Louis Armstrong


Musician
Louis Armstrong

About

Also Known As
Louis E Armstrong, Louie Armstrong, Louis Daniel Armstrong
Birth Place
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Born
August 04, 1901
Died
July 06, 1971
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

A towering figure in the development of jazz, as well as one of the most beloved entertainers of the 20th century, Louis Armstrong was a trumpeter and vocalist whose unique playing changed the focus of the genre from a collective sound to one built around individual solos. His singing, too, wielded enormous influence on the vocal delivery of pop and jazz vocalists through his phrasing, e...

Photos & Videos

High Society - Movie Posters
High Society - Publicity Stills
High Society - Grace Kelly Behind-the-Scenes Stills

Family & Companions

Daisy Parker
Wife
Prostitute. Married c. 1919; divorced c. 1924.
Lilian Hardin
Wife
Pianist. Met when both performed with the Creole Jazz Band; married in 1924; separated c. 1927; divorced in 1938.
Alpha Smith
Wife
Met c. 1926; had relationship for 12 years before marrying in 1938; divorced in 1942.
Lucille Wilson
Wife
Dancer. Married from 1942 until his death.

Biography

A towering figure in the development of jazz, as well as one of the most beloved entertainers of the 20th century, Louis Armstrong was a trumpeter and vocalist whose unique playing changed the focus of the genre from a collective sound to one built around individual solos. His singing, too, wielded enormous influence on the vocal delivery of pop and jazz vocalists through his phrasing, enunciation and forays into scat singing. His naturally warm and gravely voice also made him an ideal interpreter of standards, which spurred his transition from jazz to the mainstream in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In doing so, Satchmo - as he was known to fellow musicians - became among the first African-American artists to cross over into mainstream white entertainment, where he continued to enjoy incredible success as a vocalist, most notably with his 1964 rendition of "Hello, Dolly!" which bounced the Beatles from the top of the pop charts. A tireless performer and benevolent soul who broadcast his personality and talents like a beacon across the globe, Louis Armstrong was unquestionably one of the defining artists in the history of popular music.

.Though he frequently stated that his birth date was July 4, 1900, Louis Armstrong was actually born on Aug. 4, 1901 in New Orleans, LA. His childhood was almost Dickensian in regards to its misery; both of his parents abandoned him and his younger sister, Beatrice, leaving them in the care of a grandmother. Armstrong would later return to his mother, Mary, but rarely see his father, who had raised another family after his departure. Armstrong helped his mother make ends meet by working at a variety of jobs, including hauling coal to Storyville, New Orleans' red-light district, where he absorbed the music of early jazz players like King Oliver. He eventually took up music as well, learning cornet from either Oliver or trumpet player Bunk Johnson. Armstrong honed his skills as the leader of the band at the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs, where he was frequently sent for a variety of youthful infractions. There, he studied under Professor Peter Davis, who broadened the scope of his talent while instilling a sense of discipline in the teenager. After his dismissal from the home, the 14-year-old Armstrong began his professional career, playing dance halls, brass band parades and riverboats with bandleader Fate Marable, who recognized the younger man's gift for improvisation and allowed him to exercise it during his breaks in a song.

During this period, Armstrong would earn his enduring nickname of "Satchmo," which was reportedly short for Satchelmouth and inspired by his habit of putting pennies earned from street performances in his mouth to prevent them from being stolen. His other nickname, "Pops," came from his own habit of calling others by that name. By 1919, when Armstrong replaced King Oliver in Kid Ory's band, his musical persona was largely complete. He had gained a reputation as one of the first jazz musicians to take extended solos, as well as for singing and engaging in garrulous stage patter between songs. Eventually, his talent surpassed the limits of the New Orleans scene, and he headed north to Chicago, IL, where he joined Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. Armstrong made his first recordings with the band in 1923, and also met his second wife, pianist Lil Hardin, in their number. He took her advice to strike out on his own, leaving Oliver for Fletcher Henderson's band in 1924, where he switched from cornet to trumpet. He also recorded a number of records with artists ranging from Sidney Bechet to blues singers Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. But Lil Hardin believed that her husband was a star in his own right, and brought him back to Chicago to play in her band, the Dreamland Syncopators.

