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Armstrong, Louis 1900–1971

Louis Armstrong 19001971

Jazz trumpet player, singer

At a Glance

Noted for Roles in Musical Films

Achieved Posthumous Recognition Worldwide

Selected discography

Sources

Louis Armstrong is frequently regarded by critics as the greatest jazz performer ever. With both his trumpet and his rich, gravelly voice, he made famous such jazz and pop classics as West End Blues, When Its Sleepy Time Down South, Hello, Dolly, and What a Wonderful World. Armstrongs influence on the jazz artists who followed him was immense and far-reaching; for instance, according to George T. Simon in his book The Best of the Music Makers, fellow trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie affirmed that if it werent for Armstrong there would be no Dizzy Gillespie. Reviewer Whitney Balliett declared in the New Yorker that Armstrong created the sort of super, almost celestial art that few men master; transcending both its means and its materials, it attained a disembodied beauty. Apparently, fans all over the world agreed with this assessment, for during his lifetime Armstrong made extremely successful tours to several countries, including some in Africa and behind the Iron Curtain.

Armstrong was born July 4, 1900, in a poor black neighborhood in New Orleans, Louisiana. His parents separated when he was five years old. His poverty has been described as a key factor in the discovery of his affinity for music, however, for he sang in the streets for pennies as a child. When Armstrong was 13 years old, he fired a pistol into the air to celebrate New Years Eve and was punished by authorities by being sent to the Negro Waifs Home. This incident proved somewhat providential: the home had a bandmaster who took an interest in the youth and taught him to play the bugle. By the time of his release from the facility, Armstrong had graduated to the cornet and knew how to read music. Working odd jobs, he scrounged up the money to continue lessons with one of his musical idols, Joe King Oliver.

From 1917 to 1922, Armstrong played cornet for local New Orleans Dixieland jazz bands. He also tried his hand at writing songs, but was only partially rewardedhe saw his composition I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate published, but the company reportedly cheated him out of both payment and byline. Then Oliver, who led a successful band in Chicago, sent for Armstrong. As second cornetist for Oliver, the young jazzman made his first recordings. In 1924, Armstrong enjoyed a brief stint with bandleader and arranger Fletcher Henderson in New York City. By the time jazz pianist Lil

At a Glance

Full name, Daniel Louis Armstrong; nickname, Satchmo; born July 4, 1900, in New Orleans, Louisiana; died July 6, 1971, on Long Island, New York; son of Willie (a turpentine worker) and Mary Ann (a domestic servant) Armstrong; married Daisy Parker (divorced, 1917); married Lil Hardin (a jazz pianist), February 5, 1924 (divorced, 1932); married Lucille Wilson (a singer), 1942.

Worked odd jobs as a boy, including delivering milk and coal and selling newspapers and bananas; played the cornet with various bands in the New Orleans area, c. 1917-22; played with King Olivers Original Creole Jazz Band, c. 1922-24; played trumpet with Fletcher Henderson in New York City, 1924; played trumpet independently and fronted his own bands, including the Hot Five and the Hot Seven, 1925-71; recording artist beginning in the early 1920s.

Appeared in Broadway shows, including Hot Chocolates and Swingin the Dream; appeared in motion pictures, including Pennies from Heaven, Columbia, 1936, Every Days a Holiday, Paramount, 1937, Going Places, Warner, 1938, Dr. Rhythm, Paramount, 1938, Cabin in the Sky, MGM, 1943, lam Session Columbia, 1944, New Orleans, United Artists, 1947, The Strip, MGM, 1951, Glory Alley, MGM, 1952, The Glenn Miller Story, United Artists, 1954, High Society, MGM, 1957, The Five Pennies, Paramount, 1959, A Man Called Adam, Embassy, 1966, and Hello, Dolly, 1969.

Awards: West End Blues was one of the first five records elected to the Recording Academys Hall of Fame; won several periodical jazz polls, including those conducted by Esquire and Down Beat; honored by the American Guild of Variety Artists.

Hardin, who would become the second of his three wives, persuaded Armstrong to work independently around 1925, he had switched from the cornet to the trumpet. During the next few years he made recordings fronting his own musicians; depending on the number assembled, they were known as the Hot Five or the Hot Seven. Around the same time, Armstrong is credited with the invention of the jazz technique of scat singinglegend has it that Armstrong dropped his sheet music during a recording session and had to substitute vocal improvisations until someone picked up the sheets for him. Also during this period, his experimentations led him to break free of the more rigid Dixieland style of jazz to pave the way for a more modern jazz genre.

But in 1930, Armstrong began taking yet a different direction with his career, performing with larger bands and recording more pop-sounding songs. Jazz purists fault him for this move, but others point out that he helped inspire the later swing sound. Nevertheless, Armstrong was still identified with jazz by the public, and on his extensive European tours was considered an ambassador of the genre. When he gave a concert in Ghana, he was considered a hero by its natives; he also performed a few times before the British royal family. It was in England that he won the nickname Satchmo, a distortion of satchelmouth, which described the extent to which his cheeks puffed out when he played the trumpet.

Noted for Roles in Musical Films

Armstrong also helped spread jazzs popularity throughout the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s by appearing in musical roles in several films, from Pennies from Heaven in 1936 to Hello, Dolly in 1969. He was probably included in the latter because his recording of the title song in 1964 sold over two million copies and momentarily displaced the then-phenomenal Beatles from the pop charts. Armstrong also made successful recordings of popular songs such as Mack the Knife and Blueberry Hill and, as late as 1968, scored a chart hit with the single What a Wonderful World.

Armstrong filmed his guest appearance in Hello, Dolly in between visits to the hospital. For a brief period during 1970, he was forbidden to play his trumpet by his concerned doctor. Undaunted, he made a couple of purely vocal albums. Later in the year, Armstrongs physician lifted the ban on his instrument; he did a Las Vegas show with singer Pearl Bailey and played a benefit in London. After a few appearances in 1971, though, Armstrong suffered a heart attack in March and was hospitalized once again. He recovered sufficiently to be allowed to return to his home in May, but he died in his sleep on July 6, 1971.

