#SatchFacts - Get to Know Louis Armstrong!
To celebrate our opening show of the season, Satchmo at the Waldorf, we wrote up some interesting facts about Satchmo, so you can get to know this inspiring musician! Mosaic wants to give YOU the chance to learn more about the man behind the horn!
#LouisArmstrong's personality won him fans of all colors, something rare for his time. He was #engaging and #dynamic and is often quoted as calling the interviewer "Pops" or "dude" and "baby." He seemed to see a friend in anyone, no matter their rank. When Armstrong performed for King George V in 1932, he "ignored the rule that performers are not supposed to refer to members of the royal family while playing before them and announced on the brink of a hot trumpet break, 'This one's for you, Rex,'" noted The New York Times in Armstrong's obituary. In 2011, a #BBCradio documentary shared private recordings Armstrong had made, including one in which he described the meeting he and his wife had with Pope Pius XII in 1949: "The pope was such a fine little ol' fella, you know. Oh, he welcomes you so nice. My wife had to put on a veil, she sure was cute. … So the pope said, 'Have you any children?' I said, 'No, daddy, but we're workin' on it!'"
Segregation drove #louisarmstrong to boycott his own state. The year 1956 saw Louisiana prohibit integrated bands. Outraged, Armstrong refused to stage another concert within the state's borders. “They treat me better all over the world than they do in my hometown,” he said. “Ain’t that stupid? Jazz was born there and I remember when it was no crime for cats of any color to get together and blow.” Nine years later—after this ban had finally lifted—he again took the stage in New Orleans on October 31, 1965.
Did you know that August 4, 2016 would have been #LouisArmstrong's 115th birthday? Armstrong long told interviewers he was a "Southern Doodle Dandy born on the Fourth of July 1900," according to his obituary by The New York Times. That date is still found in many #jazz histories. But in the mid-1980s, Armstrong biographers found his actual birth certificate, which lists his #birthday as Aug. 4, 1901.
This #SatchFact also happens to be a Scat Fact! During a famous recording, #LouisArmstrong allegedly dropped his music and improvised. At one point in “Heebie Jeebies”—a 1926 song released by Armstrong and his "Hot Five” band—the singer vocalizes a series of nonsensical, hornlike sounds. Music #historiansrecognize this as the first popular, mass-market #scat ever recorded. #Ironically, Armstrong later wrote the whole thing off as a big blunder on his part.
In a 1951 interview with @esquire Armstrong claimed to have come prepared with printed lyrics that day. Midway through the recording session, he accidentally dropped them and #scatted to fill the ensuing silence. “Sure enough,” he explained, “they… [published] ‘Heebie Jeebies’ the same way it was mistakenly recorded.” It's also worth noting that even though he brought it into popularity, Armstrong in no way invented the #technique, which dates back to at least 1906.
#LouisArmstrong went on several Goodwill Tours during the #coldwar:
Fresh off the wild success of his “Hello, Dolly!” cover, Armstrong made a trip to #communist East Berlin in 1965, where he gave a two-hour concert that earned a standing ovation. While not officially #government-sponsored, there are some who believe the concert was arranged by the CIA, which would make this just one of the many taxpayer-funded appearances he’d make #abroad during the Cold War in an effort to strengthen diplomatic relations overseas. Previously, Armstrong had performed throughout #Europe, #Asia, and #Africa—though he famously cancelled a planned 1957 Soviet Union tour, citing the recent Little Rock crisis.
As a child, #LouisArmstrongs wide #smile earned him nicknames like "Dippermouth," "Gatemouth" and "Satchelmouth." The latter became "Satchmo" in the 1930s when a #London writer mistakenly contracted the words when he met Armstrong, according to the museum. Armstrong liked the nickname so much he used it for an #autobiography and had it engraved on some of his instruments.
Sometimes, #LouisArmstrong would use a food-based signoff. “Pops” had a special place in his heart for both #Chinese and #Italian food. But, as a #Bayou State native, Armstrong’s favorite dish was always rice and beans. In fact, before marrying his fourth wife, he made sure that she could cook a satisfactory plateful. To grasp how much the man adored this #entrée, one need only check out his letters, which were often signed “Red Beans and Ricely Yours.”
As an adult #LouisArmstrong, wore a #StarofDavidpendant to honor the #Jewish family who employed him. While growing up, Armstrong did assorted jobs for the Karnofskys, a family of #Lithuanian-Jewish immigrants. “They were always kind to me,” Armstrong once reflected, “[I] was just a little kid who could use a little word of #kindness.” Apart from monetary compensation, Armstrong was given a hot meal every evening and regular invitations to Karnofsky Shabbat dinners. One day, they even advanced him the $5 he used to buy his very first horn.
Satchmo’s #musical influence was recognized by the musicians who came after him. Fellow musician Miles Davis once said, "You can't play anything on a horn that Louis hasn't played," according to a National Museum of American History biography of Armstrong.
Leonard Feather, the critic and author of The Encyclopedia of Jazz, wrote that Armstrong's style, "#melodically and #harmonicallysimple by the standards of later jazz trends, achieved in his early records an unprecedented warmth and #beauty. His singing, lacking most of the traditional vocal qualities accepted outside the jazz world, had a rhythmic intensity and guttural charm that induced literally thousands of other vocalists to imitate him," just as "countless trumpeters through the years reflected the impact of his style."
