How a street urchin became a star trumpet player.
LOUIS ARMSTRONG'S TEENS IN NEW ORLEANS
One of the most popular jazz musicians of all ages must have been Louis Armstrong, known as Satchmo. His trumpet playing, his rasping voice and the white cloth always at hands while playing, are well known. A few weeks ago I saw a fragment on YouTube I had read about in a book, but never had seen. Now it is available I love to share it with you – although .. not today. More about that later in Satchmo's Secret.
The Colored Waif's Home Brass Band ( ca. 1910s)
Louis was born in New Orleans August 1901 as the eldest son of William Armstrong and Mary Albert. William was a son of a former slave. When Louis was born, his father William left his family and married another woman. Louis and his younger sister Beatrice were raised at their grandmother's house. His grandmother Josephine and uncle Isaac nursed him up to his fifth birthday. As a school kid Louis returned to his mother and became a student at the Fisk School for Boys in New Orleans. The White Waifs' Home was a relief centre for white urchins, prob. semiliar to the Home for Colored Waifs.
Louis raised in a very poor family and had to bring in some money for a living as a paperboy or selling food that had left in restaurants. His mother had to work, now and then, as a prostitute. The Red Light district, where he lived, Storyville, gave him the opportunity to watch the dancers and listen to musicians, like Joe Oliver at Billy Phillips' 101 Ranch on Franklin Street, but it was also a place for street urchins to learn about the seamy sides of life.
Another rare photo of the Waifs' Home Band ( 1910s)
Louis left the Fisk School for Boys when he was eleven years old and became a singer in a vocal group, that tried to raise some money along the streets. A tough time for Louis to survive, who found a place to live at the Karnofskys, a Jewish family that lived in New Orleans. An incident on New Years day ( after he fired his stepfather's pistol in the air) brought him, because of multiple times for general delinquency, into the Home for Colored Waifs, a place for homeless children - a reformatory led by Joseph Jones and his wife Manuela. It was located at the corner of Conti Street and Rosedale Drive. Only colored kids were received here - the white homeless kids had their own house: the White Waifs' Home. The French market in New Orleans ( ca. 1910s)
Louis became a pupil of Peter Davis, who introduced him into the house band, the Waifs' Home Band, first on tambourine, later on drums. In New Orleans young kids started with a percussion instrument to learn to feel the rhythms of the music. Then he got an alto horn or mellophone and finally a bugle, a cornet without valves. He was a talented boy and even became the leader of the band. Joe Oliver ( 1885-1938)
When he was fourteen years, he was released and lived with his father and stepmother and after a short period again at his mothers place.He tried to make a living with all kinds of jobs and at night he played music at the city dance halls like Henry Ponce's. Well, to make a long story short - he became a trumpet player and learned to play from other New Orleans musicians like Buddy Petit, Kid Ory and, above all, Joe Oliver, who became his mentor. His first recordings were on the Gennett label with his King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band ( April 1923)
Enjoy his Dippermouth Blues - 11389 ( 6th of April, 1923)
Drawing of Joe King Oliver by R. Crumb in Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country.