Achieved Posthumous Recognition Worldwide

Armstrongs fame and popularity, however, have continued long after his death. In 1975, a program dedicated to the jazz greats music by the New York Jazz Repertory Orchestra toured the Soviet Union as part of official cultural exchange between that country and the United States. A bust of Armstrong has been placed on the site of the Nice Jazz Festival in France. And one of his hit records even became a hit again during the late 1980s What a Wonderful World was included on the soundtrack of the Robin Williams film Good Morning, Vietnam, received a great deal of airplay, and introduced Armstrongs music to a new generation of fans.

Selected discography

Hello, Dolly, MCA.

At the Crescendo, MCA.

Best of Louis Armstrong, Audiofidelity.

Definitive Album, Audiofidelity.

Louis Armstrong with the Dukes of Dixieland, Audiofidelity.

Disney Songs the Satchmo Way, Buena.

I Will Wait for You, Brunswick.

Louis Satchmo Armstrong, Archive of Folk & Jazz.

Mame, Pickwick.

Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography (four-album set), Decca, 1957.

The Best of Louis Armstrong, MCA, 1965.

What a Wonderful World, ABC, 1968, reissued, 1988.

Louis Armstrong with His Friends, Amsterdam.

July 4, 1900/July 6, 1971, RCA.

The Genius of Louis Armstrong, Columbia.

Louis Armstrong in the Thirties, RCA.

Louis Armstrong in the Forties, RCA.

Louis Armstrong, Bella Musica, 1990.

Sources

Books

Collier, James Lincoln, Louis Armstrong: An American Genius, Oxford University Press, 1985.

Jones, Max, and John Chilton, Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story, Little, Brown, & Co., 1971.

Simon, George T., The Best of the Music Makers, Doubleday, 1979.

Periodicals

Ebony, November, 1964.

New Yorker, January 15, 1966.

Elizabeth Wenning

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Armstrong, Louis

Louis Armstrong

Jazz trumpet player, singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Louis Armstrong was generally acclaimed by critics as the greatest jazz performer ever. Both with his trumpet and with his rich, gravelly voice, he made famous such jazz and pop classics as West End Blues, When Its Sleepy Time Down South, Hello, Dolly, and What a Wonderful World. Armstrongs influence on the jazz artists that followed him was immense and far-reaching; for instance, according to George T. Simon in his book The Best of the Music Makers, fellow trumpet player Dizzie Gillespie has affirmed that if it werent for Armstrong there would be no Dizzie Gillespie. Reviewer Whitney Balliett declared in the New Yorker that Armstrong created the sort of super, almost celestial art that few men master; transcending both its means and its materials, it attained a disembodied beauty. Apparently, fans all over the world agreed with this assessment, for during his lifetime Armstrong made extremely successful tours to several countries, including some in Africa and behind the Iron Curtain.

Armstrong was born July 4, 1900, in a poor black

For the Record

Full name, Daniel Louis Armstrong; nickname, Satchmo; born July 4, 1900, in New Orleans, Louisiana; died July 6, 1971, in Long Island, New York; son of Willie (a turpentine worker) and Mary Ann (a domestic servant) Armstrong; married Daisy Parker (divorced, 1917); married Lilian Hardin (a jazz pianist), February 5, 1924 (divorced, 1932); married Lucille Wilson (a singer), 1942.

Worked odd jobs as a boy, including delivering milk and coal and selling newspapers and bananas; played the cornet with various bands in the New Orleans area, c. 1917-22; played with King Olivers Original Creole Jazz Band, c. 1922-24; played trumpet with Fletcher Henderson in New York City, 1924; played trumpet independently and fronted his own bands, including the Hot Five and the Hot Seven, 1925-71; recording artist beginning in the early 1920s.

Appeared in Broadway shows, including Hot Chocolates and Swingin the Dream; appeared in motion pictures, including Pennies from Heaven, Columbia, 1936, Every Days a Holiday, Paramount, 1937, Going Places, Warner, 1938, Dr. Rhythm, Paramount, 1938, Cabin in the Sky, MGM, 1943, Jam Session, Columbia, 1944, New Orleans, United Artists, 1947, The Strip, MGM, 1951, Glory Alley, MGM, 1952, The Glenn Miller Story, United Artists, 1954, High Society, MGM, 1957, The Five Pennies, Paramount, 1959, A Man Called Adam, Embassy, 1966, and Hello, Dolly, 1969.

Awards: West End Blues was one of the first five records elected to the Recording Academys Hall of Fame; won several periodical jazz polls, including Esquire and down beat; honored by the American Guild of Variety Artists.

neighborhood in New Orleans, Louisiana. He had a deprived childhood; his parents separated when he was five years old. His poverty was perhaps a motivating factor in discovering his affinity for music, however, for he sang in the streets for pennies as a child. When Armstrong was thirteen years old, he fired a pistol into the air to celebrate New Years Eve and was punished by the authorities by being sent to the Negro Waifs Home. Actually, this proved somewhat providential: the home had a bandmaster who took an interest in the youth and taught him to play the bugle. By the time of his release from the facility, Armstrong had graduated to the cornet and knew how to read music. Working odd jobs, he scrounged up the money to continue lessons with one of his musical idols, Joe King Oliver.

From 1917 to 1922, Armstrong played cornet for local New Orleans Dixieland jazz bands. He also tried his hand at writing songs, but was only partially rewardedhe saw his composition I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate published, but the company cheated him out of both payment and byline. Then Oliver, who lead a successful band in Chicago, sent for Armstrong. As second cornetist for Oliver, the young jazzman made his first recordings. In 1924, Armstrong enjoyed a brief stint with bandleader and arranger Fletcher Henderson in New York City. By the time jazz pianist Lilian Hardin, who would become the second of his three wives, persuaded Armstrong to work independently around 1925, he had switched from the cornet to the trumpet. During the next few years he made recordings fronting his own musicians; depending on the number assembled, they were known as the Hot Five or the Hot Seven. Around the same time, Armstrong is credited with the invention of the jazz technique of scat singinglegend has it that Armstrong dropped his sheet music during a recording session and had to substitute vocal improvisations until someone picked up the sheets for him. Also during this period, his experimentations led him to break free of the more rigid Dixieland style of jazz to pave the way for a more modern jazz genre.