In 1925, he recorded his first sessions as a bandleader with either the Hot Five - comprised of Hardin, Kid Ory, Johnny St. Cyr and Johnny Dodds - or Hot Seven, which added Dodds' brother, Baby Dodds, along with Pete Briggs and John Thomas, who replaced Kid Ory. The band hit the Top 10 with 1926's "Muskrat Ramble," which was soon followed by his first vocal hit, "Big Butter and Egg Man," "Hotter Than That" and "West End Blues" in 1927 and 1928. Armstrong formed a new Hot Five with Earl "Fatha" Hines, replacing Lil Hardin on piano that same year; the couple had grown apart, and after Armstrong took up with future third wife Alpha Smith, they divorced soon after. In 1929, Armstrong returned to New York, where he performed in the all-black revue "Hot Chocolate," which also afforded him a brief turn in the spotlight singing "Ain't Misbehavin" during each show, which later became another Top 10 recording.

A stint at the famed Cotton Club soon followed, but the debilitating impact of the Great Depression on the club scene prompted Armstrong to head west for Los Angeles. There, he performed at the New Cotton Club for the wealthy and famous, including Bing Crosby, who would draw heavily from Armstrong's vocal phrasing for his own singing career. Armstrong also made his feature film debut in 1931's "Ex-Flame," but a suspended sentence for marijuana possession contributed to his return to Chicago that same year. In 1932, Armstrong left his longtime label, Okeh, for Columbia Records, where he began recording material that was more in the vein of big band pop and standards than his early jazz cuts. However, the new songs still featured Armstrong's unique tone and phrasing, which would have an enormous impact on a generation of white crooners, especially his cover of Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" (1931), which became the version by which all subsequent renditions would be compared. Armstrong would score his first No. 1 single with a rendition of "All Of Me" in 1932, which was soon followed by a slew of Top 5 and Top 10 hits, including "Body and Soul" (1932) and "Sweethearts on Parade" (1932).

That same year, Armstrong headed to England for a tour that would expand into a three-year sojourn throughout Europe. Upon his return to the United States in 1935, Armstrong signed with Decca Records, which provided him with another Top 10 hit with "I'm in the Mood for Love." He soon settled into regular touring with a big band while turning out a number of Top 10 hits, including his iconic rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In" (1939). Armstrong also began appearing regularly in motion pictures, including the Bing Crosby vehicle "Pennies from Heaven" (1936), and became the first African-American to host a national radio broadcast when he substituted Rudy Vallee on his CBS program. Armstrong settled in New York with fourth wife Lucille in 1943, just as demand for the big band sound had begun to wane. Armstrong himself was struggling to maintain his schedule of over 300 performances a year, due in part to physical problems with his fingers and lips.

Armstrong had also fallen out of favor with black audiences, who perceived his popularity with white music listeners and beaming smile as proof of his status as an "Uncle Tom," though Armstrong famously condemned the Eisenhower administration in 1957 for failing to act during the school desegregation conflict in Little Rock, Arkansas. These and other factors forced Armstrong to disband his orchestra and launch a six-piece group called the All-Stars, which featured a number of ex-bandleaders from the 1920s and '30s, including Jack Teagarden and Earl Hines. The change in band lineup did little to reduce Armstrong's popularity with mainstream audiences. He continued to land hit singles and albums, most notable the 1951 song "(When We Are Dancing) I Get Ideas" and the LP Satchmo at Symphony Hall, released that same year. Acting roles also continued to come his way, most notably in 1947's "New Orleans," a highly sanitized drama about the city's jazz scene that cast Armstrong as himself. When his contract with Decca expired in 1954, Armstrong freelanced for a variety of labels, scoring another Top 10 album with Satch Plays Fats (1955), a tribute to fellow jazz great Fats Waller. He also enjoyed critical success with a string of recordings with Ella Fitzgerald, beginning in 1956 with Ella and Louis. The demands of maintaining his ceaseless schedule took its toll on Armstrong, who suffered a heart attack in 1959. But he was soon back to work, wowing the musical industry in 1964 with his Grammy-winning recording of the title song from the musical "Hello, Dolly!" The single reached No. 1 and broke the Beatles' 14-week hold on the top spot on the Billboard pop chart.

