Louis Armstrong Photo Author: World-Telegram staff photographer
Born: August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Died: July 6, 1971 in New York City
Best known for: One of the most influential figures in the history of jazz music
Nicknames: Satchmo, Pops, Dippermouth
Where did Louis Armstrong grow up?
Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 4, 1901. He grew up in a poor part of the city that was so rough that it was nicknamed "The Battleground." As a boy, life was tough for Louis. His father wasn't around and his mother couldn't take care of him. He lived with his grandmother or his uncle most of the time.
How did he get the nickname Satchmo?
When Louis was young, he had a lot of nicknames that referred to his wide mouth. One of them was "Satchelmouth." When he visited England, the nickname was shortened to "Satchmo" and the name stuck.
Becoming a Musician
One of Louis' favorite things to do as a boy was to watch the local jazz musicians. He liked the horn and began to teach himself how to play the cornet. When Louis was around 12, he got in trouble for shooting a gun into the air on New Year's Eve. He got sent to the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs. Louis joined the band at the home and learned how to read music.
Growing up in the early 1900s, Louis had to deal with racism. During this time there were racist laws in some states called Jim Crow laws. These laws separated black people and white people and made it difficult for black people to succeed. Louis didn't let this stop him, however. He focused on his music and would one day become one of the most famous musicians in the world.
In his early teens, Armstrong was already a great horn player. He played in local New Orleans jazz bands where he met his mentor, a jazz musician named Joe Oliver. Joe took Louis under his wing and helped him along in the music world. Armstrong played in various bands in New Orleans such as Kid Ory's Band and the Tuxedo Brass Band.
Chicago and New York
In 1922, Armstrong moved to Chicago to join Joe Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. It was the start of the "Roaring Twenties" and Chicago was becoming the home to jazz. Armstrong began to make a name for himself as one of the best horn players around. He developed a unique style and played amazing solos that people loved to hear.
A few years later, Armstrong moved to New York City where he played in the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. It was during this time that he switched from playing the cornet to playing the trumpet.
Eventually, Armstrong ended up moving back to Chicago. He started up his own band and made several recordings. He was now a famous musician. Louis also began singing. He had a unique sounding gravelly voice that people loved. He spent the 1930s touring around the world. He often worked as the featured soloist in big bands.
The All Stars
In the 1940s, Armstrong formed a small jazz band called the All Stars. Many famous jazz musicians played as members of his band. He toured with the All Stars for the rest of his career.
Louis Armstrong recorded a number of hit songs throughout his career. Some of the most famous include What a Wonderful World, Hello Dolly!, West End Blues, Heebie Jeebies, and Ain't Misbehavin'. He made the vocal style of "scat" singing popular with the recording of Heebie Jeebies. The recording was partially a mistake where the sheet music fell on the floor and Armstrong began scatting (making up words). It sounded so good, they kept the scat version and it was a hit.
Movies and Books
Throughout his career, Armstrong also starred in several movies and wrote several books. His movies included A Rhapsody in Black and Blue, New Orleans, Hello Dolly!, and High Society. His books included Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans and Swing that Music.
Death and Legacy
Louis Armstrong died on July 6, 1971 of a heart attack at the age of 69. He is remembered as one of the greatest musicians in American history. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Interesting Facts About Louis Armstrong
Eleven of his recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
He often wore a Star of David in honor of the Karnofsky family, a Jewish family that took Louis in as a child.
The main airport in New Orleans is called the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
He had nineteen Top Ten songs including a number 1 hit, Hello Dolly!, at the age of 63.
He was married four times, but didn't have any children.