But in 1930, Armstrong began taking yet a different direction with his career, performing with larger bands and recording more pop-sounding songs. Jazz purists fault him for this move, but others point out that he helped inspire the later swing sound. Nevertheless, Armstrong was still identified with jazz by the public, and on his extensive European tours was considered an ambassador of the genre. When he gave a concert in Ghana, he was considered a hero by its natives; he also performed a few times before the British royal family. It was in England that he won the nickname Satchmo, a distortion of satchelmouth, which described the extent to which his cheeks puffed out when he played the trumpet.

Armstrong also helped spread jazzs popularity throughout the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s by appearing in musical roles in several films, from 1936s Pennies from Heaven to 1969s Hello, Dolly. He was probably included in the latter because his recording of the title song in 1964 sold over two million copies and momentarily displaced the then-phenomenal Beatles from the pop charts. Armstrong also made successful recordings of popular songs such as Mack the Knife and Blueberry Hill and, as lateas 1968, scored a chart hit with the single What a Wonderful World.

But Armstrong filmed his guest appearance in Hello, Dolly in between visits to the hospital. For a brief period during 1970, he was forbidden to play his trumpet by his concerned doctor. Undaunted, he made a couple of purely vocal albums. Later in the year, Armstrongs physician lifted the ban on his instrument; he did a Las Vegas show with singer Pearl Bailey and played a benefit in London. After a few appearances in 1971, Armstrong suffered a heart attack in March and was hospitalized once again. He recovered sufficiently to be allowed to return to his home in May, but he died in his sleep July 6, 1971.

Armstrongs fame and popularity, however, have continued long after his death. In 1975, a program dedicated to the jazz greats music by the New York Jazz Repertory Orchestra toured the Soviet Union as part of official cultural exchange between that country and the United States. A bust of Armstrong has been placed on the site of the Nice Jazz Festival in France. One of his hit records even became a hit again during the late 1980sWhat a Wonderful World was included on the soundtrack of the Robin Williams film Good Morning, Vietnam, received a great deal of airplay, and introduced Armstrongs music to a new generation of fans.

Selected discography

Hello, Dolly, MCA.

At the Crescendo, MCA.

Best of Louis Armstrong, Audiofidelity.

Definitive Album, Audiofidelity.

Louis Armstrong with the Dukes of Dixieland, Audiofidelity.

Disney Songs the Satchmo Way, Buena.

I Will Wait for You, Brunswick.

Louis Satchmo Armstrong, Archive of Folk & Jazz.

Mame, Pickwick.

Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography (four-album set), Decca, 1957.

Verves Best Choice, Verve.

What a Wonderful World, ABC, 1968.

Louis Armstrong with His Friends, Amsterdam.

July 4, 1900/July 6, 1971, RCA.

The Genius of Louis Armstrong, Columbia.

Louis Armstrong in the Thirties, RCA.

Louis Armstrong in the Forties, RCA.

Sources

Books

Collier, James Lincoln, Louis Armstrong: An American Genius, Oxford University Press, 1985.

Jones, Max, and John Chilton, Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story, Little, Brown, & Co., 1971.

Simon, George T., The Best of the Music Makers, Doubleday, 1979.

Periodicals

Ebony, November, 1964.

New Yorker, January 15, 1966.

Elizabeth Thomas

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Armstrong, Louis

Louis Armstrong

Born: August 4, 1901
New Orleans, Louisiana
Died: July 6, 1971
New York, New York

African American jazz musician and singer

L ouis Armstrong was a famous jazz trumpet player and singer. He is regarded as one of the most important and influential musicians in the history of jazz music.

Early life

Louis Daniel Armstrong was born in New Orleans on August 4, 1901. He was one of two children born to Willie Armstrong, a turpentine worker, and Mary Ann Armstrong, whose grandparents had been slaves. As a youngster, he sang on the streets with friends. His parents separated when he was five. He lived with his sister, mother, and grandmother in a rundown area of New Orleans known as "the Battlefield" because of the gambling, drunkenness, fighting, and shooting that frequently occurred there.

In 1913 Armstrong was arrested for firing a gun into the air on New Year's Eve. He was sent to the Waif's Home (a reform school), where he took up the cornet (a trumpet-like instrument) and eventually played in a band. After his release he worked odd jobs and began performing with local groups. He was also befriended by Joe "King" Oliver, leader of the first great African American band to make records, who gave him trumpet lessons. Armstrong joined Oliver in Chicago, Illinois, in 1922, remaining there until 1924, when he went to New York City to play with Fletcher Henderson's band.

Jazz pioneer

When Armstrong returned to Chicago in the fall of 1925, he organized a band and began to record one of the greatest series in the history of jazz. These Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings show his skill and experimentation with the trumpet. In 1928 he started recording with drummer Zutty Singleton and pianist Earl Hines, the latter a musician whose skill matched Armstrong's. Many of the resulting records are masterpieces of detailed construction and adventurous rhythms. During these years Armstrong was working with big bands in Chicago clubs and theaters. His vocals, featured on most records after 1925, are an extension of his trumpet playing in their rhythmic liveliness and are delivered in a unique throaty style. He was also the inventor of scat singing (the random use of nonsense syllables), which originated after he dropped his sheet music while recording a song and could not remember the lyrics.