Armstrong would score one final No. 1 with his 1968 rendition of "What a Wonderful World," which peaked at the top of the U.K. singles chart. The following year, he appeared opposite Barbra Streisand in the ill-fated film version of "Hello, Dolly!" while touring the world as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations. His final live concert appearance came at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1970. Eleven months later, Armstrong succumbed to a heart attack in his sleep at his home in Corona, Queens, NY on July 6, 1971. His pallbearers including Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Ed Sullivan and Dizzy Gillespie, while Peggy Lee and Al Hibber performed during the services. Four decades after his death, Armstrong remained one of jazz music's most popular performers, enjoyed by audiences who knew of or cared little about the genre. He even scored a posthumous Top 40 hit with a 1988 re-issue of "What a Wonderful World," which had been featured prominently in the film "Good Morning Vietnam" (1987). From 1973 through 2008, 11 of his songs were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, while the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted him as an early influence in 1990. Five years later, the U.S. Post Office commemorated Armstrong on a 32 cent stamp.

By Paul Gaita

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)
Himself
Bix (1981)
Narration

Music (Feature Film)

Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
Song Performer
Second Act (2018)
Song Performer
Ben Is Back (2018)
Song Performer
The Sense of an Ending (2017)
Song
Finding Dory (2016)
Song Performer
Assassin's Creed (2016)
Song Performer
Shanghai (2015)
Song Performer
The Great Gatsby (2013)
Song Performer
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Song Performer
Jumping the Broom (2011)
Song Performer
Monte Carlo (2011)
Song Performer
New Year's Eve (2011)
Song Performer
Meet Monica Velour (2010)
Song Performer
Me and Orson Welles (2009)
Song Performer
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Song
WALL-E (2008)
Song Performer
Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (2008)
Song Performer
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Song Performer
Southland Tales (2007)
Song Performer
American Gangster (2007)
Song Performer
The White Countess (2005)
Song Performer
Bewitched (2005)
Song Performer
Lord of War (2005)
Song Performer
Miracle (2004)
Song Performer
Normal (2003)
Song
Blow (2001)
Song Performer
Pearl Harbor (2001)
Song Performer
Serendipity (2001)
Song Performer ("Cool Yule")
Walter and Henry (2001)
Song Performer
Town & Country (2001)
Song Performer
Joe Gould's Secret (2000)
Song Performer
My Favorite Martian (1999)
Song Performer
The Love Letter (1999)
Song Performer
Les Enfants du marais (1999)
Song Performer
The Cider House Rules (1999)
Song Performer
Liberty Heights (1999)
Song Performer
My Life So Far (1999)
Song
At First Sight (1999)
Song Performer
A Saintly Switch (1999)
Song Performer
Office Space (1999)
Song Performer
A la place du coeur (1998)
Song Performer ("Beale Street Blues")
The Impostors (1998)
Song Performer
The Newton Boys (1998)
Song
You've Got Mail (1998)
Song Performer
Madeline (1998)
Song Performer ("What A Wonderful World")
Out to Sea (1997)
Song Performer
My Son the Fanatic (1997)
Song
Wild Man Blues (1997)
Song
Secrets of the Heart (1997)
Song Performer ("Lord You Made The Night Too Long")
My Son the Fanatic (1997)
Song Performer ("Back O'Town Blues")
That Old Feeling (1997)
Song Performer
Eve's Bayou (1997)
Song Performer
Still Breathing (1997)
Song Performer
Still Breathing (1997)
Song
My Fellow Americans (1996)
Song Performer
Prisoner of the Mountains (1996)
Song Performer ("Go Down Moses")
Miami Rhapsody (1995)
Song Performer
Gravesend (1995)
Song Performer
Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
Song Performer
Class Act (1992)
Song Performer
Storyville (1992)
Song
Rambling Rose (1991)
Song Performer
Den Store Badedag (1991)
Songs
Harlem Nights (1989)
Song Performer
When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
Song Performer
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Song Performer
The Puppetoon Movie (1987)
Song
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Song Performer
The Color Purple (1985)
Song Performer
The Cotton Club (1984)
Song
Repo Man (1984)
Song Performer
They All Laughed (1981)
Song Performer
Stardust Memories (1980)
Song Performer
The Hollywood Knights (1980)
Song Performer
Saint Jack (1979)
Song Performer
Saint Jack (1979)
Song
Killer of Sheep (1979)
Song Performer ("West End Blues")
Haervaerk (1977)
Music
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
Song Performer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)
Other
Only You (1994)
Other

