Louis Armstrong

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Armstrong, Louis

Armstrong, Louis (Daniel Louis Armstrong), known as “Satchmo” and “Pops,” 1901–1971, American jazz trumpet virtuoso, singer, and bandleader, b. New Orleans. He learned to play the cornet in the band of the Waif's Home in New Orleans, and after playing with Kid Ory's orchestra he made several trips (1918–21) with a Mississippi riverboat band. He joined (1922) King Oliver's group in Chicago, where he met and married the pianist Lilian Hardin. His early playing was noted for improvisation, and his reputation as trumpeter and as vocalist was quickly established. A famous innovator, Armstrong was a major influence on the melodic development of jazz in the 1920s; because of him solo performance attained a position of great importance in jazz. He organized several large bands, worked with most of the masters of jazz (and with many of those in other musical forms), and beginning in 1932 made numerous foreign tours. Armstrong appeared in Broadway shows, at countless jazz festivals, and in several American and foreign films. His archives are housed at Queens College, which also maintains his Queens, N.Y., home as a museum.


See his memoir, Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans (1954, repr. 1986); his selected writings ed. by T. Brothers (1999); biographies by G. Giddens (1988), L. Bergreen (1997), and T. Teachout (2009); study by J. L. Collier (2 vol., 1983–86); J. Berrett, Louis Armstrong Companion (1999).

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Armstrong, Louis (Daniel) “Satchmo” (“Pops”)

(1901–71) jazz musician; born in New Orleans. He was an innovative trumpeter and singer who was the leading star of jazz throughout his career. Raised by his mother in extreme poverty, at age 12 he served a term for delinquency at the Colored Waifs Home, where he learned to play the cornet. By 1919 he was playing with Kid Ory's band in New Orleans, and also with Fate Marable on Mississippi riverboats. In 1922, he joined his mentor, King Oliver's trailblazing Creole Jazz Band, in Chicago, and in 1924 he spent a year with Fletcher Henderson's pioneering big band in New York, where he also recorded with Bessie Smith and other leading blues singers. Between 1925 and 1929, he made his classic Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings, which shaped the course of jazz for the next two decades. In 1930, his recording of the pop song "Ain't Misbehavin'" became his first show business hit, and for the next 17 years he appeared as a star soloist with various big bands in an increasingly commercial context. In 1947, he formed his All Stars, a Dixieland-style sextet with which he maintained a constant international touring schedule until his death. He appeared in over 50 films as a musician and entertainer, including New Orleans (1947), Paris Blues (1961), and Hello, Dolly! (1969). His autobiography, Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans, was published in 1954.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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