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Louis Armstrong, despite being dismissed as many as a bit of light weight was one of the most influential musicians, arrangers and bandleaders to emerge during the twentieth century. 

A gifted trumpet player, Armstrong was known to all as “Satchmo” an abbreviation of “Satchel Mouth” because of his ability to blow his cheeks out to tremendous proportions while playing his trumpet. Other unique Satchmo characteristics were his deep rasping singing voice and the permanent white napkin that he held in his hand while playing, as he would sweat profusely under the bright lights.

 

 

Armstrong was born into the extreme poverty of New Orleans in August 1901. His parents had an extremely difficult time coping and the young Louis was largely brought up by his maternal grandmother. Even as a child, Armstrong showed a tremendous interest in music. With money being so scarce, any form of lessons  or buying an instrument seemed out of the question. However, Louis was a very determined young man and he worked after school at a local scrap dealer to make enough money to buy a second-hand and very battered cornet.

 

Louis knew that this cornet was his passport out of poverty and he practiced around the clock to pursue his dream of  becoming  a professional musician.

When he was just twelve years old, Louis found himself  in trouble with the law, leading in him being sent to reform school.  Armstrong confessed  to looking back on that period  as something of a blessing in disguise. This was because, under the strict regimes of the reform school, Louis learned the meaning of discipline, but also had all the time and the encouragement in the world to practice his music, not only on the cornet, but also on the trumpet which he began to prefer.

 

 

On his release, Armstrong, then only 13 years old began to play with local bands and his trumpeting skills soon began to capture a bit of a local following. 

 

Soon, Louis Armstrong was signed up to become a member  of the brass section  of a New Orleans band led by "King" Oliver. Having developed a taste for the big band sound, Louis left the "King" Oliver band, singing another local band known as the Fate Marable.

It was while he was with the Fate Marable that Louis captured the attention of Chicago based  impresario, Joe Oliver. Oliver convinced Armstrong, already a music veteran at 21, that the music scene in the “Windy City” would be blown away by his talents, and Louis left New Orleans to test his developing talents.   

 

Things did go well for Louis Armstrong in Chicago and  he soon became a standout with the local crowds. It didn't take too long for some of the more established bands to come knocking and Armstrong decided to take up an offer from the Fletcher Henderson band to join them as their trumpeter.

With an established following, the e next logical step  for  Armstrong to further his  career was to form his own band, which he did late in 1925.

Satchmo's first band was actually a quintet, called  the Hot Fives, which rapidly grew r to become the Hot Sevens. In their days  the Hot Sevens  were confined  to the studio. However, as their record sales grew, demands began to increase for them to make live performances.

When the first Louis Armstrong band played the road in the summer and autumn of 1926, the key members were Kid Ory playing the trombone, his wife Lillian Harden Armstrong on the piano, clarinet, master Johnny Dodds, and Johnny St. Cyr playing banjo.

 

 

After a couple of years of chopping and changing Armstrong felt that the time was right to introduce  New York to his band, with his initial engagement taking place at the famous Connie's Inn in Harlem in May 1929.

Satchmo also arranged himself a guest slot in the orchestra providing the music for a Broadway revue known as Hot Chocolates. The show's producers took a liking to Armstrong's deep and unusual singing voice and gave him featured spot for his rendition of Fats Waller’s "Ain't Misbehavin', which made  the US  Top Ten in the autumn of 1930.

Armstrong, during the early thirties,  had arrived at his “comfort zone” as a musician, singer  and band leader, and would continue  with this winning formula throughout the rest of his career as a bandleader. Satchmo never actually formed his own orchestra, instead acting as a front man and adding his name and reputation to other orchestras.

 

 

All during the early Thirties,  Armstrong would float like a butterfly from band to band whilst at the same time recording music, which consistently succeeded in making it to the top or near of the US charts. 

 

 

By the mid nineteen thirties, Armstrong had established a strong presence in the US which looked likely to remain in place for years to come. He also had a large number of recorded songs in the archives of  his record company, which they would  release periodically to keep interest in Satchmo alive.

In the meantime Satchmo took some time out from the US music scene, touring with local bands  in Europe,  before the gathering war clouds became too difficult to ignore.

After his return stateside,  Armstrong’s career was at its height, chalking up consistent hit records for Decca, with among  the most outstanding being  “When the Saints Go Marching in.”

 

When  the United States entered into the Second World War  in December 1941, it came at a time when the music industry was in a state of advanced turmoil due to the music recording strike which had just begun, and was only settled in 1944.

 

After America emerged victorious from World War Two and the musician’s strik,  there was little left of the big bands that had ruled the roost in the thirties, with many of them having gone to the wall.

However, Armstrong had fought too hard to get to the top and after reappraising the situation established a smaller sized band and began to appear in the clubs around Los Angeles, where he had made his home.

Encouraged by their success on the West Coast , Satchmo took his band back on the road in the early part of 1948, eventually arranging his  their first  post war European tour, which proved to be an outstanding  success, both musically as well as improving the moral of the tens of thousands of American troops still serving overseas.

 

 

During the sixties and early seventies, Satchmo grew to become something of a cult figure in the pop music world, hitting the top of the charts in the mid-60s with this, version  of the title song from the Broadway musical Hello, Dolly!, that also. It won him a Grammy for best vocal performance.

 

Four years later Louis Armstrong found himself with a major international hit on his hands with the song "What a Wonderful World," which was to chart several times, especially after figured prominently in the hit Robin Williams movie “ Good Morning, Vietnam”,  released in the late 1980s.

 

Armstrong passed away in 1971. However, his legacy lives on in the music that he created, and his never ceasing ability and desire to reach out to his audience with humility and humor.

 Please take a moment to browse though the links below. Why not pick out a particular Louis Armstrong tune, even one that you may never have heard before and relive the magical sounds of that special time in musical history.

 

 

   
       
  A Fine Romance Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Blues in the Night Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Body and Soul Listen to this song on You Tube  
  I've Got the World on a String Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Just one of These Things Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Let's do it ( Let's Fall in Love) Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Love Walked In Listen to this song on You Tube  
  That Old Feeling Listen to this song on You Tube  
  When the Saints go Marching In Listen to this song on You Tube  
  You're the Tops Listen to this song on You Tube