Louis Armstrong, The Jazz Master

Louis Armstrong was born August 4, 1901 in New Orleans.  He was born into a very poor family and the grandson of slaves.  He credited Joe “King” Oliver with teaching him to play the trumpet by ear.  By the age of eleven, he’d dropped out of school and was singing on the streets for money.  He went to the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs where he learned to play the cornet.  While there he was taken under the wing of Peter Davis who taught him discipline to hone his talent.  After he was released Oliver gave him his first real cornet.

He moved to Chicago in 1922 to join his mentor, Oliver.  A year later he made his first recording.

He traveled heavily for the next few years and married Lillian Hardin.  In 1929 he made his first appearance on Broadway.  Later that year he released ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ and set the stage for jazz to become a popular genre.

He released the song that would become his theme, “When It’s Sleepytime Down South” in 1931.  Joe Glaser became his lifelong manager in 1935, by this time he was a very famous man.

He married Lucille Wilson in 1947.  That same year Armstrong replaced his orchestra with a small band, which is considered one of the greatest bands in Jazz history.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s he appeared in a number of films and toured extensively.  In 1963 his recording of “Hello Dolly” became an international hit, which he followed five years later with the hit “What A Wonderful World”.  Armstrong and his band traveled so much during these decades that he became known as “America’s Ambassador”.  He finally had to slow down due to his failing health.

Armstrong had a major influence on the development of jazz.  He helped move the genre from a collective improvisation to a solo performance.  He had a great talent for improvisation and was able to make expressive sounds with his deep voice.  He became a master at scat singing.

He performed as much as his health would allow and was arranging an appearance for his upcoming 70th birthday when he died.

Armstrong had several nicknames including Satchmo, Dipper, and Pops.

On July 6, 1971 he had a heart attack and died in New York City.

His influence on music still lives today.

 

 

 

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