The Kennedy Center

Louis Armstrong


Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1901, Louis Armstrong had a great influence on the development of jazz. When he was 12 he was sent to reform school for firing a gun in the air on New Year's Eve. There he learned to play the cornet. After being released at age 14, he met Joe "King" Oliver who gave him his first cornet, and instructed him on the instrument.

By 1917 he was playing in bars in New Orleans and on Mississippi river boats. In 1922, he joined “King” Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in Chicago. He left Oliver’s band at the end of 1924, moved to New York where he played with Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra and took part in many recording sessions.

In 1925 Armstrong moved back to Chicago. There he made records for the first time under his own name. The records made by Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven are considered to be jazz classics. By 1929 he had become a big star.

In 1931 he assembled an orchestra for touring purposes. He crisscrossed the United States many times and played also in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland, and England. In 1947 he replaced his big band with a small group called the Louis Armstrong Allstars. It became one of the most popular bands in jazz history. They toured extensively worldwide for the next twenty years until Louis' failing health caused them to disband. However, he continued to play and record until his death in 1971.

September, 2002

Louis Armstrong