Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

Louis Armstrong

1901 On August 4th, in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, Louis Armstrong, nicknamed “Satchmo”, was born. He grew up in one of the poorest areas of the city and had a hard childhood. His father was a worker and left the family immediately after Armstrong’s birth. His mother was a hussy who usually let her son with his grandmother.

1912 At the age of 12, after he had fired a gunshot into the air, during celebrating New Year’s Eve, he was considered a juvenile culprit and sent to a juvie. There he fell in love with music and he learnt to play the trumpet.

1914 After his release, Armstrong wandered the streets of New Orleans with a small orchestral band which was very loved by people, played many songs, of which “When the Saints Go Marchin’in”, that would became in time one of his most interpreted songs.

1918 When he was 17, Armstrong started to sing in the pubs in Storyville area, New Orleans. His shows brought him invitations to different local marches and jazz bands. The best trumpeter in New Orleans, Joe Oliver, taught him to play the trumpet and offered him the chance to play in the band. One evening, Louis successfully replaced the trumpeter of the orchestra, Kid Ory, also considered a local celebrity. In the end of the year, he started to learn the musical notes and to decipher the scores, thus becoming a complete professional musician.

1920 At the beginning of this year, Armstrong left New Orleans. Firstly, he sang in Saint Louis, then he joined his idol, Joe Oliver, to his jazz band, Creole, in Chicago.

1924 He left Oliver’s band and joined “Big Band” of Fletcher Henderson from New York, a colossus of jazz, who had one of the best orchestras at that time, with famous interpreters. Taking part in this orchestra, Armstrong had the possibility to record discs with well known partners like Sidney Bechet, Bessie Smith and many others.

1963 This year, he had a huge international success with the hit “Hello Dolly”. This song reached very up in Billboard Hot 100, beating the Beatles and becoming the oldest artist (63 years old) who had a song on the first position of tops.

1964 He won Grammy Award for “Hello Dolly”, the best male vocal performance category.

1968 This year, he launched “What a Wonderful World”, a song which became very quickly a favourite of the audience. It stayed on tops in Great Britain more than one month. This year, too, Louis participated to Music Festival in Sanremo, Italy, where he sang “Mi va di cantare”.

In the end of his life, health problems appeared. Because of neck cancer, doctors advised him to give up the trumpet, but Louis continued to play and to record.

1971 On July 6th, he died during sleep, in his house in Queens, New York. This house, where Louis spent a big part of his life, was restored and declared museum. The house was opened to the public in 2003.

Louis Armstrong was married four times: Daisy Parker (1918-1923), Lil Armstrong (1924-1938), Alpha Smith (1938-1942) and Lucille Wilson (1942-1971).

1972 Post-mortem, he was decorated with Grammy Award for his entire career.




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