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Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong was a multi-talented American jazz icon who was a singer, trumpeter, actor and comedian. He was born on August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He had an impoverished childhood; his father was a factory worker who abandoned the family when Armstrong was born and his mother often left him with his grandmother as she worked the streets as a prostitute. He left school in 5th grade so he could start earning full time and took up any odd jobs he could get his hands on such as collecting junk and delivering coal.

Due to an incident involving a rifle fired accidentally in the air, Armstrong was arrested and later sent to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys where he was first exposed to jazz music. He learnt to play the cornet and began to dream of a career in music. While still working odd jobs to support himself, Armstrong pursued his passion for music and began learning with Joe “King” Oliver who was the greatest cornet player of his time. Oliver encouraged Armstrong and sometimes even used him in his recordings. In 1918, Armstrong married a prostitute named Daisy Parker with whom he adopted a 3 year old child named Clarence. Clarence’s deceased mother had been Armstrong’s cousin and the child was brain damaged so Armstrong took him under his wing and cared for him his entire life. Armstrong and Parker separated shortly.

His reputation as a musician began to grow and he joined a band and began to play in bars, clubs and parties. He also perfected his skill of reading music and soon he was well known in musical circles by jazz greats such as Bix Beiderbecke and Jack Teagarden. In 1922, he joined Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band as a coronet player in Chicago. His talent as an instrumentalist earned him much fame and soon he recorded his first single. He then married Lillian Hardin who was the pianist from his band. She encouraged him to join Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra, which was the top African American dance band in New York back then. His work was much admired and he influenced the band’s style of music

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