When people think about jazz, one of the top names that comes up is Louis Armstrong. Some people even call this talented musician the Father of Jazz because of the way that he changed how people think about and even play music. With incredible vocals and an amazing ability to make a cornet and trumpet do amazing things, his albums are some of the most influential that have ever been recorded in the genre. The passion in his music undoubtedly came from the experiences of his life.
1. He Never Knew His Dad
Born in New Orleans, Louis Armstrong’s father left the family right after he was born. This forced his mother, who couldn’t land a job anywhere, to resort to prostitution in order to support herself and little Louis. This meant that Louis and his grandmother would spend a lot of time with each other in his early years. When he was old enough to begin working, he left school to help the family. He made it up to the 5th grade.
2. A Fateful Arrest
To celebrate a new year, 11 year old Louis Armstrong decided to fire a pistol into the sky. Bullets that go up are bullets that must come down. The dangerous choice led to his arrest and eventually he was sent to a home for boys. At this home, Louis began to develop a passion for music. A local professor noticed his talent and helped Louis to develop his musical skills and discipline he would need later on in life.
3. That’s a Lot of Albums
The bulk of Armstrong’s most influential work was recorded between 1925-1928. During this three year span, he would go on to record over 60 different albums, many of them game-changers for what they had. Armstrong was one of the first musicians to utilize swing rhythms and high pitched notes to become foundational components of his compositions. It would be long until everyone else was copying what he was doing.
4. A Little Trouble With the Mob
In the days when Armstrong was playing, it was organized crime that owned many of the most popular night clubs in the large cities. A little trouble with rival mob bosses in Chicago and New York forced Armstrong to tour the country and hang out in California during the early days of the Great Depression. Eventually he was forced to Europe, where he would stay for several months to rest. Upon his return, Armstrong hired a new managed who was friends with Al Capone and all the troubles with the mob went away.
5. He Told a President to Go To Hell
After the jazz and swing era wound down in the United States, Armstrong began touring the world. When the integration issues at Little Rock High School caught his attention, however, he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. Not only did he say that President Eisenhower had no guts, but the government could go to hell. It would be a defining moment for him.
Louis Armstrong changed the way we think about music. His passion helped to redefine an industry and much of his music is still considered revolutionary, even to this day.