- 1901-08-04 - 1971-07-06
Louis Armstrong was an American trumpet player and is considered one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time. Born and raised in New Orleans, as a child Armstrong worked for a local Jewish family, the Karnoffskys; they encouraged his interest in music, and as an adult Armstrong often spoke and wrote about their generosity. The first instrument he learned to play was the cornet, imitating performances by ear and receiving only a little formal training. By the time he was an adult, he was playing both cornet and trumpet on the riverboats that traveled up and down the Mississippi. It was during those years that he learned to sightread music and use written arrangements rather than playing entirely from memory, although he continued to improvise as well.
Armstrong moved to Chicago in the early 1920s, becoming an integral part of the city's jazz scene and issuing his first recordings. He moved to New York briefly in 1924 to play trumpet with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra before returning to Chicago. There he produced a series of recording with his "Hot Five" and "Hot Seven" (the Hot Five plus a drummer and a tuba). In 1929 he went back to New York to play in the all-black musical revue "Hot Chocolates". He spent much of the Great Depression touring both the United States and Europe before finally settling in New York.
Through the 1940s and '50s Armstrong recorded, toured, and acted almost continuously. He was an internationally recognized figure and traveled all over the world. In 1959 he suffered a heart attack, but he eventually recovered and in 1964 recorded the song "Hello, Dolly!". The song reached number one on the charts, displacing the Beatles for a time and making Armstrong the oldest person ever to have a number one hit. By the end of the 1960s, however, his failing health forced him to stop touring. He died of a heart attack barely a month before his 70th birthday.