A History of Jazz
“If ya ain't got it in ya, ya can't blow it out.”
Louis Armstrong is regarded as the most influential musician in jazz history.
He was born in poverty in New Orleans in 1901. His father was a workman, and his mother was a maid and a prostitute. His father abandoned the family soon after Louis’ birth.
In the third grade, Armstrong dropped out of school. He spent his time roaming the red light district of Storyville with other boys. His delinquency eventually landed him in the Colored Waifs Home around age 12.
This event was more of a blessing than a curse, as he was kept out of trouble and introduced to music. It was in the institution's band that he learned to play several instruments. He eventually settled on the cornet.
As a teenager he set his heart upon becoming a musician, and he worked odd jobs while playing in a variety of bands.
Armstrong’s talent quickly became recognized and he got a job as a professional musician on a steamboat. The job paid fifty dollars a week—the most money he had ever earned.
In 1924, famous bandleader, Flecther Henderson, asked Armstrong to join his band in New York. He grew to mesmerize and captivate New York audiences with his musical style. He quickly became a major figure in the New York jazz scene.
After spending one year in New York, Armstrong returned to Chicago. In 1926, he made his first recording under his own name; with a band he named The Hot Five.
Armstrong is also known for creating the technique known as “scat singing.” This singing in nonsense syllables and improvised sound became a trend amongst jazz musicians in that time.
It was not long before Armstrong reached international fame. When he moved back to New York in 1929, he performed on Broadway, played in movies, and recorded much more music. He continued to bring joy and inspiration to mass audiences through his music until his death in 1971.
Visit the Jazz Posters Gallery for memorable images of the legend.