- NAME: Louis Armstrong
- OCCUPATION: Singer, Trumpet Player
- BIRTH DATE: August 04, 1901
- DEATH DATE: July 06, 1971
- Did You Know?: In 1936, Louis Armstrong became the first African-American jazz musician to write an autobiography, Swing That Music.
- Did You Know?: Also in 1936, Louis Armstrong became the first African American to get featured billing in a major Hollywood movie with his turn in Pennies from Heaven.
- Did You Know?: In 1937, Louis Armstrong became the first African-American entertainer to host a nationally sponsored radio show.
- EDUCATION: Fisk School for Boys, Colored Waif's Home for Boys
- PLACE OF BIRTH: New Orleans, Louisiana
- PLACE OF DEATH: Corona, Queens, New York
- Nickname: "Pops"
- Nickname: "Satchmo"
- Full Name: Louis Armstrong
- Nickname: "Ambassador Satch"
Best Known For
Louis Armstrong was a trumpeter, bandleader, singer, soloist, film star and comedian. Considered one of the most influential artists in jazz history, he is known for songs like "Star Dust," "La Via En Rose" and "What a Wonderful World."
Louis Armstrong - Nicknames (1:30)
Louis Armstrong, nicknamed "Satchmo," "Pops" and, later, "Ambassador Satch," was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. An all-star virtuoso, he came to prominence in the 1920s, influencing countless musicians.
In an era of marches and sit ins, vocal advocates for African-American rights questioned Louis Armstrong dedication to their cause. But in 1957, after seeing the Little Rock Nine, Louis Armstrong makes his voice heard.
Louis Armstrong biographer Ricky Riccardi tells the story behind Louis Armstrong's most famous nickname, "Satchmo."
In 1943 Lucille Armstrong bought the house at 34-65 107th street in Queens, New York for around $8,000. Site unseen, Louis gaves his approval and for the first time in a while, comes home.
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During this period, Armstrong set a number of African-American "firsts." In 1936, he became the first African-Amercican jazz musician to write an autobiography: Swing That Music. 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 1937, when he took over Rudy Vallee's Fleischmann's Yeast Show for 12 weeks.
Armstrong continued to appear in major films with the likes of Mae West, Martha Raye and Dick Powell. 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 1938, 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 1942. 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 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York. The Armstrongs moved into the home, where they would live for the rest of their lives, in 1943.
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. Members of the group, at one time or another, included Jack Teagarden, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Sid Catlett, Barney Bigard, Trummy Young, Edmond Hall, Billy Kyle and Tyree Glenn, among other jazz legends.
Armstrong continued recording for Decca in the late 1940s and early '50s, creating a string of popular hits, including "Blueberry Hill," "That Lucky Old Sun," "La Vie En Rose," "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" and "I Get Ideas." Armstrong joined 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.C. 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, leading him to be known as "Ambassador Satch." He performed all over the world in the 1950s and '60s, including throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Legendary CBS newsman Edward R. 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 1957.
Visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum for more information about Louis Armstrong’s life, music and home in Corona, Queens.
Read more about Louis Armstrong in What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years by Ricky Riccardi.
Learn more about the lives of African-Americans who have made extraordinary achievements in their fields, with our collection of Black History Groups.
Explore our curated collections of African-American figures, including:
Check out BIO’s original video series, American Freedom Stories, about the historic events of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, and the leaders and everyday heroes who fought to make racial equality a reality. Watch videos.
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