There have been many great trumpeters to look up to.  Some are alive today and are the trumpeters of our time.  But when it comes down to it Louis Armstrong is the best place to start.

    Allow me to give you a very brief biography of Louis Armstrong.  He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 4, 1901.  But that birthdate was discovered later.  He always thought his birthday was July 4, 1900.  He was born into a very poor family and his father left when he was young.  It is said that his mother had to turn to prostitution to support Louis and his sister Beatrice.


Louis Armstrong actually sung on street corners with three of his friends when he was a little boy.  Growing up in New Orleans, he was exposed to a lot of music around the area.


    He first started playing the cornet before later switching to trumpet.  These two instruments are played the same except their sounds will differ slightly.  Critics will say things like, “He was born a natural talent” or “his intuition,” but the truth is Louis Armstrong worked extremely hard for his skill despite his very rough up-bringing. 

    His hero was cornetist King Oliver and Louis Armstrong eventually had the privilege of playing in King Oliver’s band.  Can you imagine playing gigs with your hero?  It must have been a great experience for young Louis Armstrong.


    By the way, I should mention that Louis had a few nicknames.  The most common one would probably have to be “Satchmo.”  That is short for satchel-mouth.  It is also said that he would call men “pops” or “daddy” if he would happen to forget their name.  As a result, people started calling him “pops.”  So the other nickname Louis Armstrong had was “Pops.”

    His horn playing is ridiculously amazing still today.  Many of the things he did are still the most advanced ways of doing something on the trumpet.  His pitch bends, vibrato/lip trills, his deep sound with character, his extremely complex rhythmic flare; all these are very exciting to listen to and are still difficult to play today.  He opened a new way to play the trumpet and also opened a new way to sing.  And when you become a fan of Louis Armstrong, and you get familiar with his playing and singing, you can then later hear bits and pieces of Satchmo in almost all music you hear.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a recent pop tune from 2008 or a classic 70’s tune, you can sometimes hear things that can be traced back to Pops.  That’s how deep of an influence he was to music, especially in American music.

    There is so much more to be said of Louis Armstrong.  If you wish to further your knowledge on him, I recommend reading his autobiographies and I also recommend “Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong” by Terry Teachout.  “Satchmo: The Genius of Louis Armstrong” by Gary Giddins is also a great book that deals more with what made him so great instead of purely biographical.

    There are many in-depth reasons why Louis Armstrong is so important to American Culture and to the world, but I’ll give you my go-to reasons as a quick snack.  He was born during a tough time when black people were seen very inferior and were not treated equally, yet he surpassed those tough experiences and kept playing his horn, which he loved so passionately.  He enjoyed singing and playing for an audience.  I’ve even read accounts of folks, whom after listening to Louis Armstrong play in a club or wherever, changed their thoughts on black people.  There were white people who thought black people were inferior.  And Louis Armstrong would discredit all these beliefs with his music.

    Later, he would travel the world with his all-star musicians and give a piece of America to the world.  He’d paint a beautiful picture of America with his horn and charisma only to come back to his country and be told he couldn’t stay in a hotel because he was colored.  But Pops just kept on smiling, singing, and playing. 

Here are a few tunes so you can experience Pop’s sound.


Cornet Chop Suey.mp3 (An original tune of Armstrong and his ex wife Hardin)

Struttin' With Some Barbecue.mp3 (Another original he wrote)

Wild Man Blues.mp3 (Not an original, but this tune shows his incredible playing capabilities.)

Stompin' at the Savoy.mp3 (Not an original, but this tune shows his great charisma and how much of a      

                                                  dynamic he was when he was in the room....even if it was just a

                                                  recording studio room.)