Louis Armstrong

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Louis Armstrong, 1953
Armstrong's signature

Louis Daniel "Satchmo" Armstrong (born August 4, 1901 in New Orleans , †  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 Independence Day of the United States , in 1900 as his date of birth. This was particularly common among the African-American part of the United States' population when their own date and circumstances of birth were unknown or did not correspond to social expectations. It also fits 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 teenager to access the establishments of Storyville , the entertainment district of New Orleans . Only from his baptismal certificate , discovered posthumously in 1983, does the actual date of birth - August 4, 1901 - emerge.

He was born in the poorest of circumstances and only grew up temporarily with his mother. As a seven year old he had to sell newspapers. In early 1913 he was admitted to the Colored Waif's Home for Boys, an institution for homeless, African-American youth, for causing troubles, after he shot his uncle's revolver in the air on New Year's Eve. In the strictly organized institution, Armstrong learned the basics of playing cornet . Until 1918 he managed to get by with small jobs and first appearances as a musician in the city's red light district .

Beginnings as a musician

From 1918 to 1919 Armstrong played regularly in the band of Fate Marable on a Mississippi steamer, which entertained the 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 the trumpeter King Oliver in the band, which he led together with the trombonist Kid Ory . When Oliver moved to Chicago , Armstrong followed him in 1922 and joined King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band as 2nd trumpeter, which played in the Lincoln Gardens Café on the South Side of Chicago. There are already first sound documents from this period (including Chimes Blues ). According to numerous reports from contemporary witnesses, the duo Oliver and Armstrong is said to have made music history with their two-part break improvisations, especially during their live performances. In 1924 Armstrong married Lilian "Lil" Hardin , the band's Memphis- born pianist. Shortly thereafter, on her advice, he switched to the band of Fletcher Henderson , where he quickly became a star soloist and was no longer in the shadow of his teacher Oliver.

The Hot Five and Hot Seven

British license pressing from 1928
Louis Armstrong, 1953

In 1925 Armstrong left the Henderson band. From that year onwards, he and Lil made numerous recordings, mainly with quintet and septet formations called Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five and Hot Seven , respectively . Many of these recordings are now considered milestones in jazz history. Trend-setting 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 were made . In some of these recordings he also demonstrated his talent as a singer, especially scat singing. Also of note is his collaboration with pianist Earl Hines in the late 1920s. In 1927 Armstrong switched from the softer sounding cornet to the harder trumpet following the general trend .

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

The world star

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

In 1926 he had his first hit on the Billboard charts with Kid Orys Muskrat Ramble , which was followed by 78 more by 1966. In February 1932 he had his first number 1 hit with a version of All of Me . Since the early 1930s, during which the new jazz style of swing developed, he appeared following the new fashion mainly in big bands (including the orchestra of Luis Russell ) and quickly became known inside and outside the United States. From 1932 onwards numerous tours took him to Europe and later all over the 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 especially his talent as a singer and entertainer 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 Thousand and Hello, Dolly! .

Not least because of his worldwide fame, at the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, the US government sent him to the East-West conflict as a musical mobilizer. From 1956 he traveled with artists such as Benny Goodman to the Eastern Bloc as well as the countries in Africa and Asia that were courted by both the United States and the USSR . In 1956, 100,000 people came to a stadium in what is now Ghana to experience it. Together with other jazz stars like 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 his many appearances took an early toll on his health. In the face of several serious crises, the doctors advised against playing the trumpet in order to protect his health. Committed to the audience and his ambition, he has since then concentrated 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, can 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 in Queens .

Significance and aftermath

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

Armstrong had his musical roots in New Orleans jazz. He played a decisive role in the development of this style away from collective improvisation towards the prominent solo and founded the "star soloism" 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.

Stylistically, he influenced almost all of the trumpeters who followed the traditional jazz styles. His influence can still be felt today with younger musicians such as Wynton Marsalis . In addition, Armstrong, whose unmistakable voice established its worldwide popularity, is one of the most famous singers in jazz , alongside Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

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

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

Well-known pieces

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


Armstrong's nickname "Satchmo" is a shortening (contraction) of Satchel mouth (in German about "Schulranzen-Mund"), an allusion to the size of his mouth. As a child he was also called Gate mouth ("barn door mouth"). Another variant of his nickname in the early days was Dippermouth (about "ladle 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 Toilet Cell Phone (Columbia, 1954)
  • Ella and Louis (Verve, 1956, with 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 on March 22nd, 1965, with: Billy Kyle, Tyree Glenn, Eddie Shu, Arvell Shaw and Danny Barcelona (Jazzpoint Records, 2000. Two CDs with detailed travel descriptions by Karlheinz Drechsel, the tour guide through the former GDR.)

Filmography (selection)

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


  • Louis Armstrong: Swing That Music . Longmans, Green and Co., New York 1936. New edition: 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 .


