King of Jazz: Louis Armstrong

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The great art of Jazz was born in the year of 1895 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jazz is responsible for the creation of Drum Sets and the creation of words like “cool” and “hip”. Jazz was played in all the bars, honky-tonks, saloons, and dancehalls. Jazz was a tremendous influence on the music played today, but it would not have come so far if it was not for Louis Armstrong. Armstrong is considered the most important improviser in Jazz (he taught the world to swing) (‘Jazz at Lincoln Center’).His trumpet playing changed the rules of music. Armstrong’s interest in music earned him the title of greatest trumpet/cornet player in American History. And to think it all started with a tin horn.

Armstrong, full name Louis (“loo-ESS”) Daniel Armstrong, was born in Uptown New Orleans, Louisiana to Mary Albert and William Armstrong. There was some confusion about the date of Armstrong’s birth. In those days not many people could read nor write, so they used the trick of remembering which major holiday was celebrated around their actual birth date. Many babies were born at home at that time, instead of hospitals. No official birth certificates registered for home births (Jones 42). For Armstrong July 4th, 1900 was the closest holiday to Armstrong’s actual birth date, but thanks to the found baptismal records it was stated that Armstrong’s actual birth date is August 4th, 1901. Armstrong died believing he was born on July 4th.

Armstrong’s parents separated once he was born. Mary (Mayann) Albert, Armstrong’s mother, was born in Butle, Louisiana. She moved to New Orleans as a child and worked as a servant to white family whose children she raised. Albert then married at age 15 to William Armstrong, Louis Armstrong’s father. Albert died in 1942 (Jones 43). William (Willie) Armstrong was born in 1881. William worked as a straw boss in a turpentine factory for most of his life. He left the family once Armstrong was born (Mitre). He died in 1922 (Jones 43). Armstrong’s maternal grandmother, Josephine Armstrong was born into slavery. She spoke of Armstrong’s past relatives like his great grandmother who had been born while Louisiana was still a French Colony (before the early 1760’s when the Huge Louisiana territory was turned over to Spain). Josephine Armstrong cared for Armstrong for most of his life as a child.

Armstrong was born in poverty in Uptown New Orleans, Louisiana (Kehoe 124). “There were bars, honky-tonks and saloons, and lots of women walking the streets for tricks to take to their “pads” as they called their rooms” (Armstrong-Satchmo).Armstrong saw all of this at a young age. Over time Armstrong earned many nicknames like, Satchmo (short for “Satchel-Mouth”referring to the size of his mouth), Dipper Mouth, Little Louie, Gate, and Pops (for his puffed up cheeks when he played trumpet) (Jazz at Lincoln Center). Armstrong was moved from one place to another once his father left the family. At the early ages of Armstrong’s childhood he ended up in the care of his grandmother and uncle along with his sister, Beatrice Armstrong (1903-1987). At five years of age, he moved back to live with his mother and her relatives when she became ill, and saw his father only at special events. Armstrong attended the Fisk School for Boys, where he probably had his first encounter with music (“Louis Armstrong”). Armstrong began to work to bring in money for the family. He became the local paperboy and sold discarded food to restaurants around the neighborhood, but it was not enough money to keep his mother from turning to prostitution. Armstrong spent most of his childhood in Storyville, the legendary red-light district of New Orleans (“Kehoe”).When he was 7, he had a job delivering small amounts of coal to Tim Bordellos and often ran errands for the prostitutes, who worked in them. Armstrong began to run the streets, hanging out at dancehalls close to home where he watched the Quadrille, a popular four couple dance in New Orleans danced by...
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