By 1929 Armstrong was in New York City leading a nightclub band. Appearing in the theatrical revue Hot Chocolates, he sang "Fats" Waller's (19041943) "Ain't Misbehavin'," Armstrong's first popular song hit. From this period Armstrong performed mainly popular song material, which presented a new challenge. Some notable performances resulted. His trumpet playing reached a peak around 1933. His style then became simpler, replacing the experimentation of his earlier years with a more mature approach that used every note to its greatest advantage. He rerecorded some of his earlier songs with great results.

Later years

Armstrong continued to front big bands, often of lesser quality, until 1947, when the big-band era ended. He returned to leading a small group that, though it included first-class musicians at first, became a mere background for his talents over the years. During the 1930s Armstrong had achieved international fame, first touring Europe as a soloist and singer in 1932. After World War II (193945) and his 1948 trip to France, he became a constant world traveller. He journeyed through Europe, Africa, Japan, Australia, and South America. He also appeared in numerous films, the best of which was a documentary titled Satchmo the Great (1957).

The public had come to think of Louis Armstrong as a vaudeville entertainer (a light, often comic performer) in his later yearsa fact reflected in much of his recorded output. But there were still occasions when he produced well-crafted, brilliant music. He died in New York City on July 6, 1971.

For More Information

Bergreen, Laurence. Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life. New York: Broadway Books, 1997.

Giddins, Gary. Satchmo. New York: Doubleday, 1988.

Jones, Max, and John Chilton. Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story 19001971. London: Studio Vista, 1971.

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Louis Daniel Armstrong

Louis Daniel Armstrong

Louis Daniel Armstrong (1900-1971) was an early jazz trumpet virtuoso, and he remained an important influence for several decades.

Louis Armstrong was born into a poor African American family in New Orleans on July 4, 1900. As a youngster, he sang on the streets with friends. In 1913 he was arrested for a prank and committed to the Waif's Home, where he learned the cornet and played in the band. On his release he began performing with local groups. Joe "King" Oliver, leader of the first great African American band to make records, befriended him, and Armstrong joined Oliver in Chicago in 1922, remaining until 1924, when he went to New York to play with Fletcher Henderson's band.

When he returned to Chicago in the fall of 1925, Armstrong began to cut one of the greatest series in the history of recorded jazz. These Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings find him breaking free from the conventions of New Orleans ensemble playing, his trumpet work notable for its inventiveness, rhythmic daring, improvisatory freedom, and technical assurance. In 1928 he started recording with drummer Zutty Singleton and pianist Earl Hines, the latter a musician able to match Armstrong in virtuosity. Many of the resulting records are masterpieces, the performances highlighted by complex ensembles, unpredictable harmonic twists, and rhythmic adventurousness. During these years Armstrong was working with big bands in Chicago clubs and theaters. His vocals, featured on most post-1925 records, are an extension of his trumpet playing in their phrasing and rhythmic liveliness, and are delivered in a unique guttural style.

By 1929 Armstrong was in New York leading a nightclub band. Appearing in the theatrical revue Hot Chocolates, he sang "Fats" Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'," Armstrong's first popular song hit. From this period his repertoire switched mainly to popular song material, which presented a new challenge because of the relative harmonic sophistication. Some notable performances resulted. His virtuosity reached a peak around 1933; then his style underwent a process of simplification, replacing virtuoso display by a mature craftsmanship that used every note to maximum advantage. He re-recorded some of his earlier successes to considerable effect.

Armstrong continued to front big bands, often of inferior quality, until 1947, by which time the big-band era was over. He returned to leading a small group which, though it initially included first-class musicians, became over the years a mere background for his vaudevillian talents. During the 1930s Armstrong had achieved international fame, first touring Europe as a soloist and singer in 1932. After World War II and his 1948 trip to France, he became an inveterate world traveler, journeying through Europe, Africa, Japan, Australia, and South America. He appeared in numerous films, the best a documentary titled Satchmo the Great (1957).

In his later years the public thought of Armstrong as a vaudeville entertainer—a fact reflected in the bulk of his record output. But there were still occasions when he produced music of astonishing eloquence and brilliance. He died in New York City on July 6, 1971.

Further Reading

Armstrong's autobiographical Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans (1954) is informative and entertaining on his early years. Swing That Music (1936), though ostensibly by Armstrong, was almost certainly ghosted and is of limited interest. Max Jones and John Chilton, Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story, 1900-1971 (1971), is a superb study and is particularly informative about his life during the 1930s. An outstanding critical study of Armstrong's records of the 1924-1931 period is in Richard Hadlock, Jazz Masters of the Twenties (1965). See also Louis Terkel, Giants of Jazz (1957). □

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Armstrong, Louis

Louis Armstrong (Daniel Louis Armstrong), known as "Satchmo" and "Pops," 1901–1971, American jazz trumpet virtuoso, singer, and bandleader, b. New Orleans. He learned to play the cornet in the band of the Waif's Home in New Orleans, and after playing with Kid Ory's orchestra he made several trips (1918–21) with a Mississippi riverboat band. He joined (1922) King Oliver's group in Chicago, where he met and married the pianist Lilian Hardin. His early playing was noted for improvisation, and his reputation as trumpeter and as vocalist was quickly established. A famous innovator, Armstrong was a major influence on the melodic development of jazz in the 1920s; because of him solo performance attained a position of great importance in jazz. He organized several large bands, worked with most of the masters of jazz (and with many of those in other musical forms), and beginning in 1932 made numerous foreign tours. Armstrong appeared in Broadway shows, at countless jazz festivals, and in several American and foreign films. His archives are housed at Queens College, which also maintains his Queens, N.Y., home as a museum.

See his memoir, Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans (1954, repr. 1986); his selected writings ed. by T. Brothers (1999); biographies by G. Giddens (1988), L. Bergreen (1997), and T. Teachout (2009); study by J. L. Collier (2 vol., 1983–86); J. Berrett, Louis Armstrong Companion (1999).

