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Biography of Louis Armstrong

Prabhakar Pillai Nov 1, 2018
Louis Armstrong was the master of 'Jazz' and the greatest American musician of all time. At the peak of his musical career, he enjoyed immense popularity and his influence can be seen even today.
'I never tried to prove nothing, just wanted to give a good show. My life has always been my music, it's always come first, but the music ain't worth nothing if you can't lay it on the public. The main thing is to live for that audience, 'cause what you're there for is to please the people'  - Louis Armstrong

Early Life

Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901, in the Storyville District of New Orleans. He however claimed that he was born on July 4 1900, which is incidentally the American Independence Day. His father, William Armstrong, abandoned him in his childhood. His mother, Mary Albert Armstrong was apparently a prostitute.
He grew up in New Orleans and had a tough childhood. Louis was barefoot most the time and owned little more than the shirt and pants he put on in the morning. He dropped out of school at 11 to join an informal group of musicians.
On December 31, 1912, he fired a gun during a New Year's Eve celebration, for which he was dispatched to reform school. He studied music there and played cornet and bugle in the school band, ultimately becoming its leader. He was eventually released on June 16, 1914.

Musical Career

Louis moved to Chicago to join Oliver's band in August 1922. Armstrong made his first recordings as a member of the group in the spring of 1923. In 1925, Louis exchanged the cornet for the trumpet, and recorded the first album as leader of his own band, the Hot Five.
The recordings he created with the Hot Five and its successor, the Hot Seven, at Okeh Records were and still remain some of the most influential and significant jazz recordings in history. With his masterful technique, pieces like "Cornet Chop Suey," "Potato Head Blues," and "West End Blues" helped give rise to the solo as the centerpiece in jazz music.
He was one of the first musicians to have recorded scat music in 1926. Armstrong's new manager, Joe Glaser, organized a large band for him that had its premiere in Indianapolis on July 1, 1935. His popularity grew even more as he appeared in films, such as 'Pennies from Heaven' with Bing Crosby.
During the 1940s, he gave up the big band in favor of a smaller group dubbed the 'All-Stars'. They were a New Orleans-style sextet that included, on occasions, Hines and trombonist Jack Teagarden. For the remaining part of his life, he didn't stray far from this setting. He toured the world, often on behalf of the U.S. State Department.
In the 1950s, Louis teamed up with other singers - Bing Crosby, Louis Jordan and Gary Crosby to make recordings. Then in 1957, he made some tracks collaborating with Ella Fitzgerald, backed up by the Oscar Peterson trio. While working with Peterson, Louis took the opportunity to record his first big hit to feature his famous throaty voice 'Mack The Knife.
Louis starred in the 1969 film of 'Hello, Dolly'. He performed the title song as a duet with Barbra Streisand. He performed relatively less in the late '60s and early '70s. In his last few years he suffered many hospitalizations. He died of heart failure on July 6, 1971. With his death, jazz lost its greatest master.
Louis was able to innovate music in a unique way. He was successful in spite of a rough and unhappy childhood and managed to use his scarred memories to keep him going instead of pulling him down.

Personal Life

In 1918, he married Daisy Parker, a prostitute from Gretna, Louisiana. His second marriage was to Lillian Harden, the pianist in the Oliver band, on February 5, 1924. In 1939 he divorced Hardin and married Alpha Smith shortly thereafter. His marriage to Alpha lasted for three years.
In 1942 Armstrong married for the fourth time to Lucille Wilson, who would be his wife for the rest of his life. During his illustrious career, he lived in Chicago, New York, and New Orleans and Los Angeles. He was given the nickname 'Stachelmouth' because of his huge smile, which was later, shortened to 'Sachmo'.