Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Louis Armstrong

Dr. Bob Prescribes Louis Armstrong

The often-told story of Louis Armstrong’s early life has passed into American legend, an early twentieth century Horatio Alger-styled tale of an impoverished black child who rises from the humblest of beginnings to fame and fortune through hard work, courage, and talent.  Armstrong spent his entire life believing that he was a “Yankee-Doodle Dandy”, born on the fourth of July in 1900. However, it was in the mid-1980s that the music historian Thaddeus Jones (1952-2007), in researching Louis Armstrong’s early life, discovered baptismal records that definitively established Armstrong’s date of birth as August 4, 1901.  There has never been any question about the location of Armstrong’s birth: New Orleans. He was born out of wedlock to Mary (“Mayann”) Albert (1885-1927) and William Armstrong (1880-1933). William abandoned the family soon after Louis’ birth, though he reappeared long enough to once again impregnate Mayann, who gave birth to a second child two years later. (Named Beatrice, she went by the fabulous nickname of “Mama Lucy”.) With his father’s departure, the infant Louis was initially raised by his paternal grandmother; his mother Maryann, who worked as a domestic and as a prostitute, came and went. When the young dude was about five he […]

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Music History Monday: Pops: The Indispensable Man

We mark the death on July 6, 1971 – 49 years ago today – of the jazz trumpet-player, singer, bandleader, and American icon Louis Armstrong. (For our information, Armstrong pronounced his first name as “Lewis”, as shall we.) Known alternately as Louis (as in LOO-wee), “Satchmo”, “Satch”, or simply “Pops”, Armstrong was the “indispensable” man of jazz. One brief but, I think, most worthy item of date appropriate business to mention before moving on to Maestro Armstrong, an event that occurred on this date in 1957, 63 years ago today. That was the day that Paul McCartney and John Lennon met for the first time.  In November of 1956, two high school students – John Lennon (1940-1980) and his friend, the guitarist (and later, dry cleaner) Eric Griffiths (1940-2005) – founded a band in their hometown of Liverpool. They initially called the band the Blackjacks but quickly renamed it the Quarrymen, in honor of their high school, Quarry Bank High School. By early 1957, the band numbered six members. Lennon designed a poster which was put up across Liverpool, which informed its readers that “Country-and-western, rock ‘n’ roll, skiffle band — The Quarrymen — Open for Engagements.”  On July 6, 1957, the […]

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