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Armstrong, Louis

Armstrong, Louis (‘ Satchmo’) (b New Orleans, 1901; d NY, 1971). Amer. jazz trumpeter and singer. From 1917 played on Miss. river boats. Joined King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 1922. Played often with Fletcher Henderson's orch. 1924–5, then formed own band. Became world-famous as result of recordings in 1920s in which his virtuoso trumpet-playing and his idiosyncratic singing had enormous influence on jazz scene. Nickname ‘Satchmo’ a diminutive of ‘Satchelmouth’. Visited Eng. and Eur. 1932 and 1934. Made many films and appeared with big bands in ‘swing’ era. Formed his All Stars 1947. Appeared with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in film High Society (1956).

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Armstrong, (Daniel) Louis

Armstrong, (Daniel) Louis (1900–71) US jazz trumpeter, singer and bandleader, nicknamed ‘Satchmo’. Armstrong was one of the most distinctive sounds in 20th-century music. He learned to play in New Orleans, and in 1922 joined the King Oliver band. The Hot Fives and Hot Sevens recordings (1925–29) are some of the most influential in the history of jazz. In the 1930s he became a successful bandleader, his deep, bluesy voice featured on tunes like “Mack the Knife”. He also appeared in films such as Pennies from Heaven (1936), New Orleans (1947), and High Society (1956).

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Armstrong, Louis

Armstrong, Louis

August 4, 1901
July 6, 1971


Although it is certain that the jazz trumpeter and singer Daniel Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans in poverty,

there has long been confusion concerning his exact birth date. During his lifetime, he claimed he was born on July 4, 1900, but a baptismal certificate discovered in the 1980s now establishes his date of birth as August 4, 1901. He was raised in terrible poverty by his mother and grandmother, and he contributed to the family income from his earliest years. His first musical experience was singing in a barbershop quartet. In 1912 or 1913, according to legend, he celebrated the Fourth of July by firing a pistol; he was arrested and sent to the Colored Waifs' Home, where he remained for about two years.

Early Career and Innovations

There, his already evident interest in music was encouraged and he was given instruction on cornet and made a member of the band. Armstrong came to adulthood just as jazz was emerging as a distinct musical style in New Orleans, and the new music and Armstrong matured together. He played in local clubs called "tonks" and apprenticed in local bands, where he met most of New Orleans' early jazz musicians, and found a mentor in Joseph "King" Oliver. He soon developed a reputation as one of the best young brass musicians in the city. In 1919 he joined Fate Marable's band, playing on Mississippi riverboats, where he learned to read music. He returned to his hometown in 1921.

In 1923 King Oliver invited Armstrong to join his successful Creole Jazz Band in Chicago as second cornetist, and it was with Oliver that Armstrong made his first recordings. These records provide an invaluable document of early New Orleans jazz, and, although they contain much ensemble playing and collective improvisation, they also show that Armstrong was already a formidable soloist. The following year, encouraged by his second wife, Lil Hardin, Armstrong joined the jazz orchestra of Fletcher Henderson in New York City. Recordings such as Don Redman's arrangement of the 1924 "Copenhagen" reveal an inventive melodist and improviser. His big-band experience helped Armstrong fashion a new type of jazz playing, featuring extended improvised solos. In New York he also recorded as an accompanist to blues singers Bessie Smith, "Ma" Rainey, and Bertha "Chippie" Hill.

This new style was featured in the extraordinarily influential series of recordings made under Armstrong's leadership from 1925 to 1929 with ensembles called the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens. His collaborators on the early dates include Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Kid Ory on trombone, and pianist Lil Hardin, whom he married. Hardin played an important role at this time in furthering and supervising her husband's career.

His solos on "Big Butter and Egg Man" (1926), "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" (1927), "Potato Head Blues" (1927), and "Hotter Than That" (1927) are superb improvised melodies, and they showed that jazz was becoming a soloist's art. Every night on the bandstand, Armstrong found in pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines a musician who could not only function on his level but with whom he could exchange musical ideas. That collaboration did not produce recordings until 1928, but then it produced such masterpieces as "West End Blues," "Skip the Gutter," and the duet "Weather Bird."

In 1929 Armstrong returned to New York, which remained his home for much of the remainder of his life. That year he appeared in the Fats Waller/Andy Razaf Broadway show Hot Chocolates. He was also the leader of his own orchestra, which featured popular tunes rather than the original blues and New Orleans songs he had previously favored. Increasingly prominent in his performances at this time was his singing, which in its use of scat (wordless syllables) and creative rhythmic reworking of a song's lyrics and melodies influenced all subsequent jazz singers. His recordings "Body and Soul," "Memories of You," "Sweethearts on Parade" (all 1930), and "Stardust" (1931), among many others, helped establish both the repertory and playing style of big-band jazz. In 1932 and again from 1933 to 1935, he toured Europe. On the first tour he acquired the nickname "Satchmo," short for Satchelmouth, although his fellow musicians favored the sobriquet "Pops."

Later Career and Legacy

There were no real innovations in Armstrong's work after the early 1930s, but over three decades remained of this powerful trumpeter and grand and compelling entertainer's life. Extending the range of his instrument to F above high C, Armstrong recorded "Swing That Music" (1936) and two years later revisited "Struttin' with Some Barbecue," offering another classic solo on that piece. In addition to his purely musical accomplishments, in the 1930s Armstrong became an entertainment celebrity, the first African American to appear regularly on network radio programs and to be widely featured in motion pictures such as Pennies from Heaven (1936) and Going Places (1938).

By the early 1940s, Armstrong's popularity had waned somewhat. In 1947 his career was reinvigorated by his return to a small-group format under the name of Louis Armstrong and the All-Stars, which he continued to lead with varying personnel for the remainder of his life. In its early years, his fellow band members included pianist Earl Hines, trombonist Jack Teagarden, and clarinetist Barney Bigard. In his later years Armstrong made numerous tours of Europe, Asia, and Africa; in 1960 the United States government appointed him a special "ambassador of goodwill" for the positive feelings his travels abroad engendered.

