Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, in the state of Louisiana on August 4th, 1901. His father was a factory worker and left the family soon after Louis's birth. Young Louis was desperately poor. He lived with his sister, mother and grandmother in the poorest area of New Orleans known as ‘the Battlefield’ because of the fighting and shooting that often happened there.
When Louis was eleven years old, he was arrested for firing a gun into the air on New Year's Eve. He was sent to a reform school, where he learned to play the trumpet in the school's band. Eighteen months later Louis was back home and already dreaming of the life of a musician. He sold newspapers, unloaded boats and sold coal. However, in the evenings Louis played the trumpet with local groups or went to clubs to listen to jazz bands. He soon became friends with one of the greatest musicians of the time, Joe Oliver, who became young Louis's teacher. As Louis's skills developed, he began to perform professionally.
He was soon able to stop working on manual labour jobs and began concentrating full-time on music, playing at parties, dances, and at local cafés. He joined Joe Oliver's band and moved to Chicago. Later, Louis organised his own band and began to record one of the greatest series of songs in the history of jazz. Louis developed a unique style of singing: he could make his voice sound like a musical instrument and he could make an instrument sound like a singer's voice. Louis enjoyed singing improvised melodies and rhythms. Armstrong was an easy-going and communicative person. His fellow musicians called him ‘Satchelmouth’ because of his wide smile. Later, it was shortened to ‘Satchmo’.
Armstrong's biggest hits came later in his life. In 1964, his version of the song ‘Hello Dolly’ was a top hit around the world. It even replaced a top-selling hit by the hugely popular British group, the Beatles. Three years later, he appeared in the film version of ‘Hello Dolly’ with the singer Barbra Streisand. The song ‘What a Wonderful World’, recorded in 1968, was his final big hit.
Louis Armstrong never finished the fifth grade in school, yet he wrote two books about his life and many stories for magazines. He appeared in more than thirty movies. He composed many jazz pieces. He won several gold records and many other awards. Armstrong performed about three hundred concerts each year, travelling all over the world. He became known as the legend and symbol of jazz.