Louis Armstrong

Songs and Lyrics

The Museum

Museum Collections and Armstrong Memorabilia

Louis Armstrong Estate and the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation

Louis Armstrong

How did Louis Armstrong get the nickname “Satchmo?”

Louis had many nicknames as a child, all of which referred to the size of his mouth: “Gatemouth,” “Dippermouth,” and “Satchelmouth.” During a visit to Great Britain, Louis was met by Percy Brooks, the editor of Melody Maker magazine, who greeted him by saying, “Hello, Satchmo!” (He inadvertently contracted “Satchelmouth” into “Satchmo.”) Louis loved the new name and adopted it for his own. It provides the title to Louis’s second autobiography, is inscribed on at least two of Louis's trumpets, and is on Louis’s stationery. (Back To Top)

Is Louis’s name pronounced “Lewis” or “Louie?”

Judging from home recorded tapes now in our Museum Collections, Louis pronounced his own name as “Lewis.” On his 1964 record “Hello, Dolly,” he sings, “This is Lewis, Dolly” but in 1933 he made a record called “Laughin’ Louie.” Many broadcast announcers, fans, and acquaintances called him “Louie” and in a videotaped interview from 1983 Lucille Armstrong calls her late husband “Louie” as well. Musicians and close friends usually called him “Pops.” (Back To Top)

Did Louis Armstrong have any children?

Louis was married four times but his marriages never produced any children. Louis loved children! The neighbors still recall that when Louis returned from a trip, children would gather around the band bus and then help Louis carry his trumpet and suitcases into the house. Then Lucille would fix everybody a bowl of ice cream while they all watched westerns on TV. (Back To Top)

Could Louis Armstrong read music?

Yes. Louis first learned to read music in the Waif’s Home at about age twelve. When he joined the Fate Marable Band as a teenager, he greatly improved his reading. (The Marable Band was the first band that Louis was in that used written arrangements.) While performing at the Vendome Theater with the Erskine Tate Orchestra in the late 1920s, he was required to sight read difficult trumpet parts. The concept of a jazz musician who improvises virtuosic solos but who cannot read music is somewhat of a myth. Most jazz musicians have a tremendous command of music theory and are skilled readers. (Back To Top)

When is Louis Armstrong’s birthday?

Louis himself believed that he was born on July 4th, 1900 and that date is still found in many jazz histories and reference books. In the mid-1980s, Armstrong expert Tad Jones discovered in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in New Orleans a baptismal certificate that indicates compellingly that Louis was actually born on August 4th, 1901. (This information was first widely reported in the book Satchmo by Gary Giddins.) At the Museum, we usually celebrate on both July 4th and August 4th. (Back To Top)

What was Louis Armstrong’s favorite food?

While Louis enjoyed many different kinds of foods and dishes, he seemed to be especially fond of red beans & rice. Sometimes he even signed his letters “Red Beans & Ricely Yours!” You may download a copy of a recipe that was found among Louis’s personal papers. (You need to have Adobe Reader installed to view PDF files.) (Back To Top)

When and how did Louis Armstrong die? Where is he buried?

Louis passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early morning hours of July 6th, 1971, just two days after he had celebrated his 71st birthday (see also the question about Louis’s birthday). He had been in poor health before his death, and had taken some time off from performing. On July 5th he telephoned his manager, asking him to get the band together for a rehearsal. He passed away early the next morning. He is buried in Flushing Cemetery, 163-06 46th Avenue, Flushing, NY, (718) 359-0100. The grave is located in section 9. The cemetery is open seven days a week, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm. (Back To Top)

Songs and Lyrics

Did Louis Armstrong write all the songs he recorded?

In addition to being a master performer, Louis Armstrong was a gifted composer, and he wrote more than fifty songs, many of which have become jazz standards (e.g., “Gully Low Blues,” “Potato Head Blues,” and “Swing That Music”). Louis also collaborated with other musicians, such as Joe “King” Oliver, and his second wife, Lil Hardin Armstrong, and in some cases it’s not always clear if the song was a collaboration or not. Sometimes Louis allowed a collaborator to take the full credit for the song, making it harder to determine who actually wrote it. Louis also recorded arrangements of other people’s songs, as well as songs written especially for him, such as “What a Wonderful World.” (Back To Top)

Where can I find the lyrics to Armstrong songs?

There are many websites that publish lyrics. You can easily find them by searching online for “lyrics,” or “Louis Armstrong lyrics.” (Back To Top)

I remember a line or two of the lyrics to an Armstrong recording, but I can’t remember the title. How do I find it?

Try using an online superstore, like Amazon.com. Search for Louis Armstrong records and browse through the titles; it’s possible that you may recognize the song. You can also try one of the many lyrics databases online, or do a general search on the actual lyrics themselves. (Back To Top)

I want to use the lyrics, music, and/or audio of an Armstrong recording for my website, a school project, or other personal project. What should I do?

The Louis Armstrong House Museum cannot grant permission for these types of projects, as it does not hold the copyrights to any lyrics, music, or recordings. Unless your use qualifies as “fair use” under the Copyright Act of 1976, you must find out who the copyright holder is for the lyrics, music, and/or recording of the particular song you’re interested in, and contact that individual or organization. Often, but not always, the rights are held by the recording company and/or publisher that issued the song, but there may be other rights holders as well. (Back To Top)

I’m writing a book/play/screenplay, and I want to quote the lyrics of an Armstrong song. May I do so?