#LouisArmstrong was long silent publicly on race issues, something that angered some of his #African-American fans.
Then, in 1957, angry #segregationists and the #Arkansas National Guard tried to prevent nine black students from entering a Little Rock high school. Armstrong told the media, "The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell!" He also criticized popular #President Dwight D. Eisenhower for not actively intervening in the incident, saying, "The president has no guts!"
#LouisArmstrong spoke up again about #CivilRights issues in #America. In 1965, after police attacked #peaceful marchers in #Selma, Ala., Armstrong told an interviewer that while he did not actively participate in parades or give long speeches, he contributed to the civil rights movement with money. "They would beat #Jesus if he was black and marched. Maybe I'm not in the front line, but I support them with my donations. My life is in my music. They would beat me on the mouth if I marched, and without my mouth I wouldn't be able to blow my horn," Armstrong said, according to his obituary by The New York Times.
#LouisArmstrong’s musical #career began when he fired his step-father’s gun in the air during a New Year’s Eve #celebration in 1912 and was arrested and sent to the Colored Waif's Home for Boys. There he received #musical instruction and realized that he had a natural #talent for playing the cornet. By the time he was released from the home in 1914, he had realized that his life’s calling was to make #music.
#LouisArmstrong was #married four times! His first #marriage was to a former prostitute named Daisy Parker in 1918. The marriage was tumultuous from the very beginning and soon ended in a #divorce. He married Lil Hardin in 1924. His second #wife played a major role in shaping Armstrong’s career, but the two drifted apart in the late 1920s and divorced years later. His third marriage was to Alpha Smith which lasted four years before ending.His fourth and final marriage was to a singer, Lucille Wilson, to whom he was married until his death in 1971.
During #LouisArmstrong's marriage to Daisy Parker, Armstrong #adopted three-year-old Clarence, the child of Armstrong’s #cousin, who had died in childbirth. Clarence had suffered a head injury at an early age that left him mentally disabled, and he was taken care of by Armstrong his entire life. Unfortunately, during this time Louis’ marriage to Daisy failed, and she passed away shortly after their divorce.
The #GreatDepression set in during the late 1920s, and Armstrong’s hitherto thriving career suffered a setback. The depression caused several of the prominent clubs where he played to shut down. Many of his fellow #musicians shifted to other professions to make a living.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1930 and played at the New Cotton Club. The club was often visited by the #Hollywood crowd, and #celebrities like Bing Crosby were regulars there. However, Armstrong did not stay there for long and returned to #Chicago in late 1931.
He also ventured into #films and played a band leader in the motion picture ‘Pennies from Heaven’ with Bing Crosby in 1936, becoming the first African-American to get featured billing in a major #Hollywood movie. He also appeared in several other movies with big Hollywood #stars such as, #SidneyPoitier, #PaulNewman, #GraceKelly and #DihannCarroll.
#LouisArmstrong took a major tour of #Africa(Cameroon, the Belgian Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and many more countries), as part of a four-month tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department and Pepsi-Cola. Films Paris Blues on location in #Paris. Appears at the Newport Jazz Festival each July. Records ten selections with Duke Ellington in 1961, their only collaboration in the recording studio. Performed at a #birthday celebration for President John F. Kennedy on May 23, 1963.
One of #LouisArmstrong’s most #famous songs, “What a Wonderful World” initially had a lot of pushback and issues from his record company. The boss of ABC Records hated it and did not promote it until it became a hit in #England. This remains the song that is most associated with Armstrong despite the fact it does not represent his body of work, which consists mostly of jazz. He broke the record as the oldest act on the top #UK Charts when this song reached #1. His record was not broken until 2009. Also, the song was surged back into popularity in 1988 when it was re-released in the #US after it was used in the Robin Williams movie, Good Morning, Vietnam.
Since #LouisArmstrong’s death, Armstrong's stature has only continued to grow. In the 1980s and '90s, younger African-American jazz #musicians like Wynton Marsalis, Jon Faddis and Nicholas Payton began speaking about Armstrong's importance, both as a musician and a human being. A series of new #biographies on Armstrong made his role as a civil rights pioneer abundantly clear and, subsequently, argued for an embrace of his entire career's output, not just the #revolutionary recordings from the 1920s.
Armstrong's home in Corona, #Queens was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977; today, the house is home to the Louis Armstrong House Museum, which annually receives thousands of visitors from all over the world. Arguably the most important figure in 20th century music, Armstrong's #innovations as a trumpeter and vocalist are widely recognized today, and will continue to be for decades to come.
Louis (the American way) or Louie (the French way)?
Despite being called Louie (Loo-EE) Armstrong for his entire life, it was discovered that Louis Armstrong preferred the American pronunciation of his name! Growing up in New Orleans, Louis interacted with a lot of African American Creoles who he felt thought they were better than he was because of their light skin. A lot of them claimed their French ancestry heavily despite receiving the same treatment as darker skinned African Americans. Thus, Louis Armstrong preferred Louis over Louie because in his words, he wasn't no goddamn Frenchman, he was Black. He was born black and was going to die black!
Order your tickets for Mosaic Theater’s #SatchmoAtTheWaldorf HERE: http://www.mosaictheater.org/tickets
These #SatchFacts are brought to you by:
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