National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Louis Armstrong: American\African American
Born New Orleans, Louisiana
Jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong was also known as “Satchmo” or “Pops.” His first formal music lessons took place at the Colored Waifs’ Home in New Orleans, where Armstrong was detained as a juvenile delinquent for firing a pistol on New Year’s Eve. After his release about eighteen months later, he pursued a career as a musician. Playing with pick-up bands and in small clubs, Armstrong, his mentor Joe “King” Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, and others began creating new band music out of blues and ragtime. In the 1920s, as Armstrong left New Orleans for Chicago and New York City, his popularity exploded. He wowed audiences with groundbreaking trumpet solos, improvisations, and his “scat” singing.
This portrait shows the young Armstrong with his instrument. The reverse side lists Armstrong’s popular recordings from 1927 and 1928, including “West End Blues.”