Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901 to Mary Albert and William Armstrong. He grew up on the streets of New Orleans
in an impoverished neighborhood. His parents weren’t often around, so Louis sang in order to earn coins. He was also forced to search through garbage cans to find his next meal.
When his father, a factory worker, abandoned the family, Louis’ mother moved to an even seedier part of town. Louis then moved in with his paternal grandmother, Josephine Armstrong. He was finally reunited with his mother, and they lived in a poor neighborhood that was called, “the Battlefield”. This neighborhood was known for its gangs, prostitution houses, dance halls and honky tonks. It was from the latter two places that Louis got his first taste of blue and ragtime music.
What happened next was bad, but it turned out to be a good thing for eleven year-old Louis Armstrong. On New Year’s Day in 1913, he fired a pistol into the air. Louis was arrested by the police and sent to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys. The home’s band instructor, Peter Davis,
gave Louis music lessons. He learned to play the cornet in the band.
The following year, Louis was released from the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys. He worked odd jobs in order to support himself, his mother, and his sister. And he kept up with his music.
Four years later, in 1918, Louis started playing with Zutty Singleton’s Trio and The Silver Leaf Band. He also appeared in parades with the Allen Brass Band. Louis even got a spot in the Kid Ory Band in 1919. Louis Armstrong finally accepted a two year stint on Fate Marable’s riverboat band in St. Louis.
Married and divorced from his first wife, Louis met Lil Hardin when he joined Joe Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in 1922. Hardin was a pianist in the band. Being that he had exceptional musical talents, Louis Armstrong’s new wife Lil encouraged him to sign on with Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra at the Roseland Ballroom in New York.
Louis Armstrong had a successful hitch with the orchestra. He recorded “St. Louis Blues” with Bessie Smith, and the song turned out to be a hit.
The year 1925 came, and Louis moved back to Chicago. He also changed from playing the cornet to the trumpet. He also started his own band, called the “Hot Five”, and he recorded his very first album with them. Louis’ musical career continued to skyrocket, and in 1929, he recorded the hit, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.
Louis had earned the nickname “Satchmo” which was short for “satchel mouth”. However, after he was hired to perform in international tours by the State Department, his new nickname became “Ambassador Satch”.
Louis Armstrong would end up performing in fifteen films. He also appeared on many television shows, including The Tonight Show and the Ed Sullivan Show. His musical career kept him busy throughout his life.
In his personal life, Louis divorced his estranged wife Lil in 1938. He married Alpha Smith , but after three years, the marriage ended in divorce. In 1942, Louis married Lucille Wilson, the woman who would be his wife until his death.
Finally, Louis Armstrong suffered a heart attack in 1959. His failing health prevented him from playing his beloved trumpet. But, he kept on singing. He recorded another hit, “Hello Dolly”
with Duke Ellington in 1964. He also recorded “What a Wonderful World”, and it climbed the music charts.
In 1971, Louis Armstrong passed away in Queens, New York. His funeral was at the New York National Guard Armory, and there more than twenty-five thousand in attendance.