The two-pronged talent of Louis Armstrong was one of the more joyous treasures to have come out of jazz -- his warm, jubilant vocals were as intricate and charismatic as his trumpeting. Raised in New Orleans in loving poverty by his... [more]
The two-pronged talent of Louis Armstrong was one of the more joyous treasures to have come out of jazz -- his warm, jubilant vocals were as intricate and charismatic as his trumpeting. Raised in New Orleans in loving poverty by his grandmother, Armstrong organized a street performance group at age seven. Arrested at age 13 for firing a pistol in the street (in celebration of New Year's Eve), he got his start playing trumpet while incarcerated in the Coloured Waifs' Home. He was later employed unloading banana boats, delivering coal, and selling newspapers. By 1919, he was playing in Kid Ory's Band and proceeded to work various gigs, from street parades to clubs, until his first recording in 1925. He traveled the world playing his trumpet, making movies, and marrying various women (the last, Lucille Wilson, remained his wife from 1947 until his death). For the last 20 years of his life he played with his own septet, "Louis Armstrong and the All Stars." Satchmo was one of the originators of scat singing, in which the voice is used like a musical instrument. He was equally capable of using his trumpet like a human voice. The overall character of his music is perfectly summed up by his statement: "And all I'm saying is, see what a wonderful world it would be if only we would give it a chance. Love, baby, love. That's the secret. Yeah." He flowed easily through the worlds of swing, big band, and jazz, and also had a profound impact on pop music. As a performer, his powerful presence led him to become one of the first African American superstars ever. The "Guinness Book Of World Records" lists Armstrong as the oldest performer ever to achieve a number one hit record.