This is Gwen Outen.
And this is Steve Ember with People in America in VOA
Special English. Today we tell about
Louis Armstrong, one of the greatest jazz musicians. His voice, trumpet-playing skill and creativity continue to
influence jazz artists today. One of
Louis Armstrong’s biggest hits was “Hello Dolly.”
(MUSIC: “Hello Dolly”)
Louis Armstrong played jazz, sang jazz and wrote
jazz. He recorded hit songs for fifty
years and his music is still heard today on television, radio and in
Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on
August fourth, nineteen-oh-one. New
Orleans is a port city at the mouth of the Mississippi River. It is a city where the customs of many
different people mixed together.
Armstrong grew up in Storyville, one of the poorest areas of New Orleans.
His father left the family shortly after he
was born. His mother worked to support
him and his sister. But Armstrong spent
most of his time with his grandmother.
just beginning to develop when Louis was a boy. It grew out of the blues songs and ragtime music that had been
popular at the turn of the century.
discovered music early in life. He was
surrounded by it. The music of
churches, bands, parades and drinking places were all a daily part of New
Orleans culture. Louis sang with other
boys on the streets for money. There he
began to develop his musical skills.
was eleven years old, Louis was sent to a reform school for firing a gun
outside to celebrate New Year’s Eve. At
the school, he learned to play the trumpet in the school’s brass band.
spent eighteen months at the reform school. Then he went back to work. He
sold newspapers, unloaded boats and sold coal from a horse and cart. He also listened to bands at popular clubs
in Storyville. Joe “King” Oliver played
with the Kid Ory Band. He soon became
young Louis’s teacher. As Louis’s
skills developed, he began to perform professionally.
age of eighteen, Armstrong joined the Kid Ory Band, one of the finest bands in
New Orleans. The experience helped him
develop his music skills. Armstrong
later replaced King Oliver in the band when Oliver moved to Chicago,
Illinois. In nineteen-nineteen,
Armstrong joined Fate Marable’s band in Saint Louis, Missouri. Marable’s band played on steamboats that
traveled up and down the Mississippi River. Working with Marable helped prepare Armstrong to play for white
nineteen twenty-two, Armstrong left the Marable Band to play with King Oliver
in Chicago. By then, Chicago had become
the center of jazz music.
later, Armstrong made his first recordings as a member of King Oliver’s Creole
Jazz Band. He later moved to New York
City, where he influenced the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra with his
returned to Chicago in nineteen twenty-six and formed his own group. They were called the Hot Five and later the
Hot Seven. Their recordings are
considered some of the most influential in jazz history.
Armstrong could make his voice sound like a musical
instrument. He could make an instrument
sound like a singer’s voice. The song
“Heebie Jeebies” is said to be the first recorded example of what became known
as scat singing. He recorded it with
the Hot Five.
nineteen twenty-nine, Armstrong was becoming very popular. He returned to New York to play in an
all-black Broadway musical called “Hot Chocolates.” The show included the music of Fats Waller. Armstrong’s version of Waller’s song, “Ain’t
Misbehavin’, was a huge hit.
end of the nineteen twenties, Armstrong had formed his own band. In nineteen thirty-two, he sailed to
England, and had great success. A
reporter there called him “Satchmo,” and he kept that nickname for the rest of
his life. For the next three years, Armstrong
played in cities across the United States and Europe.
Armstrong returned to the United States in nineteen thirty-five. He hired Joe Glaser to be his manager. Glaser proved to be a great manager and
organized a big band called Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra. It was one of the most popular groups of the
“swing” music period. Swing was a style
of jazz played by big bands in the nineteen thirties.
group played together for the next ten years. During that time, Armstrong became one of the most famous men in
America. He experienced racial
unfairness during his life. But he
rarely made public statements. One
time, however, he criticized the way the government treated blacks in the
American South in the nineteen fifties. Newspapers accused him of being a troublemaker for speaking out.
nineteen forties, Armstrong grew tired of leading a large group. For the remaining years of his life, he led
a six-member group called the All Stars. The group included some of the best musicians in America. They performed extensively in Africa, Asia,
Europe and South America.
years, Armstrong recorded with many famous musicians. For example, he worked
with singers Ella Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby and the great composer Duke
Ellington. Armstrong was known as
friendly and easy to work with.
biggest hits came later in his life. The song “Mack the Knife” was a big hit in nineteen fifty-five. In nineteen sixty-four, his version of the song
“Hello Dolly” was the top hit around the world. It even replaced a top-selling hit by the hugely popular British
rock group, the Beatles. Three years
later, he appeared in the motion picture version of “Hello Dolly” with singer
Barbra Streisand. The song “What a Wonderful World,” recorded in nineteen
sixty-eight, was his final big hit.
Armstrong never finished the fifth grade in school. Yet he wrote two books about his life and many stories for
magazines. He appeared in more than
thirty movies. He composed many jazz
pieces. He won several gold records and
many other awards. Armstrong performed
an average of three hundred concerts each year, traveling all over the
world. He became known as the
ambassador of American Jazz.
Armstrong was married four times. Lucille Armstrong was his fourth wife. They married in nineteen forty-two and stayed together for the rest of
his life. They had no children.
Louis Armstrong died in nineteen seventy-one. His death was front page news around the
world. In nineteen seventy-seven, his
home in Queens, New York, was declared a national historic place. It is now a museum. For more information about Louis Armstrong
and his house, you can go to the museum’s Internet Web site. The address is www.satchmo.net.
program was written and produced by Cynthia Kirk. This is Gwen Outen.
is Steve Ember. Listen again next week
for People in America in VOA Special English.