Louis Armstrong

Bee Bop a Louie… 

“Bee Bop A Doo Bee---Shee Bop Shizam.”  Have you ever heard of “scat singing”?  Rather than singing words, you make rhythmic sounds so that your voice is like a musical instrument (usually a type of horn). “Doo be shoo bop a doo.”  You get the idea. And on the top of almost every list of best scat songs ever sung is “Heebie Jeebies” by Louis (pronounced Louie) Armstrong who made that type of singing popular almost 100 years ago.  

But scat is not the only thing Satchmo, as Armstrong was often called, was known for. People often recall his trumpet playing. His gravelly voice. The films he starred in.  Some may recall his coming out against segregation in schools during the 1950’s.  He was all of these and so much more. He sang music.  He played music.  Not every musician can do both.  I read a quote from Ken Burns documentary “Jazz” that likened Armstrong’s influence on music to Einstein’s influence on physics and the Wright Brothers influence on travel.     

Born in New Orleans in poverty, his childhood story is worth finding out about. I won’t spoil it, but some amazing things happened despite incredible hardships. Even in fame, he experienced trials and mistreatment.  Yet, one of his top selling songs was “What a Wonderful World.”  Currently on my piano is the sheet music for “St Louis Blues,” a piece I’ve had for nearly 60 years.  Armstrong’s face is on the front. It was a favorite of mine to play and sing when I was a teenager. I never ever tried to scat sing.  But maybe I should try that now since my voice has become gravellier with age. Or maybe not. No one could ever do it as well as Satchmo.    

More Information about Louis Armstrong. 

If you were going to do a PHD thesis on him, the Smithsonian would be a great source of information. Google his name on the SI website and thousands of references pop up. Many are for websites and articles.  One of his prized trumpets is on exhibit in the African American Museum.  The National Portrait Gallery displays some photos and drawings of him.  Magazine covers, statues, old record albums and even buttons are all on display in some of the museums or safely kept in the archives.