The Louis Armstrong House Museum cannot grant permission for these types of projects, as it does not hold the copyrights to any lyrics. Unless your use qualifies as “fair use” under the Copyright Act of 1976, you must find out who the copyright holder is for the lyrics of the particular song you’re interested in, and contact that individual or organization. Often, but not always, the rights are held by the publisher that issued the song, but there may be other rights holders as well. (Back To Top)

The Museum

Is there a mailing list for events at the Museum?

Absolutely! Our free e-mail newsletter, e-Pops, will keep you informed about special events, news and announcements. We also hold special events for our members. (Back To Top)

Where can I buy Louis Armstrong merchandise online?

We plan to add an online gift store to our website very soon. Please check back with us, or sign up for e-Pops to be notified when it launches. (Back To Top)

When did Louis and Lucille buy the House? How long did they live there?

Louis and Lucille purchased the House in 1943. They were married in 1942 and Lucille found the House, purchased it, and decorated it without Louis ever having seen it. (He was on tour with his orchestra at the time.) Louis and Lucille lived in the House for the remainder of their lives. Louis passed away peacefully in his sleep in the House in 1971. Lucille continued to live in the House until her passing in 1983. That a musician as famous as Louis Armstrong lived in a modest home for almost three decades is unique in the world of music. (Back To Top)

When did the Museum open to the public?

The ribbon-cutting to open the Louis Armstrong House Museum was held on October 15, 2003. A musical celebration followed, headlined by world-famous trumpeter Jon Faddis. Other musicians and musical acts included Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Carrie Smith, Randy Sandke, David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band, the Harlem Blues & Jazz Band, and the Queens College Jazz Ensemble. (Back To Top)

What is the House like today?

The House today is basically a private home, left almost exactly as it was when Lucille Armstrong lived there, and very much the way it was when Louis lived there. In 1991, Louis’s scrapbooks, manuscripts, tapes, and other such materials were taken out of closets and the attic and brought to the Queens College campus so that they could be preserved, cataloged, and made available to the public. In 2002, repairs, conservation and restoration work was performed before the Museum opened in 2003 (see the next question). But other than that, the House remains essentially unchanged. (Back To Top)

What changes were made to the House before it opened as a Museum?

The bulk of the work performed on the House in 2002 was repairs and conservation. There are three major changes: (1) Louis’s den has been restored to look exactly as it did during his lifetime, (2) the garage has been converted into a Welcome Center and Museum Store, and (3) the third floor—an illegal addition which Lucille added six years after Louis died—has been removed. All of the work was approved by the State Historic Preservation Office and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (Back To Top)

Who owns the Louis Armstrong House Museum?

The House itself is owned by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and is administered by Queens College under a long-term license agreement. After the passing of Lucille Armstrong in 1983, the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation (a private foundation which administers the Armstrong estate) gave the House to the Department of Cultural Affairs, arranged for Queens College to operate it, and gifted Armstrong’s personal collection of photos, scrapbooks, manuscripts and other materials to Queens College. (Back To Top)

Museum Collections and Armstrong Memorabilia

What are the Museum Collections? Is it the same thing as the Louis Armstrong Archives?

The Museum Collections are the four major research collections owned by the Louis Armstrong House Museum. The main collection is the Louis Armstrong Collection, Louis’s huge personal collection of photos, scrapbooks, manuscripts, and much more. There are other collections as well—see the Museum Collections page. We used to refer to these collections as the Louis Armstrong Archives. (Back To Top)

Who can study the Museum Collections? When is it open for research?

The Museum Collections are available to researchers, journalists, students, and the general public, free of charge, thanks to the generosity of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. Access is provided by appointment only, so please call us at 718-997-3670. (Back To Top)

Is there an online catalog for the Collections?

We are in the process of upgrading our finding aid software. As soon as we have migrated all the data to the new system, we hope to have an online catalog up and running. (Back To Top)

How would I go about obtaining a picture from your collection for personal use?

At this time we do not provide materials to individuals. However, at the Museum Store we have available many kinds of photos, postcards, refrigerator magnets, T-shirts, and much, much more. (Back To Top)

What is your policy on publishing one of your pictures in an article, book, catalogue, etc.?

We welcome proposals to publish photos from our collections from commercial publishers, record companies, scholarly journals, network and cable broadcasters, and all other such agencies. See the Using Photos page for further details. (Back To Top)

May I copy a picture on your website for personal or commercial use?

No. All images on this website are protected by copyright and are the exclusive property of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, and may not be copied and/or used for any purpose without written consent. (Back To Top)

How much is my Armstrong memorabilia worth? Would the Museum like to buy it?

Visit appraisers.org to find an accredited appraiser in your area, or check online auctions sites like eBay.com to see what comparable items are selling for. Unfortunately, we don’t have the budget to acquire new items at this time. However, you may donate your item to the Louis Armstrong House Museum if you wish (see the next question). (Back To Top)

Can I donate Armstrong memorabilia to the Museum?

Yes, we gratefully accept donations of new materials, provided that they are of interest to us and that we don't already hold them. We are particularly interested in writings of Armstrong and original artifacts that belonged to him. Please use the form on the Contact page to tell us more about the items. Donations to the Louis Armstrong House Museum are tax deductible, but the Museum is prohibited by law to appraise items that it accepts (see the previous question). (Back To Top)

Louis Armstrong Estate and the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation

“I want to use Louis’s music in a television commercial” or “I want to write a movie screenplay about Louis Armstrong’s life story” or “I want to use a photo of Louis in a national advertising campaign.” Can you give me permission to do this?

These types of projects require permission from the Louis Armstrong estate, which is administered by the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. The Louis Armstrong House Museum cannot grant these types of permissions. (Back To Top)

How do I contact the Louis Armstrong estate for permissions?

Please contact the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation through their website, www.louisarmstrongfoundation.org. (Back To Top)