Lil Hardin Armstrong

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Lillian "Lil" Hardin Armstrong (born February 3, 1898 in Memphis , Tennessee , † August 27, 1971 in Chicago , Illinois ) was an American jazz pianist, singer and composer. According to her biographer James L. Dickerson, she was one of the most important figures in the development of early jazz as a composer and “behind the scenes” person.

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As a child, the half-orphan played the organ in the church. Lillian Hardin studied music at Fisk University in Nashville, known for promoting African American music tradition . She then performed pianos and sheet music in a music store. There was also a “test of strength” with Jelly Roll Morton . In the late 1910s she got her way despite family vetoes and worked as a jazz musician: from 1918 she played with Lawrence Duhé , where she performed with Freddie Keppard , who is said to have been known as an interpreter of the then new New Orleans jazz as early as 1916 . and then with Joe King Oliver .

In Oliver's Creole Jazz Band she met Louis Armstrong , whom she married in 1924. In 1925 she played in Chicago for the reopening of the Dreamland Cafe with her Dreamland Syncopators , to which her husband (returning from New York) joined as a star soloist in November 1925. Hardin wrote songs for his Hot Five ensemble and from 1925 to 1927 played the piano with this legendary studio band, which also made recordings under the name Lill's Hot Shots .

One of Hardin's better known titles is Struttin 'with Some Barbecue (1928). Louis became familiar with it, but it was hardly noticed. "I stood at the foot of the ladder, held it tight and saw him climb up," she later summed up her role. The Armstrong's marriage was not long and they were divorced in 1938 after six years of separation. In the following years, despite numerous recordings and radio appearances, she was not always able to build on her early successes. Her band of the early 1930s, which she led with the baton, was featured on posters as "Mrs. Louis Armstrong ”, marketed with“ Mrs. ”in small print, which led to confusion between trumpeter Jonah Jones and Satchmo. She also played again with Freddie Keppard and with Johnny Dodds . Sometimes Lillian Hardin also worked as an arranger for other bands or supplemented them in the studio or on tour. She later performed often in Chicago as a solo pianist and singer. But she also worked in other professions: she taught French and designed clothes.

Besides Struttin 'with Some Barbecue , Hardin wrote songs like Don't Jive Me , Two Deuces , Knee Drops , Doin' the Suzie-Q , Just for a Thrill (with which Ray Charles had a hit in 1959), Clip Joint or Bad Boy ( 1978 a hit for Ringo Starr ). She was not only one of the first important pianists, composers and band leaders in the early days of jazz; it was also the engine behind the career of young Louis Armstrong. She recorded her memoirs on record under the title Satchmo and me . She died a few weeks after Louis Armstrong when she gave a memorial concert for him in Chicago in 1971.


  • James L. Dickerson Just for a Thrill: Lil Hardin Armstrong, First Lady of Jazz New York: Cooper Square Press 2002; ISBN 0815411952
  • Sally Placksin Women in Jazz. From the turn of the century to the present Vienna: Hannibal 1989 (pp. 76–81); ISBN 3-85445-044-3

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