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Louis Armstrong Facts About the Musician

About the life of a great jazzman...

Interesting facts about Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong is the greatest jazz musician in the history of music. He made a revolution with his unique style of playing the trumpet. Musicians have always wanted to be just like Armstrong, looked up to his game, tried to imitate him, but they were all annoyed by the fact that they could not understand the secret of his genius: how does he manage to take such high and unique sounds. His game is a legend and he himself is a legend. This is an example of a Man who managed to change this Magnificent World, fill it with magical extraterrestrial sounds of his trumpet... make the world around a little better!

TOP 9 facts about Louis Armstrong!

1. A Jewish immigrant family helped him buy his first trumpet.

Armstrong with his mother and sister Beatrice in New Orleans in 1921
Armstrong with his mother and sister Beatrice in New Orleans in 1921

Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901, in one of the poorest areas of New Orleans, nicknamed the "Battlefield". His father left the family when Armstrong was still a child, and his teenage mother was often forced to resort to prostitution to make ends meet. Young Louis took care of his grandmother for most of his childhood. His second home is a Lithuanian-Jewish family, this was the Karnofsky family, who hired him to do a variety of work for their family business. Jazzman would later write that the Karnofskys treated him as if he were their own child, often giving him food and even lending him money, including to buy his first instrument, a $5 cornet (he would start playing the trumpet only in 1926).

As a token of his gratitude to his Jewish benefactors, Armstrong wore the Star of David around his neck.
As a token of his gratitude to his Jewish benefactors, Armstrong wore the Star of David around his neck.

2. Armstrong first received his musical education in a juvenile prison.

Armstrong with trumpet, late 1920s. Photo: Gilles Petard
Armstrong with trumpet, late 1920s. Photo: Gilles Petard

Armstrong spent his childhood on the street. He did not have any education, including music, until the age of 11, when he was arrested for firing a pistol during the New Year celebration. He served his sentence in a place called "Colored House for Homeless Boys", after which Armstrong declared: "I married music." During his 18-month sentence, he learned to play the bugle and the cornet. His teacher was Peter Davis. We know well how this story ended: he became a star performer in his brass band. Armstrong constantly honed his craft. In 1919, he had one of his most breakthrough concerts with a "river" group led by the pianist Fate Marable.

https://youtu.be/CWzrABouyeE

“I was always convinced that my success goes back to when I was arrested as a kid,” Louis would later recall. “That’s because, back then, I had to stop running and start learning something. And of course, most of all I studied music.”

3. Wife helped start a solo career.

Armstrong and his band the Hot Five, his then-wife Lil is on the right. Photo: Gilles Petard
Armstrong and his band the Hot Five, his then-wife Lil is on the right. Photo: Gilles Petard

Leaving New Orleans in 1922, Armstrong played for three years in jazz bands in Chicago and Harlem. He was satisfied with this alignment, since he was an apprentice musician. However, his second wife, a pianist named Lil Hardin, did not see it that way. For her, he was too talented, and she wanted her husband to create his own team. In 1925, while Armstrong was performing in New York, Hardin made a deal behind her husband's back with Dreamland in Chicago. She demanded that they proclaim Armstrong as "The world's toughest trumpet player." Armstrong was hesitant at first, but it turned out to be the best moment of his musical career. Just a few days after he returned to Chicago, OKeh Records allowed him to make his first recordings under his own name. Meanwhile, the bands Louis was in, the Hot Five and the Hot Seven, broke records between 1925 and 1928 with their exceptional brass playing. The OKeh recordings played a key role in establishing Armstrong as a legendary figure in jazz. Meanwhile, his marriage to Hardin proved less successful - the couple divorced in 1938.

4. Armstrong was one of the first musicians arrested for drug possession.

Armstrong in Amsterdam, 1955
Armstrong in Amsterdam, 1955

Armstrong made no secret of his addiction to marijuana, of which he spoke: "It's a thousand times better than whiskey!". In 1930, before the drug was widely known, he and drummer Vic Burton were arrested. The police caught them with a large blunt of weed, which they were smoking outside a club in California. Armstrong served nine days in prison. Despite his legal troubles, Louis continued to smoke marijuana regularly for the rest of his life.

“She makes you forget all the bad things that happen to blacks,” he once said.

