Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) “Satchmo”
Daniel Louis Armstrong was born in a run-down cabin in New Orleans, Louisiana, slum. His mother was just fifteen years old and was the granddaughter of slaves. Soon after he was born, his father left the family. Louis’s family was very poor. Most days they did not have enough food to live or good clothes to wear. Louis spent most of his time wander the streets singing for food and the few pennies people would give him.
When he was about thirteen, he got in trouble with the law and was sent to the Colored Wifs Home for Boys, a juvenile detention center. His life was better than at home enough food to eat and suitable clothing. Louis sang in the home’s choir but asked to join the brass band and was given a battered cornet, a trumpet-like instrument. He was taught to play and Louis decide to become a musician.
Louis was a shy, easy-going person. He worked best when pushed by strong people. After leaving the boy’s home he met Joe “King” Oliver, a famous cornet player. Oliver taught Louis more about playing the trumpet and jazz music. Louis had a great talent and learned quickly and was soon playing in bands around New Orleans and on river boats traveling up and down the Mississippi River.
Armstrong moved to Chicago where he made a few records and was soon known to many musicians around the country. Then in 1924 he moved to New York and joined the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, one of the best bands in the business. Fletcher Henderson was ahead of his tie and hired both black and white musicians. Louis was able to meet and learn from many other musicians while in New York.
Louis returned to Chicago and started his own band, “Hot Five”. On one of the records “HeebieJeebies” Louis sang scat style, which is a style of singing using nonsense words. This demonstrated his unique voice and after singing “Ain’tMisbehavin’” in a New York musical his career turned to singing and playing popular songs rather than blues music.
As a young man, Armstrong was nicknamed Satchelmouth, a person with a wide mouth or a person who talks a lot. While on an overseas tour in 1932, an English writer confused the name and called him Satchmo. The new nickname stuck with his fans. In 1936, he made the movie Pennies from Heaven with Bing Crosby. He was the first African American to have a major role in a movie. He had become famous as an entertainer not just a trumpet player.
In the 1940s, Louis won the first Esquire magazine poll, then considered to be the most important jazz ward of all. After the big band era ended he played with “The All-Stars”. It was the first jazz group to play in the Metropolitan Opera Hall in New York.
By 1950, Satchmowa probably the best-known entertainer in the world. His face and gravelly voice were known to millions. He made many movies in the US and in Europe. He was also featured on radio and television. He toured Europe and Asia as a “roving ambassador” for the U.S. State Department and made appearances with the great musicians of his time. In 1964 he recorded “Hello Dolly”. The song replaced the Beatles at the top of the recording charts. Louis Armstrong with Barbra Streisand in the movie “Hello Dolly”
The tours and long hours Armstrong worked tired him. His health began to fail. He performed less and less but he wouldn’t quit performing. In July 1971 he had a heart attack and died. When Bing Crosby learned that Satchmo had died, he said, “He was the only musician who ever lived who can’t be replaced by someone.” Louis Armstrong Statue in Armstrong Park , New Orleans