Louis Armstrong- The Time of Chicago

Louis Armstrong in 1952. Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

One man, Daniel Louis Armstrong, gave many people from 1901 to 1971 the gift of music. His life was full of what he loved, and he had opportunities in music that nobody would think of doing at the time. Louis Armstrong had a style all his own. People from all backgrounds and colors loved him. It did not matter where a person came from or what language they spoke, people would come just to hear him play and sing. Armstrong knew how to please a crowd with what he had, and he always performed the best he could. He was given opportunities that took him far in his career as a trumpet player.

Louis Armstrong playing his trumpet while being presented with an award. Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Louis Armstrong playing his trumpet while being presented with an award | Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

He left from New Orleans to Chicago in the year 1922. He arrived at the Chicago train station at about eleven o’clock at night.1 While in Chicago, Louis Armstrong went through many social situations that occurred in his time there. He went through the time of Prohibition, which gave rise to the illicit social environment in which jazz—and his career—flourished.2 This brought on challenges for any jazz player in Chicago during the time because of what was going on in the world. Many of those that would hire jazz players were hoodlums or quasi-hoodlums.3

Louis Armstrong was just getting used to being in Chicago, where he could do anything with his music because he had those opportunities. It took him time to embrace the Windy City fully because for Louis, this was unknown territory for him. Louis had taken their music out of its infancy and given it a powerful breath of new life and independence.4 He flourished in his style of jazz and created something much further than anyone could have thought. He could take any song and make it his own. His whole life he had a love for music, but during this time in Chicago he really started to show what he could do. After some time away from Chicago, he would come back as a solo act at the Regal Theater.5 Even though he had left Chicago for a time, he would always come back to experience the great joy that had brought him there in the first place.

He would do great things by himself, even though he always kept in contact with people he had played with before. He took time to be with his friends and family, playing whether it would be by himself or with bands that were with friends that he had made along the way. He accomplished many things in his lifetime, becoming one of America’s legendary musicians. He was very passionate about his music and he loved to please a crowd. He had a great life filled with many people that praised and loved him, helping him on his journey of being an amazing player.

  1. Laurence Bergreen, Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life (New York: Broadway Books, 1997), 175.
  2.  Bergreen, Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life, 194.
  3. Bergreen, Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life, 195.
  4. Bergreen, Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life, 200.
  5. Terry Teachout, POPS: A Life of Louis Armstrong (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), 132.

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This Post Has 50 Comments

  1. I loved this article. The way the story of the great Louis Armstrong is compacted here is incredible. I am a regular listener of jazz music, especially Armstrong. Mythical musician, achiever of his dreams and above all, he knew how to connect with his audience. More than his lyrics I believe that his music expresses more his feelings, he achieved it, he managed to become one with the music and leave an incredible legacy for the music.

  2. This is a great article! I have heard of Louis Armstrong but never knew much about his life. I find it interesting that he was brave enough to leave his family and home in New Orleans for Chicago. Regardless he always went home to visit them. He was able to overcome adversity, namely segregation and prohibition, to achieve his goals.

  3. Louis Armstrong was very influential in the 20’s. Some could argue that he was the start of the jazz era. It really inspires me that he was so successful during this time in history due to the social issues happening in America at the time. He has really brought so many people from different backgrounds together. For example, my grandmother always sang his hit song “La vie en rose” and as I have grown up, I have learned to love that song and Armstrongs beautiful voice. Even in my case, it has connected two generations together. I am so glad he moved to chicago in 1922 to make amazing music, his believe he will live on and connect people for many generations to come.

  4. Christopher Hohman

    Nice article. Louis Armstrong was an amazing muscleman who revolutionized the music we listened to. I have never listened to any of his music but I have heard of him before and know that to those who are fans of Jazz he is a role model. It is good that he still found time to be with friends and family. As a musician it can be hard to keep in touch with those who love you but it does not seem like he had those issues.

  5. Louis Armstrong is such an icon and if you don’t at least know his name then you have been living under a rock. I really enjoyed reading this article and the author did a good job of telling an important part of his life. I have a lot of respect for Armstrong because he did what some people are too scared to do and that is to just go out on your own to follow your passion. He also did this during the Prohibition which could have been very bad for him but he still managed to make it work and become a legend.

  6. I had heard of Louis Armstrong through references however I had never looked into his history. It is interesting to read about how he took his passion for trumpet playing and turned it into an art that is still being appreciated and praised to this day. Not only is his music praised but through the years his style of playing was very influential to jazz.

  7. The first time I knew about Louis Armstrong, I was indeed fascinated with his trumpet playing. Creativity mostly comes from improvisation, which I learned by the way he played his trumpet with passion. He was truly a legend to all jazz players during the Harlem Renaissance, and he motivated young musicians to take music to another level as well.

  8. Time for me to listen to some Louis Armstrong. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to get the full effect since he performed purely jazz pieces. I admire a good jazz musician because they do not rely on memorization of notes. Rather, they go with the flow of music, something you cannot learn by simply looking at a bunch of notes. It takes an entrepreneur to be able to develop such a talent and personally, I think it will take a whole lot of talent for me to recognize a genre of modern music that embodies the future of the jazz age.

  9. I admire Louis Armstrong, not only for his talent in music but because he was able to achieve something that during the time period was rare to accomplish. Not only did Armstrong have to deal with Prohibition, but he also had to deal with being away from his family which is extremely difficult to deal with. Armstrong can be seen as a prime example not only for his musical talents but also for his ability to overcome adversity. Overall, this was a very inspirational and well-written article. Good work.

  10. Armstrong did a very admiral thing leaving home headed to Chicago to pursue music, it is a hard thing to be able to actually do. Leave everything behind to pursue a dream, leaving family, friends, your life entirely. His career blew up and became the face of music. This article does a great job of being informational about a dream and the extents he went through to pursue his dream. He brought soul to the table and spoke through his lyrics, for example in “What a wonderful world” it brought something to life and it made the audience connect to it bringing the song to a happy place and have that exact meaning.

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