5. His playing style "left a mark" on his lips.

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong

Thanks to a relentless touring schedule and his penchant for hitting high Cs on the trumpet, Armstrong battled a serious lip condition for most of his career. He played with such force that he often protruded his lip wide, and from this the scar tissue simply did not have time to heal. Musicians, when they saw the condition of his lips, said that they looked "as rough as a raw piece of wood can look." Armstrong treated his lips with a special lip balm and sometimes even removed dead tissue using a razor blade. But his playing style never allowed him to heal his lips. He pressed the trumpet with all his might and hit high notes for the rest of his life. Over the years, this syndrome will be called in honor of the musician - "Sachmo's syndrome." The people called Lewis Satchmo - an abbreviation for the English Satchel Mouth ("fur mouth").

6. Armstrong famously criticized President Dwight D. Eisenhower for segregation.

Segregation is the policy of forcibly separating a group of a population. Usually referred to as a form of religious and racial discrimination (separation of a group based on race or ethnicity). Source: Wikipedia.

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong

Armstrong's reluctance to speak out against racism was a frequent argument among black fellow entertainers, some of whom even branded him "Uncle Tom". However, in 1957 he gave vent to feelings and criticized segregation to the smithereens. At the time, a group of black students known as the "Little Rock Nine" were being prevented from attending an all-white high school in Arkansas. Asked about the crisis in an interview, Armstrong responded, "The way they treat my people down south, the government can go to hell." He added that President Dwight D. Eisenhower is a "two-faced politician." And the fact that he did not speak on this issue says that he "has no balls either." After that, the musician announced that he would no longer play on a tour of the Soviet Union. The tour was sponsored by the US government. These remarks caused a sensation in the media. Some whites even called for a boycott of the trumpet show. The conflict reached a new level when President Eisenhower sent soldiers to Little Rock schools to end segregation.

"I feel this situation as acutely as any other Negro," Armstrong later said of his decision to speak out. “I think I have the right to speak out and root for something that directly concerns me.”

7. He served as the "musical ambassador" for the US State Department.

Armstrong is carried in triumph to the Baudouin stadium in Brazzaville during his Africa Tour
Armstrong is carried in triumph to the Baudouin stadium in Brazzaville during his Africa Tour

During the height of the Cold War in the late 1950s, the US State Department developed a program to send jazz musicians and other entertainers on goodwill tours to improve America's image abroad. Armstrong was already known as "Ambassador Sutch" in his concerts in far-flung corners of the globe, but in 1960 he became the official cultural diplomat after he went on a three-month trip across Africa organized by the State Department. The trumpeter and his All Stars band began to storm the continent.

“In Accra, in Ghana, 100,000 locals went into a wild demonstration as he began to blow his horn,” the New York Times would later write, “in Leopoldville, the tribesmen painted themselves in ocher and violet, and then carried him to city stadium on a canvas throne.

One of the highlights of Armstrong's popularity came during his stopover in the Katanga province of the Congo, where the two splintered sides of the crisis declared a one-day truce to watch his magic play. Later, he will joke that he managed to stop the civil war.

8. At the age of 62, Armstrong surpassed The Beatles in popularity.

Louis Armstrong performing in June 1967.
Louis Armstrong performing in June 1967.

In late 1963, Armstrong and his All Star Ensemble recorded the title track for a new musical called Hello, Dolly! Trumpeter didn't have high hopes for the tune, but when the show debuted on Broadway the following year, it was an instant hit. By May, the composition "Hi, Dolly!" soared to the top of the charts, displacing two Beatles songs that were at the peak of their popularity. At the age of 62, Armstrong became the oldest musician in American history to hit No. 1 on every chart.

9. The song "What a wonderful world" was not a hit during his life.

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong

Armstrong is best known for his velvet ballad What a Wonderful World, which he recorded in 1967, just four years before his death. But while the song performed well overseas, it was not popular in the United States and slipped out of sight when it came out. According to Armstrong biographer Terry Tichut, What a Wonderful World was lost to Americans until 1987. That year, the song was featured on the soundtrack of Robin Williamas' Good Morning Vietnam.

After that, it was re-released and took pride of place at number 33 on the Billboard charts, and since then it has been considered Armstrong's main theme.

Louis Armstrong's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Louis Armstrong's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

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