Armstrong's genial and nonconfrontational personality, and his inclusion of some "coon" and plantation songs in his repertory (including his theme song, "When It's Sleepy Time down South"), were sometimes criticized by a younger, more militant generation of black entertainers. Although Armstrong was a product of the segregated South who learned early in his career not to discuss racial matters in performance, he cared deeply about racial injustice. In 1957 his uncharacteristically blunt comments about the inaction of the Eisenhower administration in the Little Rock incident ("The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell") created something of a furor, although such public statements by Armstrong were rare.

Armstrong was perhaps best known to the general public in the last years through popular recordings featuring his singing, including "Blueberry Hill" (1949), "Mack the Knife" (1955), and "Hello, Dolly" (1967). In 1988 his 1968 recording of "It's a Wonderful World" appeared on the popular charts after it was used in the film Good Morning, Vietnam.

Louis Armstrong had an innate ability to make people feel good simply by his presence, but that feeling was not a simple matter of cheering up his audiences. His music could encompass melancholy and sadness while at the same time expressing a compensating and equally profound joy. Armstrong was the first great improviser in jazz, and his work not only changed that music but all subsequent popular music, vocal and instrumental. He expanded the range of his instrument and all its brass cousins in ways that have affected composers and players in all forms of music. In his progression from simple beginnings to international celebrity, he became arguably both the most beloved and the most influential American musician of the twentieth century. Armstrong, whose career had slowed after a 1959 heart attack, died in Corona, Queens, where he had lived since 1942 with his fourth wife, Lucille Wilson.

See also Blues, The; Blueswomen of the 1920s and 1930s; Jazz; Jazz in African-American Culture

Bibliography

Armstrong, Louis. Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1954.

Giddins, Gary. Satchmo. New York: Doubleday, 1988.

Nollen, Scott Allen. Louis Armstrong: The Life, Music, and Screen Career. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2004.

Schuller, Gunther. "The First Great Soloist." In Early Jazz: Its Roots and Development. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968, pp. 89132.

Storb, Ilse. Louis Armstrong: The Definitive Biography. New York: Peter Lang, 1999.

Williams, Martin. "Louis Armstrong: Style beyond Style." In The Jazz Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. 5264.

martin williams (1996)
Updated bibliography

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Armstrong, Louis

ARMSTRONG, LOUIS

Louis Armstrong (August 4, 1901–July 6, 1971), also known as Pops and Satchmo, pioneered jazz music as both a trumpet player and vocalist. Armstrong created a musical style and image that reflected his times and served as a catalyst for cultural change. His early life was characterized by a struggle to overcome poverty and racism. Growing up penniless in New Orleans' red light district, Armstrong received his first formal musical training at the Colored Waifs' Home. By 1918, he was playing cornet in the Ory Creole Orchestra, replacing King Oliver, who had moved to Chicago. Before long, Armstrong began playing on steamboats that sailed north up the Mississippi River. He followed Oliver to Chicago in 1922 and played second trumpet in his band. Armstrong made his recording debut during his tenure with Oliver. Legend has it that Armstrong was instructed to stand twenty feet behind the band during recording sessions because of the magnitude of his sound.

Armstrong developed an unerring sense of swing and a virtuoso range. By 1925, he was leading his own groups, which showcased his melodiousness, edgy rhythms, and breathtaking harmonic leaps. These influential smaller ensembles became known as the Hot Fives and the Hot Sevens. In 1929 Armstrong traveled to New York, where he began to experiment with singing. His vocal work included a rendition of Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" that was featured in the 1929 Broadway revue Hot Chocolates.

During the Great Depression, jazz helped to lift the spirits of the country and created a popular culture that broke down many social barriers. At the beginning of this era, Armstrong faced one of the problems that threatened the nation—warring gangster factions. Now a hot musical commodity, Armstrong was courted by several potential managers, including representatives from key crime families in New York and Chicago. In order to avoid the conflict, and guarantee his own safety, Armstrong toured the United States in 1930, carefully side-stepping New York and Chicago. In 1933 he embarked on the first of what would be many European tours. By 1935, the dispute was resolved when he began a long association with manager Joe Glaser. But Armstrong's challenges were far from over. Years of touring had injured his lip and hampered his recording career, leaving him without a recording contract.

Under the management of Glaser, a nightclub manager associated with the gangster Al Capone, Armstrong began to brand himself as an entertainer. Armstrong's musical style changed as he began leading larger bands, which would back him on popular songs. In 1936 he became the first jazz musician regularly featured in Hollywood movies, appearing with Bing Crosby in Pennies from Heaven. Although he often performed for segregated audiences and played movie roles that perpetuated racial stereotypes, his music transcended racism and appealed to audiences of all races. Armstrong's hit 1932 version of "All of Me" became closely associated with the trials and losses that Americans faced during the Great Depression, and his noble spirit and dignity became a model for facing these challenges.

Critic Stanley Crouch argues that Armstrong intensified the "central ethos of American culture"—be yourself and do it well. After the Depression, Armstrong expanded his audience through world tours, and he served as a spokesperson for racial equality during the civil rights era. His popularity was such that in 1964 he even replaced the Beatles atop the Billboard charts with a recording of the song "Hello Dolly." By the time of Armstrong's death in 1971, he had served as musical innovator, cultural ambassador, and entertainer.

See Also: JAZZ; MUSIC.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Armstrong, Louis, and Richard Meryman. Louis Armstrong: A Self-Portrait. 1996.

Armstrong, Louis. The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (sound recording). 1997.

Armstrong, Louis. The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings (sound recording). 2000.

Collier, James Lincoln. Louis Armstrong: An American Genius. 1983.

Giddins, Gary. Satchmo: The Genius of Louis Armstrong. 2001.

Miller, March H., ed. Louis Armstrong: A Cultural Legacy. 1994.

