Louis Armstrong

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Louis Armstrong, 1953
Armstrong's signature

Louis Daniel "Satchmo" Armstrong (born August 4, 1901 in New Orleans –  died July 6, 1971 in New York City ) was an American jazz trumpeter , singer and actor .


Youth in New Orleans

Louis Armstrong always gave July 4th, the United States Independence Day , of the year 1900 as his date of birth. This was often the case, especially among the Afro-American part of the population of the United States, when their own date of birth and the circumstances of their birth were not known or did not correspond to social ideas. It is also fitting that he made himself a year older and brought his birth forward to the turn of the century, which made it easier for him as a youth to enter the establishments of Storyville , the entertainment district of New Orleans . The actual date of birth – August 4, 1901 – only emerges from his baptismal certificate , which was discovered in 1983 (i.e. posthumously) .

He was born in the poorest of circumstances and only grew up with his mother part of the time. At the age of seven he had to sell newspapers. In early 1913, after shooting his uncle's revolver in the air on New Year's Eve, he was committed to the Colored Waif's Home for Boys for rioting. In the strictly organized institution, Armstrong learned the basics of playing the cornet . Until 1918, he got by with small jobs and his first appearances as a musician in the city's red -light district .

Beginnings as a jazz musician

From 1918 to 1919, Armstrong played regularly in Fate Marable 's band on a Mississippi steamer, entertaining passengers on the long trips upriver. In 1918, 15-year-old Bix Beiderbecke is said to have heard him in Davenport . In 1918 he replaced trumpeter King Oliver in the band he led with trombonist Kid Ory . When Oliver moved to Chicago , Armstrong followed him in 1922, joining King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band as second trumpet, playing at the Lincoln Gardens Cafe on Chicago 's South Side . From this time there are already the first audio documents (including Chimes Blues ). According to numerous reports from contemporary witnesses, the duo Oliver and Armstrong wrote music history with their two-part break improvisations, especially during their live performances. In 1924, Armstrong married Lilian "Lil" Hardin , the band's Memphis -native pianist. Shortly thereafter, on her advice, he joined Fletcher Henderson 's band , where he quickly became a star soloist and was no longer overshadowed by his teacher Oliver.

The Hot Five and Hot Seven

Contemporary British licensed pressing from 1928
Louis Armstrong, 1953

In 1925 Armstrong left the Henderson band. From that year onwards numerous recordings were made, which he and Lil made mainly with quintet and septet formations, which called themselves Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five and Hot Seven respectively . Many of these recordings are now considered milestones in jazz history. Pioneering recordings such as West End Blues (voted jazz record of the century by jazz critics), Potato Head Blues , Struttin' with Some Barbecue , Wild Man Blues , Fireworks and Heebie Jeebies emerged . In some of these recordings he also showed his talent as a singer, particularly in scat singing. Also notable is his collaboration with pianist Earl Hines in the late 1920s. In 1927, following the general trend, Armstrong switched from the softer sounding cornet to the harder trumpet .

Recording of Louis Armstrong's visit to Brazil, 1957.

The World Star

German single Onkel Satchmo's Lullaby in duet with Gabriele , 1959
At a press conference in East Berlin, March 19, 1965

As early as 1926 he had his first hit on the Billboard charts with Kid Ory's Muskrat Ramble , which was followed by 78 more until 1966. In February 1932 he managed his first number one hit with a version of All of Me . From the early 1930s, during which the new jazz style of swing was developing, he appeared mainly in big bands (including Luis Russell 's orchestra ), following the new trend, and quickly became known both inside and outside the United States. From 1932 numerous tours took him to Europe and later to the whole world. In 1947 he broke up his big band and returned to his origins, New Orleans jazz and small formations (Louis Armstrong and his All Stars feat. Velma Middleton ). In the 1950s and 1960s it was his talent as a singer and entertainer in particular that made him a world star. He achieved a further increase in his popularity through the Hollywood films in which he participated, such as B. The Glenn Miller Story , The Top Ten , and Hello, Dolly! .

Not least because of his worldwide fame, he was sent by the US government to the East-West conflict at the height of the Cold War in the 1950s as a musical mobilizer. From 1956 he traveled with artists such as Benny Goodman in the Eastern Bloc and in Africa and Asia, which were being courted by both the United States and the USSR . In 1956, 100,000 people came to a stadium in today 's Ghana to experience it. Along with other jazz stars such as Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington , Armstrong also used his popularity on his tours to demand human and civil rights for African Americans . In 1957, for example, he refused to travel to the USSR on behalf of the State Department because of racial segregation in the United States .