Cast (Special)

Taxicab Confessions 3 (1996)
Performer
The Promised Land (1995)
Performer
More of the Best of the Hollywood Palace (1993)
An Hour With Danny Kaye (1960)
Himself
Crescendo (1957)
Guest
You're the Top (1956)
Guest

Music (Special)

Hot! Hot! Hot! The Best of Taxicab Confessions 3 (2001)
Song Performer
Twas the Night (2001)
Song Performer
Armstrong -- When the Saints Go Marching In (2000)
Song
Porgy and Bess: An American Voice (1998)
Song Performer
Marsalis on Music (1995)
Music
Routes of Rhythm With Harry Belafonte (1990)
Song Performer
Satchmo: The Life of Louis Armstrong (1989)
Music

Life Events

1913

Arrested on New Year's Eve after discharging a pistol in the air

1917

Played in various bands in Storyville

1919

Joined Fate Marable's band in St. Louis, Missouri

1922

Invited to join Joe Oliver's Creole Jazz Band; played second coronet

1924

At wife's urging, left Oliver and moved to NYC

1924

Spent a year playing with Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra

1925

Moved to Chicago and joined wife Lillian Hardin's musical group; performed at the Dreamland

1925

Made first recordings for Okeh Records with the Hot Five and the Hot Seven bands

1928

Headed back to NYC

1929

Played in the pit orchestra for the all-Black revue "Hot Chocolates"

1929

Made popular recording of Fats Waller's song "Ain't Misbehavin'"

1930

Relocated to L.A.; fronted the Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra

1936

Appeared in the movie musical "Pennies From Heaven"

Photo Collections

High Society - Movie Posters
Here are a few original release movie posters for High Society (1956), starring Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Grace Kelly.
High Society - Publicity Stills
Here are several Publicity Stills from High Society (1956). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
High Society - Grace Kelly Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are several photos of Grace Kelly taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's High Society (1956), costarring Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, and directed by Charles Walters.

