[JPL] Louis Armstrong, 1901-1971: "The Ambassador of American Jazz"
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VOICE OF AMERICA
Louis Armstrong, 1901-1971: "The Ambassador of American Jazz"
"Satchmo" had a voice all his own. Transcript of radio broadcast:
27 September 2008
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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 Armstrong¹s biggest hits was ³Hello Dolly.²
(MUSIC: ³Hello Dolly²)
Louis Armstrong at Voice of America
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
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
Louis Armstrong grew up in Storyville, one of the poorest areas of New
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
Jazz was 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
Louis 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.
When he was eleven years old, Louis was sent to a reform school for firing a
gun outside to celebrate New Year¹s Eve. At the school, he learned to play
the trumpet in the school¹s brass band.
Louis 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 ³King² Oliver
played with the Kid Ory Band. He soon became young Louis¹s teacher. As
Louis¹s skills developed, he began to perform professionally.
At the 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 Marable¹s
band in Saint Louis, Missouri. Marable¹s band played on steamboats that
traveled up and down the Mississippi River. Working with Marable helped
prepare Armstrong to play for white audiences.
In 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.
The Hot Five
A year later, Armstrong made his first recordings as a member of King
Oliver¹s Creole Jazz Band. He later moved to New York City, where he
influenced the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra with his creativity.
Armstrong 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 singer¹s voice. The song ³Heebie Jeebies² is
said to be the first recorded example of what became known as scat singing.
He recorded it with the Hot Five.
By nineteen twenty-nine, Armstrong was becoming very popular. He returned to
New York to play in an all-black Broadway musical called ³Hot Chocolates.²
The show included the music of Fats Waller. Armstrong¹s version of Waller¹s
song, ³Ain¹t Misbehavin¹, was a huge hit.
By the 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 ³Satchmo,² 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.
Louis 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
Glaser organized a big band called Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra. It was
one of the most popular groups of the ³swing² music period. Swing was a
style of jazz played by big bands in the nineteen thirties.
The 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.
In the 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.
Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World"
Over the 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
Armstrong¹s biggest hits came later in his life. The song ³Mack the Knife²
was a big hit in nineteen fifty-five. In nineteen sixty-four, his version of
the song ³Hello Dolly² 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 ³Hello Dolly² with
singer Barbra Streisand. The song ³What a Wonderful World,² recorded in
nineteen sixty-eight, was his final big hit.
Louis 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.
Louis 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 museum¹s
Internet Web site. The address is www.satchmo.net.
This program was written and produced by Cynthia Kirk. This is Gwen Outen.
And this is Steve Ember. Listen again next week for People in America in VOA
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