The great Louis Armstrong was born 115 years ago today in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are 10 LA Did-You-Knows:
- Armstrong was the grandson of slaves.
- He grew up rough in the Storyville section of New Orleans and as a sometimes-delinquent teenager, he found himself more than once sent to the Colored Waifs’ Home for Boys. It was there that he honed his abilities in playing the cornet.
- The young Armstrong played with many bands in the Crescent City, but it was his time with band of Fate Marable‘s riverboat outfit that perhaps proved most influential in his style and ability. He once referred to his time with Marable as “going to the University.”
- His nickname morphed from Satchelmouth to Satchmo during a 1932 European tour when an editor of a London music magazine referred to him by that soubriquet, perhaps based on a shorthand version of Satchelmouth in his notes.
- Armstrong tended to remember faces but not names, so he made it a practice to call “Pops” anyone whose name was eluding his memory. Eventually, friends turned that around on him, and it became another of the nicknames by which he was known.
- Armstrong claimed most of his life to have been born on July 4, 1900, but some years after he died, a birth record was discovered that revealed his true birth date.
- Armstrong was unfamiliar with both the song Hello, Dolly! and the show it came from when he recorded it in 1964. It became his first No. 1 hit.
- An avid user of a herbal laxative called Swiss Kriss, he adhered to the questionable belief that the regular use of laxatives was key to good health.
- Armstrong is said to have coined the slang terms “cat” (a jazz musician) and “chops” (a musician’s skill with his instrument).
- Louis Armstrong’s home in the Corona section of Queens, New York, where he and his fourth wife, Lucille, settled in in 1943, is now a museum and remains furnished much as it was when the pair resided there.
Happy birthday, Satchmo, wherever you may be!