Videos

Movie Clip

New Orleans (1947) — (Movie Clip) — (Do You Know What It Means To Miss) New Orleans Not a little bit mind-bending, Billie Holiday is well composed as an actress, playing the maid Endie, with Dorothy Patrick the enthused daughter of her employer, before her first song in her only movie, a standard by Louis Alter and Eddie DeLange, with Louis Armstrong her boyfriend in the band, in the independent jazz showcase from producers Herbert Biberman and Jules Levey, New Orleans, 1947.
Impact (1949) - Need A Hand? Steep acceleration here from nebulous ill-intent to vicious (though incompetent) murder attempt, fake brother-in-law Jim (Tony Barrett) contrived the flat tire en route from Sausalito to San Rafael (presumably via US-101, which looks a lot different today), in league with the wife (Irene) of auto exec Walt (Brian Donlevy), who gets victimized, leading to all kinds of trouble, in Impact, 1949.
Pillow To Post (1945) - Watcha Say? (Louis Armstrong) Ida Lupino as sales-gal Jean is juggling William Prince as soldier Don, posing as her husband so she could get military housing, and Johnny Mitchell as client Slim, who wanted a dinner date, while Louis Armstrong leads his band with Dorothy Dandridge singing a tune by Burton Lane and Ted Koehler, in Pillow To Post, 1945.
Paris Blues (1961) - Open, Take The A Train "Take The A Train" is the number with Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier pretending to play in the opening to the pretty-much all Duke Ellington jazz movie Paris Blues, 1961, directed by Martin Ritt, also starring Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll.
Paris Blues (1961) - Wild Man Moore Jazz ex-pat Ram (Paul Newman) arrives to meet "Wild Man Moore" (Louis Armstrong) at the train and is pleased to encounter tourists Connie (Diahann Carroll) and Lillian (Joanne Woodward) in Martin Ritt's Paris Blues, 1961.
Cabin In The Sky (1943) - Open, Free Will Credits and first scene from MGM's production of the Broadway musical Cabin In The Sky, 1943, starring Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Ethel Waters and Lena Horne, directed by Vincente Minnelli.
Cabin In The Sky (1943) - One Of Your Favorite Daughters The "Idea Men" at the "Hotel Hades" include Louis Armstrong, Mantan Moreland and Willie Best, led by "Lucifer Jr." (Rex Ingram), speaking to his father, then visiting the temptress Georgia (Lena Horne) in Cabin In The Sky, 1943.
Song Is Born, A (1948) - How Jazz Was Born The musical show-stopper, joining the original novelty number by Don Raye and Gene de Paul, Virginia Mayo dubbed by Jeri Sullavan, Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet on sax, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Mel Powell on piano, and Louie Bellson drumming, Danny Kaye the professor in charge, in Howard Hawks’ remake of his own Ball Of Fire, 1942, A Song Is Born, 1948.
High Society (1956) - High Society Calpyso Louis Armstrong performs "High Society Calypso," composed to order by Cole Porter for the opening of the musical remake of The Philadelphia Story starring Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Celeste Holm and Grace Kelly, High Society, 1956.
Glory Alley (1952) - Title Song New Orleans boxer Socks (Ralph Meeker) is leaving to fight in Korea, so this sendoff with pals (John McIntire, Gilbert Roland et al) features a song from his trainer Shadow (Louis Armstrong), also the world’s greatest trumpeter, an original by Mack David and Jay Livingston, in Glory Alley, 1952.
Glory Alley (1952) - Socks Barbarrosa Joining Raoul Walsh’s opening narrated by John McIntire as journalist Gabe, with Ralph Meeker as New Orleans boxer Socks Barbarossa, Gilbert Roland and Louis Armstrong in his corner, Pat Valentino his opponent and Kurt Kasznar his blind friend “The Judge,” in Glory Alley, 1952.
Glory Alley (1952) - You Have A Flaw Boxer Socks (Ralph Meeker) in a New Orleans bar, mocked by a gambler (Dan Seymour) for walking out on a fight, trying to explain to blind friend “The Judge” (Kurt Kasznar), who’s his girlfriend’s father, his trainer, musician Shadow (Louis Armstrong) philosophical, in Glory Alley, 1952.

Trailer

Family

Lucy
Grandmother
Raised Armstrong and his sister.
Willie Armstrong
Father
Laborer. Abandoned family shortly after Louis' birth.
Mary Ann Albert
Mother
Domestic, prostitute. Was 15 when she gave birth to Louis; left Armstrong and his sister in her mother's care.
Beatrice Armstrong Collins
Sister
Survived him.
Henry Armstrong
Half-Brother
Survived him.
William Armstrong
Half-Brother
Survived him.
Clarence Hatfield
Son
Adopted; survived him.

Companions

Daisy Parker
Wife
Prostitute. Married c. 1919; divorced c. 1924.
Lilian Hardin
Wife
Pianist. Met when both performed with the Creole Jazz Band; married in 1924; separated c. 1927; divorced in 1938.
Alpha Smith
Wife
Met c. 1926; had relationship for 12 years before marrying in 1938; divorced in 1942.
Lucille Wilson
Wife
Dancer. Married from 1942 until his death.

Bibliography