Louis Armstrong

Sarah Han

Louis Armstrong


  • Born August, 4th 1901
  • Grandson of slaves
  • Father left him after birth
  • Worked as a coalman
  • Arrested at age 11 and sent to foster care


Without his childhood, Armstrong would not be the person he is today. Growing up in New Orleans, he was immediately exposed to jazz music and although he was black, New Orleans was more ideal for him than any other city. At age seven, Armstrong bought a $5 cornet and took on the sounds of his beloved black cornet players Buddy Bolden, Joe Oliver, and Bunk Johnson. Joe Oliver eventually became his most influential mentor. When Oliver left New Orleans, Armstrong took his place in the Kid Ory band where he gained a lot of popularity. Armstrong's main influence was his passion for sharing his music and putting his life into his music.

"We all do 'do re mi' but you have got to find the other notes yourself." -Louis Armstrong

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  • If Louis Armstrong was raised in any other time period, such as the 1800's, he would have been significantly less successful. He was fortunate enough to have been born into a city of a free black community but in the 1800's that community was not as prevalent and slave trade was a huge market. Armstrong could have easily been a slave or would have been a rejected musician because of his race. He was also fortunate enough to have been born in an era where jazz was the big thing and the only way for the white population to learn jazz was through the black musicians. If he had been born in the 1800's, his music would have been greatly under appreciated and he probably would not be known today.
  • If I had Armstrong's skill and lived in the 1800's, I honestly don't think a successful career would have been in the picture. Music was not an important aspect of the Reconstruction era. Thankfully, Armstrong was born in the right place at the right time.


Born August 4, 1901, Louis Armstrong grew up in the poorest part of New Orleans. He picked up the cornet at around age 14 and from there his career begun. In 1918, he marries a prostitute name Daisy Parker. Meanwhile, he is starting off his career as a well-known jazz musician and leaving his labor jobs. After receiving an offer, he moves to Chicago with King Oliver and plays alongside him. In 1924, Armstrong marries another woman names Lillian Hardin. She believed Oliver is holding Armstrong back so she makes him leave Oliver and join Fletcher Henderson's orchestra, which he ends of leaving due to his rude colleagues. In 1925, he is given permission to create a band under his name, thus creating Armstrong and His Hot Five, later becoming the Hot Seven. Over the next couple years his popularity and recognition grows rapidly. When touring Europe his lips gave in causing him to take a break from playing while his manager, Johnny Collins, leaves him stranded overseas, both causing a major setback in his career. In 1938 he finally divorces Lil Hardin and marries Alpha Smith. They settle in Corona, Queens, New York where they live the rest of their lives. Through his journey, Armstrong set many firsts for African American musicians such as, first to write an autobiography, first to be featured in a major Hollywood movie, and first to host a nationally sponsored radio show in 1937.


Additional Information

Some musician compose while others merely create their own renditions of famous pieces, and that's exactly what Armstrong did with his popular "What a Wonderful World". He released this piece right after his version of "Hello, Dolly" had gained so much success and was ready to move forward. At this time, the jazz age was fading away while the rock and roll age was starting to take over. Consequently, it is obvious that this piece sounds a bit less like jazz and more of a universal style. Since his version was so versatile, it can be loved at any time in the past or future. For example, this version was released in the 60's but today in our modern world, it is still one of the greatest hits ever known. As mentioned before, Armstrong just created his own version of the pieces so obviously it differs from the original and other musicians' versions but all are stylistically based on their passion and emotion.

American Experience

Armstrong's impact may not have been as significant as a politician or activist but his impact to the beloved music realm and the 1920's is still appreciated today. He released many of our greatest jazz hits today and still remains a great legend. Armstrong showed Americans that a future can come from anything and anywhere, despite setbacks and struggles. He also showed that a black musician or any black person can live up to white standards and can be successful. His passion for music inspired many in his years and even today to share their music with others.


  • Died July 4, 1971, a month before his 70th birthday
  • Doctor advised him not to play in the two-week gig he had been invited to
  • Gig resulted in a heart attack
  • After being released from the hospital he had another heart attack and passed in his sleep
  • Famous musicians such as Frank Sinatra, Earl Wilson, etc. carried his casket at his funeral

Works Cited

"Louis Armstrong." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.

"Louis Armstrong Quotes." BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.

"New Orleans." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.

Teachout, Terry. Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. Print.

"The Pop History Dig." The Pop History Dig. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.