Louis Armstrong (August 4, 1901 - July 6, 1971) was a celebrated and influential virtuoso jazz trumpeter and singer (a.k.a. "Satchmo") who became famous beginning in the 1920s and is widely considered to be among the top musical figures of the 20th century. A highly skilled improviser and scat singer with a soothing, gravelly baritone, he was beloved by fans worldwide for his charismatic stage presence and endearing jollity. His many signature songs include "Muskrat Ramble" (1926), "All Of Me" (1932), "Hello Dolly!" (1964), and "What A Wonderful World" (1968, 1988).
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Armstrong's father abandoned the family shortly after his birth and he was raised by his mother and grandmother. His early years were difficult as he lived in poverty in a rough neighborhood, often working odd jobs to make ends meet. While still in grade school, a kindly junk dealer for whom he worked helped him buy a cornet, which he taught himself to play. He dropped out of school at age 11 and soon after joined a boys quartet who performed on the streets for money. His key early music influences included famed cornetist Joe "King" Oliver who took the precocious youngster under his wing before moving to Chicago in 1918. Armstrong continued playing the cornet and trumpet for a number of local area bands before joining Oliver in 1922. The following year, he made his first recordings with Oliver for Gennett Records. Armstrong then joined the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in 1924 and played with a number of other bands before making his debut in 1925 on Okeh Records with his first jazz recording ensemble, Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five, whose members included then-wife and musical collaborator, pianist Lil Hardin Armstrong.
Louis Armstrong debuted in 1926 on the Pop charts with the smash instrumental, "Muskrat Rumble," a Top 10 hit which was later remade and recharted in 1954 (credited to Louis Armstrong & His All-Stars). His fame continued to take off during the late 1920s with such hits as "Hotter Than That" (1928), "West End Blues" (1928), and "Ain't Misbehavin'" (1929, from the Broadway musical, "Connie's Hot Chocolates"). Armstrong topped the charts in 1932 with his cover of the Gerald Marks/Seymour Simons-penned jazz standard, "All Of Me," from the soundtrack to "Careless Lady" (1932). His very long string of hits through the late 1950s also include such classics as the rousing "When The Saints Go Marching In" (1939), the tranquil "That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day)" (1949), the romantic "(When We Are Dancing) I Get Ideas" (1951), the catchy "A Kiss To Build A Dream On" (1951), and the swaggering "A Theme From The Threepenny Opera (Mack The Knife)" (1956).
Armstrong had a resurgence in popularity in 1964 when, at age 63, he bumped The Beatles off the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with his Grammy-winning rendition of "Hello, Dolly!" which topped both the Adult Contemporary and Pop/Rock charts and made him the oldest performing artist to have a #1 hit. Other later hits for which he became equally famous include the George David Weiss/George Douglas-penned "What A Wonderful World" (1968), a minor U.S. hit which topped the charts in the U.K. Armstrong's cover of this jazz-infused traditional pop classic re-emerged on the U.S. charts in 1988 and became a Top 40 hit after it was featured in the soundtrack to "Good Morning, Vietnam" (1987). A new version with a saxophone instrumental track by Kenny G became an Adult Contemporary Top 40 hit in 1999.
Over the years, Louis Armstrong performed worldwide and amassed a huge and devoted following that included royalty and other heads of state. He also performed frequently on radio and TV and in such movie musical blockbusters as "High Society" (1956) and "Hello, Dolly!" (1969). Armstrong was honored posthumously with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1972, and 12 of his recordings spanning 1925-1967 were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. His numerous other honors and accolades included being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 as a forefather of rock music and the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.
- The New York Times remembers cultural icon Louis Armstrong.
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Louis Armstrong performs "When The Saints Go Marching In" on The Ed Sullivan Show (September 20, 1959).
Available on the following DVD: Inspirational Treasures from The Ed Sullivan Show- Featuring Elvis
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Louis Armstrong And The All Stars
- Hello, Dolly! 1964
(This song topped both the Adult Contemporary and Pop/Rock charts and later also became a hit for Bobby Darin (1965). "Hello, Dolly!" was also made famous by Carol Channing who starred in the musical by the same name.)
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