Did Louis Armstrong Have Formal Musical Training?

The school of hard knocks can produce some incredible sounds. Take, for example, the formative years of the legendary jazz trumpeter, vocalist, and composer Louis Armstrong. As a young child, Armstrong spent his days in New Orleans singing on the streets for change, but his family was very poor and he had no opportunity to receive musical training. That's when fate intervened, in a rather unexpected way. In 1912, at age 11, Armstrong fired a pistol during a New Year's Eve celebration and was promptly arrested and sent to the Colored Waifs Home for Boys, a juvenile detention center. That was where Armstrong met music teacher Peter Davis, who, over the course of the next 18 months, began Armstrong's musical education, including teaching him how to play bugle and cornet. Armstrong eventually landed a spot in the reform school's popular brass band. Armstrong would later say that this experience was how "me and music got married," acknowledging that musical training forced him to "quit running around." Upon his release, the young Louis Armstrong never looked back, gaining early fame by playing in local taverns on his way to a career as one of the greatest icons in jazz history.

A little more about Louis:

  • In 1963, at age 62, Armstrong knocked the Beatles from the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his recording of "Hello, Dolly!"

  • Armstrong would sometimes perform as many as 300 concerts in a single year.

  • Louis Armstrong wore a Star of David pendant to show his gratitude to the Karnoffskys, a Lithuanian-Jewish family who often fed him and employed him during his childhood in New Orleans.

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