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The prolific trumpeter who became a world ambassador for jazz, Louis Armstrong learned to blow on a bugle in reform school when he was 13. His intuitive genius for improvisation changed the course of jazz, but after the 1940s mugging dominated his performances and he had his greatest success as a pop singer.
Louis Daniel Armstrong popularly known as Satchmo and Pops was born on July 4, 1900, in New Orleans, the birthplace of American jazz. His father, Willie, was a day laborer in a turpentine plant, and his mother, Mayann (Mary Ann), worked chiefly as a domestic. His grandparents had been slaves. Dippermouth (his original nickname) picked up small change by singing and dancing with other street urchins in the notorious Storyville district.
After Louis celebrated New Year's Eve by firing a .38 pistol that belonged to one of his "stepfathers," he was sent to the Colored Waifs' Home for Boys in 1913. There he tried several instruments until he found his voice in the cornet, and, though self-taught, he became the leader of the school band.
Armstrong was 18 when he replaced his idol, King Oliver, in Kid Ory's Brownskin Band. A mellophonist taught him how to read music when he joined a Mississippi riverboat band. In 1922 he went to Chicago to play second cornet with Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. His time with Fletcher Henderson's big band in New York City in 1924 expanded his music beyond the traditional New Orleans style. Soon he switched to the trumpet on theater dates because of its brighter sound and flashier look.
The first band built in the image of one personality wa...
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