William R. Bettler

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Armstrong, Louis

Armstrong, Louis

Armstrong, Louis, seminal American jazz trumpeter and singer; b. New Orleans, Aug. 4, 1901; d. N.Y., July 6, 1971. As the first prominent jazz soloist, Armstrong is the most influential musician in the history of the genre. His virtuosic playing, notably in the Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings of the mid-1920s, helped to define jazz as a music of improvisatory complexity. His gravelly voice and exuberant personality led him to a broader fame as a popular singer and motion picture performer that his jazz fans sometimes viewed with dismay. Nevertheless, he did more to popularize jazz than any other individual, and his major pop hits, including“All of Me” (1932), “Hello, Dolly!” (1964), and“What a Wonderful World” (1968), were just as much expressions of his musical talent as his astounding trumpet playing.

Armstrong was born into poverty. His father, William Armstrong, was a factory worker who left the family shortly after Louis was born. Louis was raised by his mother, Mary Albert Armstrong, and by his maternal grandmother. While attending grade school, he worked for a junk dealer who encouraged his interest in music and helped him buy a cornet, which he taught himself to play. At 11 he dropped out of school in the fifth grade and joined a street-corner quartet. Convicted of firing a gun in a public place on New Year’s Eve, 1912, he was sentenced to a reform school; there he studied with music teacher Peter Davis, joining the school band in which he played the bugle and the cornet and of which he was appointed leader.

Armstrong was released on June 16, 1914. He became a manual laborer over the next few years while gradually finding work as a musician. He became the protégé of cornetist Joe“King” Oliver, from whom he took lessons. When Oliver left New Orleans for Chicago in June 1918, Armstrong took his place in Kid Ory’s band. Around this time he married Daisy Parker, a prostitute. (They were divorced on Dec. 23, 1923.) In the spring of 1919 he joined the orchestra of Fate Marable, which played on a Miss, riverboat. He stayed with Marable until the fall of 1921.

Armstrong left New Orleans in August 1922 to join King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band at the Lincoln Gardens Café in Chicago. He made his first recordings with Oliver in the spring of 1923. On Feb. 5, 1924, he married the band’s pianist, Lillian Harden, and his wife encouraged him to leave Oliver. He moved to N.Y. in the fall to join the orchestra of Fletcher Henderson; at this time he began to play the trumpet as well as the cornet. He was with Henderson for more than a year, returning to Chicago in November 1925 to play in his wife’s band, the Dreamland Syncopators.

Armstrong made his first recording as a leader, “My Heart,” on Nov. 12, 1925. From then through December 1928 he recorded frequently in small studio ensembles dubbed the Hot Five or the Hot Seven, and these recordings established him as a star. Meanwhile, in 1926 he played with Erskine Tate’s orchestra at the Vendóme Theatre and with Carroll Dickerson’s orchestra at the Sunset Café.

Armstrong scored his first record hit in July 1926 with the Hot Five recording of“Muskrat Ramble” (music credited to Kid Ory, though it was based on a tune by New Orleans jazz legend Buddy Bolden). In February 1927 he began fronting the group at the Sunset Café, which was called Louis Armstrong and His Stompers. (As a star soloist, Armstrong fronted bands rather than leading them in the conventional sense.) His first vocal hit came in April with“Big Butter and Egg Man” (music and lyrics by Percy Venable and Armstrong), on which he duetted with May Alix. He continued to score hits during 1927 and 1928, notably“West

End Blues” in September 1928; the recording became one of the first to be admitted into the NARAS Hall of Fame in 1974. Meanwhile, he again played in an orchestra nominally under the leadership of Carroll Dickerson at the Savoy Ballroom starting in March 1928.

Armstrong took the band to N.Y. in May 1929, where they appeared at Connie’s Inn, a nightclub in Harlem, while he also played in the orchestra of the Broadway revue Hot Chocolates (N.Y., June 20, 1929), performing“Ain’t Misbehavin’” (music by Fats Waller, lyrics by Andy Razaf), which he recorded for a hit in September. This marked the beginning of his transition from a jazz instrumentalist to a popular entertainer.

Starting in February 1930, Armstrong fronted Luis Russell’s band on a tour of the South. In May he went to Los Angeles, where he took over the band at Sebastian’s Cotton Club until March 1931. He also found time to make his first film appearance in Ex-Flame, released at the end of the year.

Returning to Chicago, Armstrong fronted an orchestra led by Zilner Randolph, with which he toured nationally. Now recording more pop-oriented material for Columbia Records, a major label, he began to have bigger record hits in 1932, including“Chinatown, My Chinatown” (music by William Jerome and Jean Schwartz, lyrics by Jerome), “You Can Depend on Me” (music and lyrics by Charles Carpenter, Louis Dunlap, and Earl Hines), “All of Me” (music by Gerald Marks, lyrics by Seymour Simons; a best-seller in March), “Love, You Funny Thing” (music by Fred Ahlert, lyrics by Roy Turk), “Sweethearts on Parade” (music by Carmen Lombardo, lyrics by Charles Newman), and“Body and Soul” (music and lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyton, and John Green).

Armstrong arrived in England for a tour in July 1932, and he spent much of the next several years in Europe. Returning to the U.S. in 1935, he took several important steps in his career. He hired Joe Glaser as his manager (they would stay together until Glaser’s death 34 years later); he organized a new band, which he premiered in Indianapolis on July 1; and he signed a contract with Decca Records. During the late 1930s he toured the U.S. regularly, made a diverse set of recordings, and appeared in small roles in a series of films starting with the Bing Crosby vehicle Pennies from Heaven in December 1936.

Armstrong divorced his second wife on Sept. 30, 1938; on Oct. 11 he married his long-time companion Alpha Smith. They, in turn, divorced on Oct. 2, 1942. Five days later he married chorus girl Lucille Wilson, to whom he remained married for the rest of his life.

