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Sunday, 21 August 2011

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong was born into a very poor family on August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the grandson of slaves.

He spent his adult life celebrating the wrong birthday—Louis believed it was July 4th, 1900, but it was actually August 4th, 1901.

Raised by his mother in extreme poverty, at the age of 12 Louis served a term for delinquency at the Colored Waifs Home, after celebrating the New Year by running out on the street and firing a pistol that belonged to the current man in his mother's life. The New Orleans Times-Democrat reported that “very few” juveniles had been arrested during the New Year revelry, though “the most serious case was that of Louis Armstrong, a 12 year old negro who discharged a pistol at Rampart and Perdido streets. Being an old offender he was sent to the negro Waif’s Home.”

It was at the Colored Waifs Home, where Louis Armstrong learned to play the the bugle and the clarinet. He eventually became the leader of the home's brass band.

He introduced scat when recording "Heebie Jeebies," supposedly because he dropped the sheet music. The song was recorded on February 26, 1926.

Armstrong was fond of smoking marijuana and wrote a song "Muggles" - a slang term for the substance - in 1928.

During a command performance for George V when touring Europe in 1932, Armstrong forgot he had been told that performers were not to refer to members of the Royal Family while playing for them. Just before picking up his trumpet for one particular number, he announced: "This one's for you, Rex."

He acquired his nickname of Satchmo during his 1932 Grand Tour of Europe. Up until that time Armstrong's nickname was Satchelmouth, but a London music magazine editor, unable to read his notes, wrote "Satchmo" in an article.

Louis Armstrong used laxatives to control his weight, even advocating the procedure in his book Lose Weight The Satchmo Way

The 62-year-old Armstrong became the oldest act to top the US charts when Hello Dolly reached #1 in 1964. Four years later Satchmo also became the oldest artist to record a UK #1, when What A Wonderful World hit the top spot.

He had four wives - Daisy Parker, a prostitute (1918); Lil(lian) Hardin, a jazz pianist who gave him some formal musical education (1924); Alpha Smith (1938); and Lucille Wilson, a showgirl (1942).

Before marrying his fourth wife, Lucille Wilson, Louis Armstrong made sure that she could cook a satisfactory plate of rice and beans.

Armstrong may have been bulimic as he believed that it didn't matter what you ate, as long as you purged yourself regularly afterwards. He would do that with the help of an herbal laxative called Swiss Kriss.

Armstrong's intuitive genius for improvisation single-handedly shaped the course of jazz, transforming it from an ensemble style to an art of solo improvisation.

His contagious humor and flamboyant style made him an ideal goodwill ambassador for American music. As Armstrong's non-jazz audience grew, he appeared frequently on television making him the most famous Jazz musician in the world.

Louis Armstrong once tricked Richard Nixon into carrying several of his bags, which contained drugs through customs for him. In 1958 when Nixon was America’s Vice President and Louis Armstrong was a “Goodwill Ambassador” for the U.S. State Department, Sacho persuaded Nixon to successfully transport bags containing three pounds of marijuana, making the Vice President an unintentional mule.

Louis Armstrong died of a heart attack in his sleep on July 6, 1971, a month before his 70th birthday. 

Sources Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc

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