Armstrong was born in one of the poorest sections of New Orleans on Aug. 4, 1901. "He was a prodigy," says art historian and curator Marc Miller, "a hard-working kid who helped support his mother and sister by working every type of job there was, including going out on street corners at night to sing for coins." At age 7, he bought his first real horn--a cornet. When Armstrong was 11 years old, juvenile court sent him to the Jones Home for Colored Waifs for firing a pistol on New Year's Eve. While there, he had his first formal music lessons and played in the home's brass band. After about 18 months he was released. From then on, he largely supported himself as a musician, playing with pick-up bands and in small clubs with his mentor Joe "King" Oliver. Oliver was one of a handful of noted musicians in New Orleans--along with Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet and others--who were creating a distinctive and widely popular new band music out of blues and ragtime. Soon, sheet music publishers and record companies would make jazz a household name.
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