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The Great Influential, Daniel Louis Armstrong

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"In my opinion, Louis Armstrong is the greatest trumpet stylist of all time and has influenced every trumpet player of his time and long after" (Al Hirt). Many people have said, still say and will say that he was a musician who played to please his audience, to better musicians around him, and to better the view of jazz music and to make jazz music a popular outlet during the 1920s. Armstrong's disciple Nicholas Payton says," He's the father of us all [musicians], regardless of style or how modern we get. His influence is inescapable. Some of the things he was doing in the20's and 30's, people still haven't dealt with" (Armstrong's disciple Nicholas Payton). Armstrong was one of the most influential entertainers of his generation and for many generations to come; with his charisma he brought skills and a bright personality to change the face of jazz music during a time when music was an outlet from the harsh times that were going on.

Louis's background information shows how he became the great entertainer he was. During his younger years he found his love for music, while everything that happened to him lead up to his success as a musician. His early days and origins set up his later life by introducing him to the world of music and the "real world" in the streets of New Orleans. Louis Armstrong was born to a poor family in the neighborhoods of uptown New Orleans on July 4, 1900. There is no document stating his actually birth date. His father was Willie Armstrong who was born in New Orleans also and resided there his whole life. Willie Armstrong was a "sharp" man. He was really just out to find prostitutes around New Orleans. He became interested in a young country girl named Mary Ann (better known as Mayann) Miles from Boutte, New Orleans, just outside of the neighbor hood Willie grew up in. Willie and Mayann got to know each other very well, fell in love and wed. Early in their marriage Mayann became pregnant and was due for their first child. Willie being the "sharp" man he was immediately abandoned Mayann and their newborn son Daniel Louis Armstrong. Mayann was forced to become the breadwinner of her family without a working man around. She only had a few job options to choose from which didn't pay much. She left Louis with his paternal grandmother, Josephine Armstrong, and moved around the corner where she was employed on and off as a maid. Her job as a maid wasn't bringing in enough money to support Louis and herself so she took the common job of a poor African American woman, she became a prostitute. It wasn't hard for her to get started in that field because she was a pretty young woman and men had been pursuing her before and during her marriage. (Tanenhaus 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38)

During her times as a prostitute Louis was always with his grandmother while his mother and "stepfathers" were out. They drifted in and out of his life. Until one day Willie drifted back into the household not surprising enough to have a second child with Mayann, it was a girl which they named Beatrice. She was born two years after Louis was. Now that she had two children Mayann had to take some responsibility of them so Louis moved back in with his mother. She said she was going to stay with her children but they ended up in the hands of her mother-in-law, again. Josephine was a disciplinarian; she packed her grandson off to school and church. She would spank him whenever he got out of line. Josephine taught Louis to show respect, have good manners, and to follow God. She got Louis started and headed in the right direction. Along the way he had a couple of experiences that helped him rise out of poverty and become a great influential musician. (Collier 22, 24)

There are many significant events that happened to Louis Armstrong in his life that influenced him into becoming a great trumpet player. As Louis went to school under his grandmother's watchful eye he had freedom on the weekends. During this free time he earned pennies by scavenging for bits of brass and tinfoil and giving them to junk dealers. He also pounded red bricks into powder and lugged it to prostitutes. They used this to plaster onto their stairs and make them look shiny. When he got a little older he contributed to the family by delivering newspapers and running errands for prostitutes and other adults in the community. Louis did all these jobs and didn't even have a pair of shoes to wear in the filthy dangerous streets of New Orleans. These experiences gave Louis the determination he needed throughout his life. (Tanenhaus 23, 24)

One of Armstrong's most important experiences goes back to New Years Eve when he was just 12 years old. On New Years Eve men all throughout Armstrong's neighborhood fired guns off as a sign of welcoming the new year. So Armstrong a 12 year old boy at the time raised a .38 revolver high in the air and he fired it. The minute he fired the gun two cops seized him and proceeded to ask him who had fired the revolver. Louis did not think it was a big deal so he confessed that he had fired the revolver, because he had seen many men do it. Unfortunately that excuse was not satisfying enough for the cops, so they took him to jail and later sent him to the New Orleans Colored Waifs' Home. (Terkel 20, 21)

Then Armstrong was forced to become a resident at The Colored Waifs House, where they sent young black males who were juvenile law offenders. While in the home he discovered a band that all the young men could join. Louis was reluctant to ask the band leader, Peter Davis, if he could join because Davis had treated him cruelly and was always trying to find a way to get him into more trouble because Armstrong had an attitude with Davis the first day they met. But Louis kept watching and never lost hope that one day he would become a member of the Colored Waifs Home Band. That day finally came when Davis asked Louis if he wanted to become a member of the band and handed him a tambourine, which was not a very important instrument in the band. Louis knew that Davis had given him this instrument on purpose so he just worked really hard until Davis saw his vigor, joy and work ethic. When Davis saw this he moved Louis on to the drum set, where he showed his natural rhythm. As Louis improved he was finally given his first horn, the bugle, when the boy who used to play it left. Louis was very pleased to have received this, so pleased that he cleaned the bugle which was green from not being taken care of, to its original shiny bronze. Louis made a commitment to the band and became the band leader. They started to have success going and playing all over New Orleans. This is how Louis' name and talent became known. After being in the Colored Waifs Home for a year and a half his father finally



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