Louis Armstrong was many things in his life. Although he is most well known for being a trumpeter and singer, he was also a film star and comedian. He had many nicknames including, “Stachmo,” “Pops” and “Ambassador Stach.”
Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 4, 1901. The neighborhood he grew up in was so poor, it was nicknamed “The Battlefield.” Poverty and hardship permeated Armstrong’s young life as his mom turned to prostitution after his dad left the family soon after his birth.
Armstrong began working as a junk collector and delivering coal after he was forced to leave school in the fifth grade to help contribute to the family financially. At the age of 11, Armstrong was sent to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys after being arrested for firing his stepfather’s gun in the air on New Year’s Eve. At the home, Armstrong received a more formal introduction to music and was taught to play the cornet. He fell in love with music and dreamed of making a life for himself out of music.
It wasn’t long before Armstrong built a reputation as a notable blues player. Famed cornet player Joe “King” Oliver took notice and began mentoring Armstrong. Armstrong began pursuing music full time in 1918 playing for dances, funeral marches, and parties.
In 1922, Armstrong moved to Chicago to join King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Not long after, Armstrong completed his first recording with Oliver. From 1925 to 1928, Armstrong recorded more than 60 records which have come to be regarded as the most important and influential recordings in the history of jazz.
Over the course of his career, Armstrong completed many firsts for African-Americans. He was the first African-American jazz musician to write an autobiography and the first African-American to get featured billing in a major Hollywood movie in Pennies from Heaven. He also was the first African-American entertainer to host a nationally sponsored radio show when he hosted Fleishmann’s Yeast Show.
After a series of heart attacks over the years, Armstrong passed away peacefully in his sleep on July 6, 1971,
The following video contains an explanation of the neighborhood Armstrong stayed connected to his whole life as well as what the inspiration was behind the iconic song, “What A Wonderful World.”