His tireless energy and many performances took a toll on his health early on. In the face of several serious crises, doctors advised him not to play the trumpet to protect his health. Committed to the audience and his ambition, he has since then focused more on singing. In 1969 he interpreted the song We have all the time in the world by John Barry and Hal David for the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service with George Lazenby as 007. During this time, however, with a few exceptions (including the singing duets with Ella Fitzgerald , for example on Ella and Louis ), because of his physical weakness no longer build on the groundbreaking achievements of the 1920s and 1930s as a jazz trumpeter and jazz singer.

Louis Armstrong died of a heart attack in New York in 1971 at the age of 69 . His grave is in Flushing Cemetery, Queens .

meaning and aftermath

The President of the American Guild of Variety Artists Youth Fund presents Armstrong with an award, 1966
Floribunda rose ' Satchmo' (McGredy 1970)

Armstrong had his musical roots in New Orleans jazz. He played a key role in the development of this style away from collective improvisation to the highlighted solo and founded the "star soloists" in jazz. He also set technical standards for jazz trumpeters , especially in the 1920s . He is regarded as one of the most important instrumental soloists in jazz.

He has stylistically influenced almost all descendant trumpeters of traditional jazz styles. His influence can still be felt today in younger musicians such as Wynton Marsalis . In addition, Armstrong, whose distinctive voice established his worldwide popularity, is one of jazz's best-known singers alongside Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 . After his death, Phoebe Jacobs co- founded the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. The second largest tennis court in Flushing Meadows ( US Open ) is named after him, as is Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport , 19 km away in Kenner .

In 1970, Samuel Darragh McGredy introduced a red floribunda rose , which he named "Satchmo" in honor of Louis Armstrong.

Known Pieces

WC Handy 's St. Louis Blues and the romantic What a Wonderful World by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele hardly have any jazz reminiscences. Armstrong also dabbled in musical theater ; Mack the Knife ( Mackie Messer ) from Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera and Hello Dolly are probably played more often in Armstrong's interpretation than in the original version for the theater stage.

In 1969, Armstrong sang the track "We Have All the Time in the World" for the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service .


Armstrong's nickname "Satchmo" is a contraction of Satchel mouth , a reference to the size of his mouth. As a child he was also called Gate mouth (“barn door mouth”). Another variant of his early nickname was Dippermouth (roughly "dipper-mouth"). This name inspired the title Dippermouth Blues .

He used to pronounce his first name Louis in English (like Lewis) and not in French.

Discographic Notes

  • Hot Fives & Sevens (JSP, 1925–1930) or The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings (Columbia/Legacy. 1925–1929) (4-CD set)
  • The Early Years (1925–1931, with Hot Seven and Hot Five)
  • Satchmo at Symphony Hall (GRP, 1947)
  • Louis Armstrong Plays WC Handy (Columbia, 1954)
  • Ella and Louis (Verve, 1956, starring Ella Fitzgerald )
  • Hello Dolly! (Kapp, 1964)
  • What a Wonderful World (Bluebird, 1970)
  • Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars: Satchmo Live in Berlin Friedrichstadtpalast: The legendary Berlin Concert. The complete concert of March 22, 1965, featuring: Billy Kyle, Tyree Glenn, Eddie Shu, Arvell Shaw and Danny Barcelona ( Jazzpoint Records , 2000. Two CDs with detailed travelogues by Karlheinz Drechsel , the tour accompanist through what was then East Germany.)

Filmography (selection)

In 2016, the Louis Armstrong House Museum acquired the hitherto unknown and only film that shows Louis Armstrong in the studio recording of Satchmo plays King Oliver in 1959 . The 33-minute film was made by music producer Sid Frey according to professional standards, but was not used further and Frey also concealed its existence.


  • Louis Armstrong: Swing That Music . Longmans, Green and Co., New York 1936. Reprint: Da Capo Press 1993, ISBN 978-0-306-80544-8 .
  • Louis Armstrong: My Life in New Orleans ( Satchmo - My Life in New Orleans ). Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 1985, ISBN 3-257-20359-4 .


web links

Commons : Louis Armstrong  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. Louis Armstrong, Barring Soviet Tour, Denounces Eisenhower and Gov. faubus. In: The New York Times . 19 September 1957, retrieved 12 February 2020 (English).
  2. Klaus Nerger: Louis Daniel Armstrong called Satchmo. In: knerger.de. Retrieved 9 July 2021 .
  3. 'Satchmo' Rose References. In: HelpMeFind roses. Retrieved 9 July 2021 (English).
  4. Only known film of Louis Armstrong in studio discovered in storage facility. In: The Guardian . 20 April 2016, retrieved 21 April 2016 (English). Only known film of Louis Armstrong in studio discovered in storage facility. (mp4 video; 8.4 MB; 1:13 minutes) In: Louis Armstrong House Museum. Retrieved July 9, 2021 (English, reproduced on theguardian.tv).