery, Armstrong faced challenging circumstances from an early age. His father’s departure heightened the financial struggles, prompting Armstrong, at the age of eleven, to leave school and contribute to the family income by singing in a street quartet.

Introduced to the cornet by Bunk Johnson, Armstrong’s musical journey began to take shape. After a period in a home for troubled children, he worked during the day and honed his musical skills at night, performing with local jazz bands whenever the opportunity arose. Joe “King” Oliver recognized Armstrong’s talent and became his mentor, guiding him in return for various small jobs. Following Oliver’s departure to Chicago, a pivotal moment in jazz history, Armstrong gained valuable experience performing on Mississippi River steamboats, refining his skills and learning to read music.

In 1922, Armstrong joined Oliver in Chicago, and by 1924, he moved to New York at the invitation of bandleader Fletcher Henderson. Switching from the cornet to the trumpet, Armstrong developed an energetic and creative style that captivated the New York jazz scene. He later returned to Chicago, forming the Hot Five and Hot Seven groups and producing hits like “Potato Head Blues,” “Muggles,” and “West End Blues.” The rhythms he created set the standard for jazz musicians for years to come. Armstrong’s influence extended beyond his music, breaking racial boundaries in a deeply divided America and making him one of the most celebrated jazz musicians of the 20th century.

Louis Armstrong’s death on July 6, 1971, marked the end of an era. He passed away in his sleep from a heart attack, leaving behind a lasting legacy that endures. resonate in the hearts of music lovers worldwide.

Louis Armstrong Age

Louis Armstrong, the legendary musician, passed away on July 6, 1971, at the age of 69. death occurred in Corona, Queens, New York City, U.S. Armstrong’s remarkable career spanned various music genres, including Dixieland, jazz, swing, and traditional pop. Renowned for his exceptional skills as a trumpeter and cornet player, Armstrong’s contributions to the world of music left an enduring legacy. His influence reached far beyond his instrumental prowess, as he became a cultural icon, breaking racial boundaries and making an enduring impact on thehistory of jazz and popular music.

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