Monday, June 11, 2018

Satchmo - My Life in New Orleans - Louis Armstrong

Found this one at the local thrift store and decided to see what I could learn about the legendary horn-man. This is an autobiography written about his early days in New Orleans, growing up poor, being tossed in a boys home where he learns to play coronet, and then trying to help his mom and sister and young cousin survive during the war by doing whatever work he can - as a musician or delivering coal, among other positions, and describing all of the characters he grew up with. Due to his location and monetary status, these characters consisted of plenty of pimps, prostitutes, and gamblers as well as musicians. It's kind of funny how nonchalantly he speaks of these people, as if everyone ran with these types - he even talks of trying to be a pimp himself! Not what you would expect from the man who sang "Hello Dolly!" and "What a Wonderful World"! He ends up marrying and "reforming" a prostitute and he continues to play and learn the ropes until eventually he joins King Oliver's band in Chicago, where his career takes off and where he ends the book.

With only a grade school education, this isn't high literary art by any means, but it is an engaging story told in the hip slang of the day. The introduction, by Dan Morgenstern, explains some of Armstrong's language mangling and misinterpretations that I certainly would not have understood otherwise. But, regardless, I truly enjoyed this story of the early days of New Orleans jazz.