Louis Daniel Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971), nicknamed "Satchmo", "Satch", and "Pops", was an American trumpeter and vocalist who is among the most influential figures in jazz. His career spanned five decades and different eras in the history of jazz.
Armstrong was born and raised in New Orleans. Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an inventive trumpet and cornet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance. Around 1922, he followed his mentor, Joe "King" Oliver, to Chicago to play in the Creole Jazz Band. In Chicago, he spent time with other popular jazz musicians, reconnecting with his friend Bix Beiderbecke and spending time with Hoagy Carmichael and Lil Hardin. He earned a reputation at "cutting contests" and his fame reached band leader Fletcher Henderson. Henderson persuaded Armstrong to come to New York City, where he became a featured and musically influential band soloist and recording artist. Hardin became Armstrong's second wife and they returned to Chicago to play together and then he began to form his own "Hot" jazz bands. After years of touring, he settled in Queens, and by the 1950s, he was a national musical icon, assisted in part, by his appearances on radio and in film and television, in addition to his concerts.
Armstrong was born in New Orleans on August 4, 1901.[a] His parents were Mary Albert and William Armstrong. Mary Albert was from Boutte, Louisiana, and gave birth at home when she was about sixteen. William Armstrong abandoned the family shortly after. About two years later, he had a daughter, Beatrice "Mama Lucy" Armstrong, who was raised by Albert.
Louis Armstrong was raised by his grandmother until the age of five when he was returned to his mother. He spent his youth in poverty in a rough neighborhood known as The Battlefield. At six he attended the Fisk School for Boys, a school that accepted black children in the racially segregated system of New Orleans.
From the age of 7 he lived with the Karnoffskys, a family of Lithuanian Jews. Mrs Karnoffsky used to sing lullabies for him at night before bed in Yiddish and Russian. The Karnoffskys took him in and treated him like family.
Borrowing his stepfather's gun without permission, he fired a blank into the air and was arrested on December 31, 1912. He spent the night at New Orleans Juvenile Court, then was sentenced the next day to detention at the Colored Waif's Home. Life at the home was spartan. Mattresses were absent; meals were often little more than bread and molasses. Captain Joseph Jones ran the home like a military camp and used corporal punishment.
Armstrong played in brass bands and riverboats in New Orleans, first on an excursion boat in September 1918. He traveled with the band of Fate Marable, which toured on the steamboat Sidney with the Streckfus Steamers line up and down the Mississippi River.
In 1925, Armstrong returned to Chicago largely at the insistence of Lil, who wanted to expand his career and his income. In publicity, much to his chagrin, she billed him as "the World's Greatest Trumpet Player". For a time he was a member of the Lil Hardin Armstrong Band and working for his wife. He formed Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five and recorded the hits "Potato Head Blues" and "Muggles". The word "muggles" was a slang term for marijuana, something he used often during his life.