  • Gene H. Anderson: The Original Hot Five Recordings of Louis Armstrong (= Cms Sourcebooks in American Music ) Pendragon Press 2007, ISBN 978-1-57647-120-3 .
  • Joachim-Ernst Behrend, Günther Huesmann: The jazz book. 7th edition. S. Fischer Verlag. Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 978-3-596-15964-2 .
  • Laurence Bergreen, Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life. Broadway Books 1998 ISBN 978-0-7679-0156-7 .
  • Thomas Brothers: Louis Armstrong's New Orleans. Norton. New York 2007, ISBN 978-0-393-33001-4 .
  • Stephen Brower: Satchmo. The Wonderful World and Art of Louis Armstrong. Abrams. New York 2009, ISBN 978-0-8109-9528-4 .
  • Michael Cogswell: Louis Armstrong. The Offstage Story of Satchmo. Collectors Press. Portland / OR 2003, ISBN 978-1-888054-81-1 .
  • James Lincoln Collier : Louis Armstrong. From New Orleans to Carnegie Hall ( Louis Armstrong ). Econ, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-612-26716-7 (in particular: Hans-Jochen Mundt, Louis-Armstrong-Diskographie , pp. 418–455; highly recommended for collectors and enthusiasts, as a comprehensive, alphabetical list of titles is attached) .
  • Anne Faber: Louis Armstrong. Dressler publishing house. Hamburg 1977, ISBN 978-3-7915-5005-3 .
  • Gary Giddins : Satchmo. Louis Armstrong, His Life and Time ( Satchmo ). Belser Verlag, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-7630-9047-9 .
  • Robert Goffin: Horn Of Plenty. Greenwood Press Publishers. Westport. Connecticut 1947, ISBN 978-0-313-20398-5 .
  • Brian Harker: Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings (= Oxford Studies in Recorded Jazz ) Oxford University Press 2011, ISBN 978-0-19-538841-1
  • Abbi Hübner : Louis Armstrong. His life, his music, his records . Oreos-Verlag, Waakirchen 1994, ISBN 3-923657-35-8 .
  • Max Jones , John Chilton : The Louis Armstrong Story ( Louis. The Louis Armstrong Story 1900–1971 ). Herder, Freiburg / B. 1973, ISBN 3-451-16584-8 .
  • Max Jones, John Chilton and Leonard Feather: Salute to Satchmo. A Melody Maker Publication. 1970, ISBN 0-901187-04-6 .
  • Wolfgang Knauer: Louis Armstrong. Reclam-Verlag, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-15-018717-3 .
  • Albert J. McCarthy : Louis Armstrong. Hatje. Stuttgart 1960, DNB 453124224 .
  • Michael Meckna: Satchmo. The Louis Armstrong Encyclopedia. Greenwood Press. Westport / CT 2004, ISBN 978-0-313-30137-7 .
  • Marc H. Miller: Louis Armstrong. King of Jazz. Munich 1996, ISBN 978-3-453-09754-4 .
  • Brian Morton, Richard Cook: The Penguin Jazz Guide: The History of the Music in the 1000 Best Albums. Penguin Books Ltd., Kindle version, 2011, ISBN 978-0-14-195900-9 .
  • Scott Allen Nollen: Louis Armstrong: The Life, Music and Screen Career. Mcfarland & Co Inc. 2010, ISBN 978-0-7864-4918-7 .
  • Ralph O'Brien: Louis Armstrong, a pictorial chronicle. Sanssouci Publishing House. Zurich 1960.
  • Hugues Panassié : Louis Armstrong . Da Capo Press, New York 1979, ISBN 0-306-79611-2 (reprint of New York 1971 edition).
  • Hugues Panassié: Louis Armstrong. Nouvelles Éditions Latines. Collection Jazz Panorama. Paris 1947, ISBN 978-2-7233-9614-1 .
  • Mike Pinfold: Louis Armstrong - His Life & Times. Omnibus Press. London - Sidney - Cologne 1987, ISBN 978-0-7119-1294-6 .
  • Arrigo Polillo : Jazz. The new encyclopedia . Schott, Mainz 2007, ISBN 978-3-254-08368-5 .
  • Ricky Riccardi: What a Wonderful World. The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years . Pantheon, ISBN 978-0-307-37844-6 .
  • Stephan Schulz: What a Wonderful World - When Louis Armstrong toured the East . New Life Publishing House, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-355-01772-5 .
  • Daniel Stein: Music Is My Life: Louis Armstrong, Autobiography, and American Jazz . University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 2012, ISBN 978-0-472-05180-9 .
  • Ilse Storb : Louis Armstrong. With testimonials and photo documents . Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1989, ISBN 3-499-50443-X .
  • David Stricklin: Louis Armstrong. The Soundtrack of the American Experience. Ivan R. Dee, Chicago 2010, ISBN 978-1-56663-836-4 .
  • Terry Teachout: Pops - A life of Louis Armstrong . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston 2009, ISBN 978-0-15-101089-9 .
  • Jos Willems: All of Me: The Complete Discography of Louis Armstrong (Studies in Jazz, No. 51), Scarecrow Press, Inc. Latham, Maryland 2006, ISBN 978-0-8108-5730-8 .

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Louis Armstrong, Barring Soviet Tour, Denounces Eisenhower and Gov. Faubus. Retrieved February 12, 2020 .
  2. knerger.de: The grave of Louis Armstrong
  3. 'Satchmo' Rose References. HelpMeFind roses, accessed October 22, 2014 .
  4. Only known film of Louis Armstrong in studio discovered in storage facility in: The Guardian , April 20, 2016, accessed April 21, 2016.