A Portrait of Louis Armstrong

This article was written by Phin Upham

Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans to a poor family. He grew up in a rough part of town, and he was forced to begin working at a very early age to help support his family. He would often sing on street corners, hoping to collect pennies from passersby. He also sold coal, which forced him to travel around the city.

Those travels soon led him to all sorts of new music, from honky tonk to brass bands. Armstrong’s amateur singing soon blossomed into a better acquaintance with music. He taught himself to play the cornet, and received formal music instruction at a school for boys after he was caught firing blanks into the air on New Years.

Armstrong got his start playing parades and funeral processions around the city. It wasn’t long before he’d captured the attention of older musicians like Joe “King” Oliver, who was one of the world’s premier trumpet players at the time.

When the King departed for Chicago, the band chose Armstrong to replace him. From there, his work took him to Mississippi where he played for river boats. It was there that Armstrong learned to read music and discovered an appreciation for jazz.

Armstrong is considered one of the foremost jazz improvisation artists, and his vocals are nearly unmistakable. He is remembered as someone who had a very positive demeanor, and he is most remembered for his contributions to the budding “swing” genre of music, which he helped to popularize through his work.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website