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louis armstrong

Louis Armstrong

b. Louis Daniel Armstrong, 4th August 1901, 'The Battlefield', New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A.

d. 6th July 1971, Corona, Queens, New York, New York State, U.S.A.

Louis Armstrong had a difficult childhood.


house where louis was born in 1901

William Armstrong (b. 1881. d. 1922), his father, was a factory worker who abandoned the family soon after the Louis's birth.


louis, his mother and sister, Beatrice

He was brought up by his mother, Mary (Mayann) Albert (b. 1886. d. 1942), and his maternal grandmother.

Louis was born when his mother was only 15 years old.

He was interested in music at an early age, dropping out of school at the age of 11 to join an informal group, but on 31st December, 1912, he fired a gun during a New Year's Eve celebration, which caused him to be sent to reform school.

Louis studied music there and played cornet and bugle in the school band, eventually becoming its leader.

He was released on 16th June, 1914, and did manual labour while trying to establish himself as a musician.


louis with king oliver

Louis was taken under the wing of cornetist Joe 'King' Oliver, and when Oliver moved to Chicago in June 1918, he replaced him in the Kid Ory band.

He relocated to the Fate Marable band in the spring of 1919, staying with Marable until the autumn of 1921.

Louis then moved to Chicago to join Oliver's band in August 1922 and made his first recordings as a member of the group in the spring of 1923.


louis with his hot five band. his wife, lillian, is on the right

He married Lillian Harden, the pianist in the Oliver band, on 5th February, 1924. (She was the second of his four wives.)

Louis then left Oliver and joined Fletcher Henderson's band in New York, staying for a year and then going back to Chicago in November 1925 to join the Dreamland Syncopators, his wife's group.

During this period, he switched instruments from cornet to trumpet.

Louis had made enough impact within the group to make his recording debut as a leader on 12th November, 1925.


louis armstrong's hot five

Contracted to OKeh Records, he began to make a series of recordings with studio-only groups called the Hot Fives or the Hot Sevens.

For live dates, he appeared with the orchestra led by Erskine Tate and Carroll Dickerson.

The Hot Five recording of 'Muskrat Ramble' gave Armstrong a Top Ten hit in July 1926, the band for the track featuring Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Lillian Harden Armstrong on piano, and Johnny St. Cyr on banjo.


louis and his stompers band

By February 1927, Louis fronted his own band, Louis Armstrong and His Stompers, at the Sunset Café in Chicago.


big butter and egg man from the west b/w sunset café stomp 10" - 1927


In April, he reached the charts with his first vocal recording, 'Big Butter and Egg Man From The West,' a duet with May Alix.

He took a position as star soloist in Carroll Dickerson's band at the Savoy Ballroom in Chicago in March 1928, later taking over as the band's frontman.

'Hotter than That' was in the Top Ten in May 1928, followed in September by 'West End Blues,' which later became one of the first recordings named to the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Louis returned to New York with his band for a gig at Connie's Inn in Harlem in May 1929.

He also began appearing in the orchestra of 'Hot Chocolates', a Broadway revue, given a featured spot singing 'Ain't Misbehavin'.'

In September, his recording of the song entered the charts, becoming a Top Ten hit.


louis fronting the luis russell orchestra

Louis fronted the Luis Russell Orchestra for a tour of the South in February 1930, then in May went to Los Angeles, where he led a band at Sebastian's Cotton Club for the next ten months.

He made his film debut in 'Ex-Flame', released at the end of 1931.


'Dinah' b/w 'Chinatown My Chinatown' / I'm in the Mood for Love' b/w 'Got a Bran' New Suit' - 1935

\By the start of 1932, he had switched from the OKeh label to Columbia Records, for which he recorded two top five hits, 'Chinatown, My Chinatown' and 'You Can Depend on Me' before scoring a number 1 hit with 'All of Me' in March 1932.

Another top five hit, 'Love, You Funny Thing,' hit the charts the same month.

He returned to Chicago in the spring of 1932 to front a band led by Zilner Randolph.

The group toured around the country.

In July, Louis sailed to England for a tour.


new orleans show - 1931

He spent the next several years in Europe, his American career maintained by a series of old recordings, including the Top Ten hits 'Sweethearts on Parade' (August 1932, recorded December 1930) and 'Body and Soul' (October 1932, recorded October 1930).

His Top Ten version of 'Hobo, You Can't Ride This Train', in the charts in early 1933, was on Victor Records.

On returning to the U.S. in 1935, he signed to the recently formed Decca Records and quickly scored a double-sided Top Ten hit, 'I'm in the Mood for Love' b/w 'You are My Lucky Star.'

Louis's new manager, Joe Glaser, organized a big band for him that had its premiere in Indianapolis on 1st July, 1935.


joe glaser presents louis armstrong poster - 1937

For the next several years, he toured regularly.

He also took a series of small parts in motion pictures, beginning with 'Pennies from Heaven' in December 1936, and he continued to record for Decca, resulting in the Top Ten hits 'Public Melody Number One' (August 1937), 'When the Saints Go Marching In' (April 1939), and 'You Won't Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart)' (April 1946), the last a duet with Ella Fitzgerald.

