Many people knew Louis Armstrong as the “first real genius of jazz”(Shipton 26). He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 4, 1901. Louis was the illegitimate son of William Armstrong and Mary Est “Mayann” Albert. He was abandoned by his father, a boiler stoker, shortly after his birth and was raised by his paternal grandmother. Then, at the age of five, he was returned to the care of his mother, who at the time worked as a laundress. Together with his mom, they moved to a better area of New Orleans. This is where Armstrong first fell in love with music; he would listen to people playing any chance that he would get(Tirro). He would attend parades, funerals, churches and go to cheap cabarets to be able to hear some of the greats play jazz. As a child, to help support his mother, he worked different odd jobs. Mainly, he would sell newspapers and deliver coal. Also, he would sit on the street corners and sing for loose change. Armstrong then dropped out of school after the 5th grade and ran into a little trouble with the law. He was arrested for firing a weapon in a city and was sent to the Colored Waifs Home for one and a half years, where his musical career really started(“Louis Daniel Armstrong”). Thanks to his childhood, and his involvement in music, he became one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time and a singer responsible for the development of major trends in pop and jazz music(Tirro). Louis Armstrong became famous due to his musical talent, social involvement, personality and influence on jazz.
Armstrong was involved with music for almost his entire life. He started getting involved at a young age just listening to rags, marches, and blues whenever possible(“Louis Armstrong”). He was fascinated by the emerging jazz music being played around the city at places like the Funky Butt Hall(Rodabaugh). He began singing on the streets and eventually joined a barbershop quartet(“Louis Armstrong”). As soon as he saved enough money, at age 10, Armstrong bought his first cornet(Tirro). As the quartet he was in, “Back-of-Town Boys,” got better they started to attract attention from some local musicians, in particular Bunk Johnson. Johnson was a well-known trumpeter and responded when Armstrong asked him “to learn him how to play”, and gave him some basic instructions. These lessons were nothing special, but turned out to be huge in Armstrong’s development as a musician(Rodabaugh). After his run in with the law, Armstrong was sent to the Colored Waifs Home. It was here that Armstrong’s only outlet was the school’s band. Only the kids who behaved well were allowed to play, so this gave him a reason to behave(“Louis Armstrong”). He jumped between many instruments, but he and his teacher eventually decided that the cornet was the best instrument for him, which proved a wise decision(“Louis Daniel Armstrong”). Eventually, he became the leader of the Home’s Brass Band, which played at parades and picnics and helped in getting his talents recognized(“Louis Armstrong”). After his release, Armstrong had developed his skills enough to join the local group of honky-tonk and parade musicians(Rodabaugh). It was here that he was recognized by another jazz great, Joe “King” Oliver, who was impressed with Armstrong and took him under his wing. Armstrong’s first big break was in 1918 when Oliver left New Orleans for Chicago, where jazz was on the rise, and Armstrong took over Oliver’s place in Kid Ory’s band as cornetist(“Louis Armstrong”). At the same time he was hired as the second trumpet in the popular Tuxedo Brass Band(Rodabaugh). This is where his career started to take off. It was noted by many that Armstrong would often appear at two venues in one day to put on two different shows(Shipton 27). While he was not being overworked by the two bands he was a part of at the time, Armstrong still found time to work under Fate Marable on the riverboats. This was another significant part of his career because when the band was not...
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