Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong

Picture of Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong was not only a great trumpeter, vocalist and composer, he was also among the most influential figures in Jazz history.  He had a career that spanned over 50 years and continued to release relevant music up to his death in 1971.

In the early 1920's, Armstrong got his break playing with Joe "King" Oliver in Chicago.  He began to make a name for himself and he also met and married his second wife, Lil Hardin, who was the pianist for King Oliver.  Hardin would play a big part in Louis' early success.

Louis Armstrong's reputation soon found its way to Fletcher Henderson.  Armstrong left Oliver's band in 1924 and soon received an invitation to go to New York City to play with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra.  Armstrong's time with Henderson's band was short lived, but it produced some fantastic music.  In 1925, Armstrong returned to Chicago largely at the insistence of Lil, who wanted to expand his career.  In publicity pieces, much to Louis' dislike, she billed him as "The World's Greatest Trumpet Player". For a time he was a member of the Lil Hardin Armstrong Band and working for his wife.

Louis and Lil separated in the late 1920's and Armstrong returned to New York City and bounced from gig to gig.  Armstrong was also singing much more. His rich, gravelly voice was instantly recognizable.  New advancements in microphone technology also helped.  While in New York, Armstrong continued to develop his famous on-stage charisma and a following.

Armstrong went on to record a lot of sides in the 1930's.  When his career was over, it's surprising to note that Armstrong had nineteen Top Ten Hits.  That's amazing to me that he had only had nineteen.  His playing and singing was so influential and so unique, one would think that he would have scored more.


Listen to: "Star Dust" by Louis Armstrong

Louis was very successful in the 1940's.  Swing and Jazz went through a nostalgia period where there was a widespread revival of interest in the traditional jazz of the 1920's.  Armstrong started to tour excessively at that point.  During the next 30 years, Armstrong played more than 300 performances a year.

By the 1950s, Louis Armstrong was considered a national musical icon, due in part, by his appearances on radio and in film and television, in addition to his concerts.  He spent the rest of his career and life playing, composing, recording and making appearances.  

Armstrong died of a heart attack in July of 1971 at the age of 69.  His influence on the development of jazz is almost immeasurable. 

You can hear the Swing Era music of Louis Armstrong here on Swing City Radio

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