Armstrong briefly returned to Broadway in Swingin’ the Dream (N.Y., Nov. 29, 1939), a musical version of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream that ran only 13 performances. During the early 1940s he continued to tour, record, and make the occasional film appearance, notably in the all-black musical Cabin in the Sky in May 1943. He scored an R&B Top Ten hit with “I Wonder” (music and lyrics by Cecil Grant and Raymond Leveen) in March 1945 and reached the Top Ten of the pop charts with “You Won’t Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart)” (music and lyrics by Freddy James and Larry Stork) and the Top Ten of the R&B charts with ’The Frim Fram Sauce” (music and lyrics by Joe Ricardel and Redd Evans), both duets with Ella Fitzgerald, in April 1946.

Armstrong disbanded in the summer of 1947, reorganizing a smaller unit he called the All Stars, which made its debut Aug. 13, 1947, at Billy Berg’s Club in Los Angeles. With the end of World War II and the recovery of Europe, he embarked on his first European tour in 13 years in February 1948; from then until his death, much of his time would be taken up by international touring.

Armstrong’s first Top Ten LP came with Satchmo at Symphony Hall in June 1951 (”Satchmo,” a corruption of“Satchelmouth,” was a nickname he had acquired in 1932); in September he reached the Top Ten on the singles chart with“(When We Are Dancing) I Get Ideas” (music by Julio Sanders, English lyrics by Dorcas Co-chran). Another notable recording of this period was“A Kiss to Build a Dream On” (music by Harry Ruby, lyrics by Bert Kalmar and Oscar Hammerstein II), which Armstrong sang in the movie The Strip and which he recorded for a hit in early 1952. Forty-one years later the recording was used prominently in the hit film Sleepless in Seattle and featured on its chart-topping, triple-platinum soundtrack album.

Leaving Decca Records in 1954, Armstrong freelanced for various labels instead of signing an exclusive deal. This allowed him to record his Top Ten tribute to Fats Waller, Satch Plays Fats, for Columbia in 1955, as well as a treatment of “Mack the Knife” (music by Kurt Weill, English lyrics by Marc Blitzstein) that made the Top 40 in February 1956, while moving to Verve Records for a popular duet album with Ella Fitzgerald, Ella and Louis, on the charts in December 1956. Meanwhile, “Now You Has Jazz” (music and lyrics by Cole Porter), a duet with Bing Crosby that charted in October 1956 and was drawn from Armstrong’s appearance in the film High Society, was released on Capitol Records, and Decca, capitalizing on his popularity on records (and on the revival of the song by Fats Domino), scored a Top 40 hit with Armstrong’s 1949 recording of “Blueberry Hill” in November.

Armstrong spent most of his time touring, barely slowed down by a heart attack in June 1959. His hit recording of the title song from the musical Hello, Dolly! (music and lyrics by Jerry Herman), was a surprise; it topped the charts in May 1964, followed by an LP of the same name that also went to #1 in June and was gold by August. Nominated for two Grammy Awards, Armstrong won one for Best Vocal Performance, Male.

During the last four years of his life, Armstrong was plagued by heart and kidney troubles that put him in the hospital frequently. He scored an international hit in the spring of 1968 with “What a Wonderful World” (music and lyrics by George David Weiss and Robert Thiele), which topped the charts in the U.K. It did not hit in the U.S. at the time, but 20 years later made the Top 40 after being featured in the film Good Morning, Vietnam. Armstrong made a triumphant appearance in the film version of Hello, Dolly! in 1969. He died two years later at the age of 69.

Discography

Satchmo at Symphony Hall (1951); L. A. Plays W.C. Handy (1954); Satchmo Serenades (1954); Satch Plays Fats (1955); Satchmo the Great (1955); Ambassador Satch (1955); Ella and Louis (with Ella Fitzgerald; 1956); Ella and Louis Again (with Ella Fitzgerald; 1957); L. A. Meets Oscar Peterson (with Oscar Peterson; 1957); Let’s Do It: Best of the Verve Years (1957); The Great Chicago Concert (1957); I Love Jazz (1962); Hello Dolly! (1964); L. A.’s Greatest Hits (1967); What a Wonderful World (1968); L. A. and King Oliver (1992); All Time Greatest Hits (1994); 16 Most Requested Songs (1994); The Complete Ella Fitzgerald and L. A. (1997); The Best of Ella Fitzgerald and L. A. (with Ella Fitzgerald; 1997); The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (1997); Our Love Is Here to Stay: Ella and Louis Sing Gershwin (1998); Cocktail Hour: L. A. (1999); The Ultimate Collection (2000); The Great Summit: The Complete Sessions (with Duke Ellington; 2000); 20th Century Masters—The Millennium Collection: The Best of L A. (2000); A 100th Birthday Celebration (2000); Love Songs (2000); The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings (2000).

Writings

Swing That Music (N.Y., 1936); Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans (N.Y., 1954).

Bibliography

R. Goffin, Horn of Plenty: The Story of L. A. (N.Y., 1947); H. Panassié, L. A. (Paris, 1947); J. Eaton, Trumpeter’s Tale: The Story of Young L. A. (N.Y., 1955); A. McCarthy, L. A. (London, 1960); M. Jones, J. Chilton, and L. Feather, Salute to Satchmo (London, 1970); M. Jones and J. Chilton, L: The L. A. Story, 1900-1971 (London, 1971); R. Merryman, L. A.: A Self- Portrait (N.Y., 1971); R. Hoskins, L. A.: Biography of a Musician (Los Angeles, 1979); H. Westerburg, Boy from New Orleans: A Discography of L.“Satchmo” A. (Copenhagen, 1981); J. Collier, L. A.: An American Genius (N.Y., 1983); M. Pinfold, L. A.: His Life and Times (N.Y., 1987); G. Giddins, Satchmo (N.Y., 1988); S. Tanen-haus, L. A.: Musician (N.Y., 1988); M. Miller, éd., L. A.: A Cultural Legacy (Seattle, 1994); L. Bergreen, L. A.: An Extravagant Life (N.Y., 1997); M. Boujut, L A. (N.Y., 1998).

—William Ruhlmann

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