Monday, February 01, 2010

Louis Armstrong's teens in New Orleans

Louis Armstrong's teens in New Orleans ( English) Louis Armstrongs jeugdjaren in New Orleans ( Nederlands) Satchmo's secret (English) Satchmo's geheim ( Nederlands)

How a street urchin became a star trumpet player.
Hans Koert

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 a
nd 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)

In the second part of this contribution: Satchmo's secret, it may become clear why this introduction to Louis Armstrong's teens in New Orleans was posted ...........

Hans Koert

If you like stories like this about the earliest history of jazz - a period in which Jazz even didn't exist - the period in which the music was born in a melting pot of different cultures. Today a story about one of the greatest jazz musicians of all times Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong who made his debut on records in Joe King Oliver's band. But what about his first music lessons? How did he grew up in New Orleans? If you're one of those fans that loves to read about jazz or jazz-related music between 1910 - 2010 you shouldn't miss any contribution - so ask for the news letter: register.
Drawing of Joe King Oliver by R. Crumb in Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country.

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Blogger Jo said...

Thanks a lot for this great contribution about a very young Louis Armstrong. I can hardly wait to read the continued story, anyway, it's always nice to look forward to something good, right?


9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Hans,as always you come up with a great story and as you know Louis is my hero. I can't wait to read the rest of the story.

11:09 AM  
Blogger rmoie said...

The recent front-page Times-Picayune article on Armstrong may have spurred more interest in the Colored Waifs' Home but the location sadly remains unmarked with a plaque or monument. Tour guides sometimes point out the location on Rosedale, between Holt and St. Patrick Cemeteries, but no one wants to commemorate it. Why is this so? Holt Cemetery has a monument to Buddy Bolden sponsored by Delgado College and Stewert Enterprises,but just a block of so away, no monument stands to mark the location of the Waifs' Home and commemorate the momentous event in jazz history that occurred there.

I grew up and live just three blocks from the Waifs' Home location, and eery time I pass it, I lament the lack of a memorial.

A monument could esaily be placed in front of the New Orleans Fire Department Telecomunications Building on Rosedale near Conti, back of the General Dollar Store.

5:21 PM  

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