CAREER AND VOCATIONfor Louis Armstrong, born 4 August 1901
"... Tap the wellsprings of your imagination
"...The best place is at the centre of the stage
"...Mythologising the mundane world
"...Being first and best
"...The perennial quest for greener pastures
"...Being different requires an individual
"...The need to be yourself dominates all
other work requirements
"...You aren't the only one on stage
"...A deep need to connect with the inner
"...A one-person band
Birth Date: 4 August 1901
American jazz trumpeter, a raspy voiced singer and band leader who was known as the great "Satchmo" for Satchelmouth, the size of his mouth. His infectious huge grin made him lovable to people everywhere and he was known for his sense of humor and vivid energy. Armstrong is the most important improviser of jazz of his day with his perfect pitch and immaculate timing and he taught the world to swing. Innovation and excitement marked his style of the music that is distinctly American, born in the black quarters of New Orleans. With a record of top-ten hits in every decade for half a century, Armstrong is memorable for "Hello, Dolly," and "When The Saints go Marchin' In," as well as his classics, "Weather Bird" and "What a Wonderful World."
Armstrong grew up poor among prostitutes and lowlifes in New Orleans, working from the time he was a kid to help his family. He sang on the street corners in the Old Quarter and taught himself to play the cornet, quickly becoming acquainted with the culture of music that could be heard on every street. His first big breakthrough in music actually came from an arrest at age 11. He was arrested and put in the Home for Colored Waifs for firing a pistol on New Year's Eve. Here he received his first formal instruction in the cornet. He rose from a rough and tumble childhood to become one of the first black men in America who had the courage and clout to say, "I wouldn't play no place I couldn't stay." At age 21, he was the talk of South Side Chicago, playing in his mentor's band, Joe "King" Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. So popular were the trademark two-cornet breaks he and Oliver worked out, that they would perform with handkerchiefs over their hands to hide their fingering from imitators.
At age 41, his records and movie appearances had made him world famous. He had a rigorous schedule of touring, recording and performing, gradually adding films and TV.
Somehow, Armstrong stayed down to earth, never moving any further into drugs than his daily hits of marijuana, which never seemed to hurt his playing. He was, however, known as a world-class eccentric, his own man, brash and irreverent. His talents as a virtuoso trumpet player and irrepressible stage personality were inseparable, as was his mugging, teeth baring and eye-rolling.
An unabashed sensualist, Armstrong loved pretty women and ate rich food: he married four times. His first marriage was to Daisy Parker, a prostitute, in 1918. Joe Oliver moved to Chicago that year and Louis took his place in the Kid Ory band. He and Daisy separated in 1922. In February 1924, he married Lil Hardin, the pianist in the King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. He joined the Fletcher Henderson in New York City that September and cut his first recordings with Henderson's orchestra.
On 11/12/1925, Armstrong made his first records as a leader with his own group, "Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five." He and Lil separated in August 1931.
From July to November 1932, Armstrong made his first tour outside of the U.S., traveling to the UK. After European tours the next few years, Joe Glaser became his manager in 1935 and remained so for the rest of Louis's life.
In October 1938, he married Alpha Smith. They were together for a few years before he met and married Lucille Wilson, his fourth and last wife, on 10/12/1942. They were together for 29 years. Lucille was a dancer at the Cotton Club where his band had a running engagement. The following year, they purchased a home in Corona, Queens, where they lived for the rest of their lives. It was his first "real" home and meant to Armstrong that he had a haven and focus to his life.
He died in his sleep on 7/06/1971. Up to the last few days before his death, he was rehearsing for the next performance before his beloved public.
The Queen's College Louis Armstrong Archive, in Flushing, NY, has some 5,000 photographs, 84 scrapbooks and 350 pages of autobiographical writings, as well as 650 reels of audiotape.