Louis Armstrong, or “Satchmo” as he was commonly known, was an American jazz musician popular in the early to mid 1900s. Born in 1907, he had a hugely successful jazz career, transforming the genre from its earliest regional roots into a true, distinguished art form in its own right. Armstrong could sing and play trumpet, making him one of the most talented musicians in jazz. For those of you who are big fans of Armstrong, did you know he has a museum in New York? www.louisarmstronghouse.org
Birth and Roots
Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, where he spent most of his youth in poverty. He played the cornet at first, having followed the city’s brass band events and listening to other musicians frequently. He got his start following the likes of Joe Oliver, Bunk Johnson, and Buddy Petit. Armstrong talked about his time aboard the Fate Marable, a major riverboat in New Orleans, as “university” because he got to play with a number of different jazz arrangements.
Louis Armstrong went to Chicago in 1922, where he started playing with Joe Oliver in the Creole Jazz Band. this was one of the major jazz bands in Chicago at the time, and Armstrong started recording during this period. He eventually moved up to New York City to play with Fletcher Henderson, switching to trumpet. He made a number of important contacts such as Clarence Williams, and started accompanying blues singers on the trumpet at this point. He also started recording as his own name around this time, finally moving to Los Angeles in 1930. In the next 30 years, he would play more than 300 gigs per year.
In 1950, Louis Armstrong eventually went back to Dixieland as his main style of influence. At this point he started playing with Jack Teagarden, Arvell Shaw, and Barney Bigard, among others. He had a very busy schedule touring right up until the year before his death. His health ultimately failed in 1971, when he died of a heart attack.
Louis Armstrong recorded many important songs in his career, such as La Vie En Rose, Stardust, and What a Wonderful World. He was known for his major influence on jazz as a whole, not just for his unique vocals, but also for his spectacular trumpet playing and rich, dynamic sound. He was a charismatic musician and trumpeter, and clearly loved what he did.
Armstrong came to true prominence in the 20th century, a time in American history when racism was highly prevalent. He was one of the first African American jazz musicians to be well liked among other African American members of the public and white segments of society. He had a very difficult childhood, but found comfort through music, which eventually brought him out of his tough roots and allowed him to earn a living full-time.
Louis Armstrong’s Legacy
Louis Armstrong’s legacy will live on in jazz history. With his innovative trumpet and cornet methods, he also had the ability to charm audiences through the use of his voice, which was strong and gravelly. He could improvise like no other, twisting and bending song lyrics with highly dynamic and dramatic effects. He was a true gift to jazz and will remain one of the greats of this genre.