He returned to Broadway in the short-lived musical 'Swingin' the Dream' in November 1939.

Louis Armstrong

With the decline of swing music in the post-World War II years, Armstrong broke up his big band and put together a small group dubbed the 'All Stars,' which made its debut in Los Angeles on 13th August, 1947.

He embarked on his first European tour since 1935 in February 1948, and thereafter toured regularly around the world.


satchmo at symphony hall - 1951

In June 1951, he reached the Top Ten of the LP charts with 'Satchmo at Symphony Hall' ('Satchmo' being his nickname), and he scored his first Top Ten single in five years with '(When We Are Dancing) I Get Idea's' later in the year.

The single's B-side, and also a chart entry, was 'A Kiss to Build a Dream on,' sung by Louis in the film 'The Strip'.

In 1993, it gained renewed popularity when it was used in the film 'Sleepless in Seattle'.

Louis completed his contract with Decca in 1954, after which his manager made the unusual decision not to sign him to another exclusive contract, but instead to have him freelance for different labels.


ella and louis - 1956

'Satch Plays Fats', a tribute to Fats Waller, became a Top Ten LP for Columbia in October 1955, and Verve Records contracted Armstrong for a series of recordings with Ella Fitzgerald, beginning with the chart LP 'Ella and Louis' in 1956.


ella and louis

Louis continued to tour extensively, despite a heart attack in June 1959.

Louis Armstrong

In 1964, he scored a surprise hit with his recording of the title song from the Broadway musical 'Hello, Dolly!', which reached number 1 in May, followed by a gold-selling album of the same name.

It won him a Grammy for best vocal performance.

This pop success was repeated internationally four years later with 'What a Wonderful World,' which hit number 1 in the U.K. in April 1968.


It did not gain as much notice in the U.S. until 1987, when it was used in the film 'Good Morning, Vietnam', after which it became a Top 40 hit.

Louis was featured in the 1969 film of 'Hello, Dolly!', performing the title song as a duet with Barbra Streisand.

He performed less frequently in the late 1960's and early 1970's and died of a heart ailment at 69, in July 1971.

Louis' death was attributed to a heart attack.

He had been at home since mid-June, that year, when he was discharged from Beth Israel Medical Center after 10 weeks of treatment for heart, liver and kidney disorders.

Louis seemed in good health during an interview in June 1971, in which he played his trumpet and announced his intention to return to public performances.


louis in 1971

Real Player


Louis Armstrong Plays the Blues (Riverside Records 1924)

New Orleans Jazz (Decca Records 1940)

Satchmo Sings (Decca Records 1947)

Satchmo at Symphony Hall [live] (Decca Records 1947)

Satchmo at Symphony Hall, Vol. 2 [live] (Decca Records 1947)

New Orleans Days (Decca Records 1950)

Jazz Concert [live] (Decca Records 1950)

New Orleans Nights (Decca Records 1950)

Satchmo on Stage [live] (Decca Records 1950)

Satchmo Serenades (Decca Records 1950)

New Orleans to New York (Decca Records 1950)

Satchmo at Pasadena [live] (Decca Records 1951)

Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy (Columbia / Legac Records 1954)

Latter Day Louis (Decca Records 1954)

Louis Armstrong Sings the Blues (RCA Records 1954)

Satch Plays Fats: The Music of Fats Waller (Columbia / Legac Records 1955)

Satchmo the Great [live] (Columbia Records 1955)

Ambassador Satch (Columbia Records 1955)

Great Chicago Concert 1956 [live] (Columbia Records 1956)

American Jazz Festival at Newport [live] (Columbia Records 1956)

Ella and Louis (Verve Records 1956)

At Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Vol. 1 [live] (GNP Records 1956)

Louis Under the Stars (Verve Records 1957)

Porgy and Bess (Verve Records 1957)

Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson (Verve Records 1957)

Louis and the Angels (Decca Records 1957)

Satchmo in Style (Decca Records 1959)

Louis & the Dukes of Dixieland (Audio Fidelity Records 1960)

Happy Birthday, Louis! Armstrong & His... [live] (Omega Records 1960)

Paris Blues (United Artists Records 1960)

Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington (Roulette Records 1961)

Armstrong/Ellington: Together for the First... (Mobile Records 1961)

Together for the First Time (Mobile Records 1961)

Hello, Dolly ([MCA] MCA Records 1963)

Satchmo [Decca] (Decca Records 1964)

Louis (Mercury Records 1964)

I Will Wait for You (Brunswick Records 1967)

The Satchmo Way (Walt Disney Records 1968)

What a Wonderful World ([RCA] RCA Records 1970)

Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson ([Import... Polygram Records 2000)

Louis Live (Demand Records 2000)

The Katanga Concert [live] (Milan Records 2000)

In Concert [live] (Special Music Records 2001)

What a Wonderful World [In Concert] [live] (Special Music Records 2001)

Best Live Concert, Vol. 1 (Verve Records 2001)

La Vie en Rose ([Import] Import Records 2001)

Best Live Concert, Vol. 2 (Verve Records 2001)

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