Louis Daniel Armstrong, born August 4, 1901, was an American trumpeter whose career spanned five decades. He is one of the most influential figures in jazz music. Armstrong had a unique tone and a talent for melodic improvisation. His contribution to jazz music transformed it from a collectively improvised folk music to a serious art form. Join us as we tell you more about this music legend.
Louis Daniel Armstrong was born to Mary Albert and William Armstrong. Shortly after his birth, William abandoned the family leaving Louis to be raised by his grandmother. When he was five, he went to live with his mother where he attended the Fisk School for Boys. Two years later, the Karnoffskys took him in as family and cared for him.
When Louis was 11, he dropped out of school and moved to Perdido Street with his mother, Lucy, and Tom lee. In 1912, Armstrong was arrested for firing a blank into the air and sentenced to detention at the Colored Waif’s Home. When he left the detention center, Armstrong joined a group of boys who sang in the streets for money. There, he developed his cornet skills and met Peter Davis who became his first teacher.
On June 14, 1914, Armstrong went to live with his father and his stepmother, Gertrude. He stayed in the household for several months until Gertrude gave birth to a daughter. Armstrong felt he wasn’t welcomed in the family, so he returned to his mother. There he found a job at a dancehall owned by Henry Ponce. Armstrong played in brass bands in the coming years. In 1918, he traveled with the band of Fate Marable. Louis described his time with the Marable as “going to university” since it gave him experience in working with written arrangements. By the 1950s, Louis was a well-known icon who had built an international audience.
Armstrong travels with the Fate Marable band and gains experience working with written arrangements.
Armstrong records with Oliver for Gennett Records on April 5, 1923.
Armstrong records his highest-selling record, ‘Hello Dolly’.
Armstrong makes his last recorded trumpet performance on his album, ‘Disney Songs the Satchmo Way.’
Why We Love Louis Armstrong
He helped put Jazz on the world stage
Armstrong gave the world a taste of American jazz. His innovative solos contributed to the growth of the music.
Armstrong revolutionalized the sound of the jazz trumpet
He originated the sound of the Jazz vocal. He inspired the entire world and revolutionalized the sound of the jazz trumpet.
He had a welcoming smile
Armstrong endured humiliation as a black man in America. However, he refused to give up his smile.
5 Surprising Facts
The Karnofskys bought him his first instrument
His adopted family treated Armstrong as one of their own, even loaning him money to buy his first instrument.
He was arrested for weed possession
Armstrong loved smoking weed and was once arrested for smoking a joint outside the Cotton Club in California.
He gave the wrong birthday date
Armstrong claimed that he’d been born on July 4, 1900, but his actual birth date was August 4, 1901.
He had a Star of David pendant
Armstrong wore this pendant to honor the Karnofskys, a Jewish family that took him in as one of their own.
He was first arrested at age 11
Armstrong was arrested for firing a pistol in the streets.
Louis Armstrong FAQs
How old was Louis Armstrong when he died?
He was 69 years old.
Was Louis Armstrong married?
Louis was married to four women over the course of his lifetime.
Was Armstrong a smoker?
Louis started smoking marijuana in the mid-1920s and smoked it all his life.
Louis Armstrong’s birthday dates