Start your free trial. Find showtimes, watch trailers, browse photos, track your Watchlist and rate your favorite movies and TV shows on your phone or tablet! IMDb More. Up 10, this week. Louis Armstrong grew up poor in a single-parent household. He was 13 when he celebrated the New Year by running out on the street and firing a pistol that belonged to the current man in his mother's life.
At the Colored Waifs Home for Boys, he learned to play the bugle and the clarinet and joined the home's brass band.
9 Things You May Not Know About Louis Armstrong
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High Society Louis Armstrong. Southland Tales Soundtrack. James Infirmary". Someone Like Me as a Member TV Series performer - 1 episode - Edele Lynch Louis Blues" - uncredited. Goodbye Baker Documentary performer: "Boff Boff". TV Series performer - 1 episode - White Rice James Infirmary Blues". Seuss Cheers Deeds performer: "Cheek To Cheek". James Infirmary" - uncredited. Short performer: "Skokiaan".
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Baseball TV Mini-Series documentary performer - 2 episodes, writer - 1 episode, lyrics - 1 episode, music - 1 episode, - Shadow Ball Louis Blues". Louis Blues", "Georgia on My Mind". TV Series performer - 2 episodes - Louis Armstrong Jive" - uncredited. Orchestra Leader. He made his first recordings with Oliver on April 5, ; that day, he earned his first recorded solo on "Chimes Blues. Armstrong soon began dating the female pianist in the band, Lillian Hardin.
After they married in , Hardin made it clear that she felt Oliver was holding Armstrong back. She pushed her husband to cut ties with his mentor and join Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra, the top African-American dance band in New York City at the time.
9 Things You May Not Know About Louis Armstrong - HISTORY
Armstrong joined Henderson in the fall of , and immediately made his presence felt with a series of solos that introduced the concept of swing music to the band. Armstrong had a great influence on Henderson and his arranger, Don Redman, both of whom began integrating Armstrong's swinging vocabulary into their arrangements—transforming Henderson's band into what is generally regarded as the first jazz big band. However, Armstrong's southern background didn't mesh well with the more urban, Northern mentality of Henderson's other musicians, who sometimes gave Armstrong a hard time over his wardrobe and the way he talked.
Henderson also forbade Armstrong from singing, fearing that his rough way of vocalizing would be too coarse for the sophisticated audiences at the Roseland Ballroom. Today, these are generally regarded as the most important and influential recordings in jazz history; on these records, Armstrong's virtuoso brilliance helped transform jazz from an ensemble music to a soloist's art. His stop-time solos on numbers like "Cornet Chop Suey" and "Potato Head Blues" changed jazz history, featuring daring rhythmic choices, swinging phrasing and incredible high notes.
He also began singing on these recordings, popularizing wordless "scat singing" with his hugely popular vocal on 's "Heebie Jeebies. The Hot Five and Hot Seven were strictly recording groups; Armstrong performed nightly during this period with Erskine Tate's orchestra at the Vendome Theater, often playing music for silent movies.
While performing with Tate in , Armstrong finally switched from the cornet to the trumpet. A young pianist from Pittsburgh, Earl Hines, assimilated Armstrong's ideas into his piano playing. Together, Armstrong and Hines formed a potent team and made some of the greatest recordings in jazz history in , including their virtuoso duet, "Weather Bird," and "West End Blues.
The latter performance is one of Armstrong's best known works, opening with a stunning cadenza that features equal helpings of opera and the blues; with its release, "West End Blues" proved to the world that the genre of fun, danceable jazz music was also capable of producing high art. Armstrong was featured nightly on Ain't Misbehavin' , breaking up the crowds of mostly white theatergoers nightly.
That same year, he recorded with small New Orleans-influenced groups, including the Hot Five, and began recording larger ensembles. Armstrong's daring vocal transformations of these songs completely changed the concept of popular singing in American popular music, and had lasting effects on all singers who came after him, including Bing Crosby , Billie Holiday , Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. By , Armstrong, who was now known as Satchmo, had begun appearing in movies and made his first tour of England.
While he was beloved by musicians, he was too wild for most critics, who gave him some of the most racist and harsh reviews of his career. Satchmo didn't let the criticism stop him, however, and he returned an even bigger star when he began a longer tour throughout Europe in Armstrong decided to take some time off soon after the incident, and spent much of relaxing in Europe and resting his lip.
When Armstrong returned to Chicago in , he had no band, no engagements and no recording contract. His lips were still sore, and there were still remnants of his mob troubles and with Lil, who, following the couple's split, was suing Armstrong. Armstrong put his career in Glaser's hands and asked him to make his troubles disappear. Glaser did just that; within a few months, Armstrong had a new big band and was recording for Decca Records.
