Louis Armstrong defined the jazz era. There is only one other person who comes as close as Louis when it comes to influencing jazz music. Louis was from New Orleans, as were most jazz musicians at the time. He didn’t always have money. When he was a young boy, his family was rather poor. At age twelve he was sent to reform school for firing a gun. While at the school he learned to play the cornet. He was released from the school at age fourteen.
After being released he worked selling papers, unloading boats, and selling coal. He couldn’t afford an instrument at this time, but he didn’t let that stop him from being interested in music. Joe “King” Oliver was his favorite performer to listen to. He was almost like a father to Louis. He was so much like a father to him, he bought him his first real cornet.
In 1919, he joined Fate Marble’s band in St. Louis. The band played on the Strekfus Mississippi river boat lines. Louis played in regular gigs in Kid Ory’s band. He stayed in Marable’s band until 1921. After leaving St. Louis he went back to New Orleans. While in New Orleans he played in Zutty Singleton’s. He also played with Allen Brass Band, Papa Celestin’s Tuxedo Orchestra, and the Silver Leaf Band.
In 1922, Louis received the offer of his life. Joe Oliver asked him to join the Creole Jazz Band at Lincoln Gardens in Chicago. When he was in Chicago he blew the town away. They loved his New Orleans style of music. When he was performing with Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band he met Lillian Hardin. Lillian was a piano player for the band.
In February 1924 Lillian and Louis exchanged vows and became man and wife. After leaving the band he and Lillian moved to New York. He left the band because he didn’t get to see Lillian all that often. He played with the Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra for 13 months. While in New York he recorded with many blues performers. He recorded “St. Louis Blues” with Bessie Smith in 1925. After recording with Bessie he moved back to Chicago. That same year he recorded his first Hot Five band record.
The Hot Five and Hot Seven are known as the finest Jazz in history. November 12, 1925, the songs “My Heart” and “Cornet Chop Suey” were recorded with Louis Armstrong’s name as the bandleader. Hot Five and Hot Seven recorded up to 1928.
Around 1929, Louis was becoming a bigger and bigger star. He appeared with the “Hot Chocolates” and sometimes with the “Luis Russell Orchestra.”
For the first time since 1922, Louis went back to New Orleans to play in the King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. While in New Orleans, racism became a factor for Louis. A white radio announcer would not talk about Louis or the free concert he was giving for the African Americans in the city.
A year after returning to New Orleans, Lillian and Louis separated. In 1932, he headed off on a three year road trip. While on this road trip he traveled all over the US as well as across the seas. He played in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland, and England. In 1935 Louis came back to the US and hired Joe Glaser as his manager. In 1938 Louis and Lillian got officially divorced. Louis soon after married Alpha then divorced her four years later. Now on to his last wife Lucille, they married and stayed married for the rest of there lives.
One of Louis's most important years was 1968. He recorded the number one hit “What a Wonderful World.” After he recorded that song he became very ill. He was in the hospital many times, but he still played music. On July 6th 1971 the man known as the world’s greatest Jazz musician died in his sleep in Queens, New York but his music still lives today.
By: Haylie Langley
“Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.” Red Hot Jazz Archive. March 1, 2009 < http://www.redhotjazz.com/louie.html>.
“Quarter Three: Poetry and The Harlem Renaissance.” Mr. Jackson’s American Literature. March 1, 2009 < http://www.kodiakschools.org/khs/departments/englishdepartment/American_Literature/Quarter_3.html>.
“Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five.” Red Hot Jazz Archive. March 1, 2009 < http://www.redhotjazz.com/hot5.html>.