Biography of Famous Popular Singer Louis Armstrong

About the famous popular singer Louis Armstrong, biography and history.

Louis Armstrong (1900-1971). On New Year's Day, 1913, Louis Armstrong picked up a pistol in New Orleans and fired the shot that was eventually heard round the world: He was arrested, sent to reform school, and received his 1st training in music there from Captain Jones. That original bugle is still preserved in the New Orleans Waifs' Home.

At age 14, Louis formed his 1st band and worked around New Orleans until 1923, when he went to Chicago, and later he made his 1st recordings with the King Oliver band in Richmond, Ind. He married pianist Lil Hardin in 1924. They moved to New York where he joined Fletcher Henderson's band. It was Henderson who described his voice as sounding like a fish-horn. His gravelly voice became his trademark in the 1,500-plus records he cut between 1923 and 1970.

With his trumpet he could reach F above high C with ease, a feat unheard-of in the 1920s, as were his legatos, coupled with his pure tone, continuity of phrasing, and sophisticated improvisations.

Personally, Louis was a warm, funny, gregarious, happy man whose zest for life and love of music came through in his horn, his voice, his snap-flash smile, and his unspoken-but-felt pure joy of being.

He was nicknamed Satchelmouth, for obvious physiological reasons, by an editor of the London Melody Maker. It was shortened to Satchmo for convenience. He was also called Pops by those who loved him. Almost everybody called him Pops.

Louis' career was constantly upwardly mobile. In New York he worked The Savoy and The Cotton Clubs, and did a Broadway revue, Hot Chocolates, which brought him to the attention of white audiences. He recorded "Ain't Misbehavin'," one of his 1st big records. And he also participated in one of the 1st mixed recording groups with Jack Teagarden.

In 1930 he went to Los Angeles to work Frank Sebastian's Cotton Club. The same year, he cut the 1st of many records with Lionel Hampton, "Memories of You."

In 1932, Louis went to Europe for the 1st time. He captivated audiences everywhere. In 1933, he found he could play in the upper registers with ease; those long high-note codas went over well with his audiences. In so doing, he was to influence all musicians for some time to come.

He made some unimportant movies in the late 1930s: Skeleton in the Closet, Artists and Models, Everyday's a Holiday, Doctor Rhythm, and Goin' Places. In 1943, he won the 1st Esquire magazine jazz poll in the trumpet and vocal categories. In January, 1944, Esquire held its 1st jazz concert at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City--starring Louis, of course. He won their poll again in 1945, 1946, and 1947.

Finally, in 1947 he starred in a movie almost worthy of his talents, New Orleans. He also made his 1st records with Ella Fitzgerald. At the same time, his agent and longtime friend Joe Glaser suggested forming the Louis Armstrong and His All Stars Band, which reached for and brought new highs to musicians and music lovers.

Louis was an internationally traveled, musical goodwill ambassador. He toured officially for the State Department, although there were parts of Africa he refused to visit, because of their apartheid policy.

Armstrong was accepted by royalty. He was honored by U.S. presidents and foreign heads of state. He was received by the Pope. And while Carol Channing starred in the Broadway musical, Hello, Dolly!, it's Louis' recording in his crackling-jack voice that has made the title tune a classic.

Fellow-musician Teddy Wilson said it best years ago: "Louis is the greatest jazz musician that's ever been. He's got it all: balance, tone, harmonic sense, excitement, technical skill, and originality."

It's not easy to top perfection.

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