During this period, Armstrong set a number of African-American "firsts.
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That same year, he became the first African-American to get featured billing in a major Hollywood movie with his turn in Pennies from Heaven , starring Bing Crosby. Additionally, he became the first African-American entertainer to host a nationally sponsored radio show in , when he took over Rudy Vallee's Fleischmann's Yeast Show for 12 weeks. He was also a frequent presence on radio, and often broke box-office records at the height of what is now known as the "Swing Era.
Armstrong's fully healed lip made its presence felt on some of the finest recordings of career, including "Swing That Music," "Jubilee" and "Struttin' with Some Barbecue. In , Armstrong finally divorced Lil Hardin and married Alpha Smith, whom he had been dating for more than a decade. Their marriage was not a happy one, however, and they divorced in That same year, Armstrong married for the fourth — and final — time; he wed Lucille Wilson, a Cotton Club dancer. When Wilson tired of living out of a suitcase during endless strings of one-nighters, she convinced Armstrong to purchase a house at th Street in Corona, Queens, New York.
The Armstrongs moved into the home, where they would live for the rest of their lives, in By the mid-'40s, the Swing Era was winding down and the era of big bands was almost over. Seeing "the writing on the wall," Armstrong scaled down to a smaller six-piece combo, the All Stars; personnel would frequently change, but this would be the group Armstrong would perform live with until the end of his career. Armstrong signed with Columbia Records in the mid-'50s, and soon cut some of the finest albums of his career for producer George Avakian, including Louis Armstrong Plays W.
Handy and Satch Plays Fats. It was also for Columbia that Armstrong scored one of the biggest hits of his career: His jazz transformation of Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife. During the mid-'50s, Armstrong's popularity overseas skyrocketed. This led some to alter his long-time nickname, Satchmo, to "Ambassador Satch. He performed all over the world in the s and '60s, including throughout Europe, Africa and Asia.
Murrow followed Armstrong with a camera crew on some of his worldwide excursions, turning the resulting footage into a theatrical documentary, Satchmo the Great , released in Though his popularity was hitting new highs in the s, and despite breaking down so many barriers for his race and being a hero to the African-American community for so many years, Armstrong began losing his standing with two segments of his audience: Modern jazz fans and young African Americans. Bebop, a new form of jazz, had blossomed in the s. Featuring young geniuses such as Dizzy Gillespie , Charlie Parker and Miles Davis , the younger generation of musicians saw themselves as artists, not as entertainers.
They saw Armstrong's stage persona and music as old-fashioned and criticized him in the press. Armstrong fought back, but for many young jazz fans, he was regarded as an out-of-date performer with his best days behind him.
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The civil rights movement was growing stronger with each passing year, with more protests, marches and speeches from African Americans wanting equal rights. To many young jazz listeners at the time, Armstrong's ever-smiling demeanor seemed like it was from a bygone era, and the trumpeter's refusal to comment on politics for many years only furthered perceptions that he was out of touch. When Armstrong saw this — as well as white protesters hurling invective at the students — he blew his top to the press, telling a reporter that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had "no guts" for letting Faubus run the country, and stating, "The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell.
Armstrong's words made front-page news around the world. Though he had finally spoken out after years of remaining publicly silent, he received criticism at the time from both black and white public figures. Not a single jazz musician who had previously criticized him took his side — but today, this is seen as one of the bravest, most definitive moments of Armstrong's life. Armstrong's four marriages never produced any children, and because he and wife Lucille Wilson had actively tried for years to no avail, many believed him to be sterile, incapable of having children.
However, controversy regarding Armstrong's fatherhood struck in , when a girlfriend that the musician had dated on the side, Lucille "Sweets" Preston, claimed she was pregnant with his child. Preston gave birth to a daughter, Sharon Preston, in Shortly thereafter, Armstrong bragged about the child to his manager, Joe Glaser, in a letter that would later be published in the book Louis Armstrong In His Own Words Thereafter until his death in , however, Armstrong never publicly addressed whether he was in fact Sharon's father.
In recent years, Armstrong's alleged daughter, who now goes by the name Sharon Preston Folta, has publicized various letters between her and her father. The letters, dated as far back as , prove that Armstrong had indeed always believed Sharon to be his daughter, and that he even paid for her education and home, among several other things, throughout his life.
Perhaps most importantly, the letters also detail Armstrong's fatherly love for Sharon.