Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong Hidden Hero of History illustration
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Dorktales Podcast: Episode 8


Louis Armstrong

A tale of Mississippi river boats, parasol parades and breaking racial barriers! A man that built a music legacy and a legacy beyond music—Louis Armstrong transformed jazz music and became the beloved “Ambassador Satch” who performed all over the world! So much of his life was about a deep passion for music and using it to bring people together.

Creatives Behind This Episode

Jonathan Cormur voiceover
Jonathan Cormur


Molly Murphy


Jermaine Hamilton

Audio Engineer

Arthur Lin


Did You Know?

Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans in 1901. He lived in what was once a very dangerous neighborhood and had a very difficult childhood. In fact, he needed to start working when he was still pretty young. That is how he came to afford his very first cornet.

A cornet is a melodic brass instrument, very similar to the trumpet.

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Louis Armstrong was eventually mentored by the top cornetist in New Orleans: Joe “King” Oliver, or King Oliver for short.

Over time, Mr. Armstrong became one of the most in-demand cornetists in town. He kicked-off his career on Mississippi river boats and in 1922, King Oliver asked him to join his orchestra in Chicago.

In 1925, after playing and recording with King Oliver and then spending a brief, and unenjoyable, time playing in New York, he decided that he would go back to Chicago and start making records under his own name for the very first time.

Louis Armstrong became one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time.

Over his long and storied career, he transformed jazz music. He really developed the art form in a way that still influences jazz musicians to this day, and has made sure of its lasting legacy! He also had a distinctive voice, was skilled at playing with melodies and improvising. And he helped popularize ‘scat singing,’ an improvised form of singing like your voice is an instrument.

Louis Armstrong and his band ‘the Hot Five’ – later the ‘Hot Seven’ – recorded hit songs for five decades.

He wrote two autobiographies, ten magazine articles, hundreds of pages of a memoir, thousands of letters, and at the height of his career he was performing almost 300 concerts a year, with tours all over the world! He became known as “Ambassador Satch.”

Louis Armstrong broke down barriers during a time when there were even more significant obstacles for African American people in our country than there are today. He was the first African American person to write an autobiography, get cast in a major motion picture, and host a nationally sponsored radio show. He also famously spoke out about the Little Rock Nine. This was an incident in Arkansas where nine African American students were prevented from attending school.

He really liked his home in the working-class neighborhood of Corona, Queens, where he lived with his wife Lucille for almost 30 years. And he had a great love for his surrounding community – a love that was given right back to him.

When he recorded his cover of “What A Wonderful World”, which is still one of his most popular recordings, he said: “There’s so much in ‘Wonderful World’ that brings me back to my neighborhood where I live in Corona, New York.”

He saw three generations of kids grow up there and come back to visit with their own children. And when he thought of their faces, it gave extra meaning to the part of “What a Wonderful World” where he sings: “I hear babies cry/ I watch them grow/ they’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know.”

It seemed so much of his life was about a deep passion for music and using it to bring people together. Louis Armstrong built a music legacy and a legacy beyond music.

Special Perk! Get a free printable activity guide for this episode when you subscribe to our mailing list. Click Here to sign up.

Logo for Louis Armstrong House Musuem

Go to the museum website for photos of Louis performing on stage and relaxing at home. Discover more about his legendary life, his films and books. Best of all, listen to a sample of some of Satchmo’s most-loved tunes.

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What are Hidden Heroes of History?

Our special “Hidden Heroes” episodes are the stories of real-life hidden heroes in science, technology, engineering, arts, math and human rights. These are the people who made history in ways you’d never imagine.

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