Louis Armstrong

"If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know."


  • His full name was Louis Daniel Armstrong
  • Born August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Died July 6, 1971
  • He was an only child, and his mom raised him
  • Had four wives throughout his life
  • He adopted a son in his 1st marriage, but only had one daughter, whom he never told about.
  • He invented a type of singing called 'Scat'
  • Louis was a very talented trumpet player, but he had a great passion for jazz overall.

Coming of Age

Through his life, Louis Armstrong showed great perseverance and passion in order to get to the point that he wanted to be at, but it is the choices and experiences that made him the great jazz hero we know. As a boy, Louis was always wanting to make a lot of noise, and more than anything, he wanted a horn to do it with. He grew up in a poor part of New Orleans, so money was scarce, but Louis got the money by forming a vocal quartet with his friends and performing odd jobs for people. At age 7,he bought his first horn, a cornet (like a smaller trumpet), and he couldn't be happier. He showed a great deal of maturity that day, by working hard to get what he wanted, but when he was 11, that love of noise got him in trouble. At a festival in New Orleans, Louis got himself in serious trouble. Louis says, '"We were walking down Rampart Street, just singing and minding our own business, when all of a sudden a guy on the opposite side of the street pulled out a little old six-shooter and fired it off.'"(Bromer) After that, Louis pulled out his gun, taken from where his mother hid it, and shot it off to show he was louder. When he decided to shoot it off another time for fun, an officer caught him, and he was sent to reform school. The gun was filled with blank shots, but it was still illegal to have the weapon.
Although he made a bad choice to break the law, reform school helped him. He immediately had a bad reputation, but proved himself by showing his dedication to music. He became the bugler,and leader of the school band at age 14. At this point he started to appreciate music for what it was, not just noise, but a passion. He was sad when he left, because he no longer had the school's trumpet to play on, but upon his return, he was recognized from a parade they played in, and got to play at a music hall. People came from all over New Orleans to hear him, and his music career was launched when King Oliver, a famous band leader, recruited him. After that, Louis played in honkytonks, on riverboats, and in the marching bands of New Orleans. At age 22, he played in Chicago with King Oliver, and 3 years later, he was recording with his own band. Louis also mastered a jazz singing technique called 'scat' in which the singer sings nonsense to the melody. Louis also acted, toured, and knocked the Beatles off the number one slot of popular songs. He played all around the world, and became very famous. He also holds a record, "Louis Armstrong holds the record for being the oldest artist ever to have a Number 1 record. He accomplished this when he was 63 years old..."(The Library of Congress) When Louis died in 1971, it seemed people all over the world mourned. More than 25,000 people came to his funeral. Louis accomplished many great things, and his passion for music and his perseverance shaped him into the person he was, but it is the life decisions that he made that determined his place in the world.

Life & Legacy

Since Louis grew up in poverty, it was hard to rise to the top as he did. He went through the consequences of good and bad choices, but they contributed to his future. As a child, he often dealt with gruesome events in his part of town. His mother once had a boyfriend who gave free lessons to Louis, but after witnessing him physically hurt his mother, Louis never saw that man again. He probably viewed the men in his life differently a while after that. Louis's family life often impacted him both positively and negatively, but he overcame it. Louis's choices also affected him. By making the choice to shoot off an illegal weapon, Louis got taken away and had to go to a reform school, but it was that school that helped him get better at playing. It also impacted him by giving him the reputation of a great player, and that resulted in him playing at a music hall, and starting his music career. Overall, Louis was impacted by experiences, his environment, and people, and those shaped him into who he was, but he overcame many of these negative things, and became a famous musician we will never forget.


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Harris, Laurie Lanzen. "Louis Armstrong." Biography for Beginners--African-American Leaders. Vol. 2. N.p.: n.p., 2008. 25-32. SIRS Discoverer. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. <http://discoverer.prod.sirs.com/discoweb/disco/do/article?urn=urn%3Asirs%3AUS%3BARTICLE%3BART%3B0000277763>.

The Library of Congress. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. <http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/progress/jb_progress_louis_1.html>.

Louis Armstrong: Louis Armstrong sings out in Rome. Biography.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <http://www.biography.com/people/louis-armstrong-9188912#younger-years&awesm=~oBscJtoeZxePmN>.

Wagner, David Paul. "Famous Quotes Louis Armstrong." Music with Ease. N.p., 2005. Web. 11 Apr. 2014. <http://www.musicwithease.com/louis-armstrong-quotes.html>.