5 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong is an entertainer known around the globe. His rich gravely voice is intently recognizable, and his music unforgettable. He brought us legendary songs “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Ain’t Misbehavin’,” What a Wonderful World,” “Stardust,” and ” Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and many others.
The King of Jazz was born in New Orleans in 1901, and his musical legacy will forever be synonymous with the famous city. He rose to fame playing in smoke-filled musical clubs of the red district where he grew up known as "Storyville," also known as "Backatown."
There are two statues dedicated in his honor, one in Algiers near the Canal Street Ferry and the other in Louis Armstrong Park. However, it may surprise you that he is not buried there in his beloved city. Here are a few more things that may surprise you about one of the world's most influential trumpeters.
1. HIS PLAYING STYLE EARNED HIM THE NAME SATCHMO
His lips took a beating due to his continuous playing, pressure from the mouthpiece on his trumpet to nail those high C's, and relentless touring schedule. Armstrong battled with severe lip damage. He played with such force he split his lips often and suffered from painful scar tissue. The jazz legend treated his lip callouses with a special salve called “Satchmo’s Syndrome.”
2. HE LEARNED HOW TO PLAY WHILE IN JUVENILE DETENTION
At the age of eleven, while playing with friends, Armstrong fired a pistol in the air after a dare. He was arrested and sent to the Colored Waifs Home, a juvenile detention and reform school. There, he learned to play the bugle and cornet from the Waifs music teacher Peter Davis.
3. HE IS NOT BURIED IN NEW ORLEANS
The famous New Orleans jazz trumpeter is buried in New York City at Flushing Cemetery. Prior to his death in 1971 at age 50, he was very clear about not being buried in his hometown. Armstrong said it was because of the city's civil rights failings.
4. HIS GRAVELY VOICE CAME FROM PROLONGED COLDS AND SURGERY
In his biography, Pops, by Terry Teachout, Armstrong suffered from prolonged colds while playing on steamboats in the 20s. This had a major effect on his vocal cords, and underwent a few surgeries to correct the problem. But it only made it worse.
5. "WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD" WAS NOT A HIT DURING ARMSTRONGS LIFETIME
Armstrong recorded the sensational ballad four years before he died in 1967. But it was a flop in the U.S. despite doing well overseas, mainly due to bad promotions. According to Armstrong biographer Terry Teachout, “What a Wonderful World” wasn't a hit until 1987! It made a huge comeback after being featured on the movie soundtrack for the Robin Williams film “Good Morning, Vietnam.”