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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lil Hardin Armstrong (February 3, 1898 - August 27, 1971)

Jazz Musician
Occupation: jazz musician, pianist, composer, singer, band leader, manager and promoter; later, clothes designer, restaurant owner, piano teacher, French teacher Known for: first major woman jazz instrumentalist; part of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band; marriage to Louis Armstrong and promoter of his career; part of Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens recordings.

Herstory onSheFM:

Born in Memphis in 1898, Lillian Hardin was called Lil. She studied piano and organ and played in church from a young age; she was attracted to the blues but her family opposed such music and sent her to Fisk University for a year for music training and a "good" environment. To keep her from the local music scene when she returned in 1917, her mother moved to Chicago and took Lil Hardin with her.Lillian Hardin's only and older sibling died shortly after birth; she thus grew up as an only child.

In Chicago, Lil Hardin took a job on South State Street demonstrating music at Jones' Music Store. There, she met and learned from Jelly Roll Morton, and began finding jobs playing with bands. She became known as "Hot Miss Lil." Her mother decided to accept her new career. Her mom thought she reportedly picked her daughter up, promptly after performances to protect her from the "evils" of the music world. Achieved some recognition playing with the New Orleans Creole Jazz Band. King Oliver took over and renamed the band, Kin Oliver;s Band.

By this time, she had married singer Jimmy Johnson. Traveling with King Oliver's band strained the marriage, and so she left the band to return to Chicago and the marriage. When the King Oliver Creole Jazz Band also returned to its Chicago base, Lil Hardin was invited to rejoin the band. Also invited to join the band, in 1922: a young cornet player, Louis Armstrong.

She helped him learn to dress more big-city and convinced him to change to a more attractive hair style. Lil Hardin Armstrong persuaded Louis to move to New York and join Fletcher Henderson. She didn't find work herself in New York, so she returned to Chicago. She put together her own band at the Dreamland to feature Louis' playing, and he also returned to Chicago.
In 1925, Louis Armstrong recorded with the Hot Fives orchestra. Lil Hardin Armstrong played piano for all the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens recordings. Piano in jazz was primarily a percussion instrument, establishing beat and playing chords so that other instruments could play more creatively. Lil Hardin Armstrong excelled at this style.

Louis was quite unfaithful during their marriage but, they still recorded together frequently. She stayed his manager as he became more famous. Lil returned to her study of music, obtaining a teaching diploma from the Chicago College of Music in 1928. Lil Hardin Armstrong formed several bands -- some all-female, some all-male -- in Chicago and in Buffalo, New York, and then she returned once more to Chicago and tried her luck as a singer and songwriter. In 1938 she divorced Louis Armstrong, winning a financial settlement and keeping her properties, as well as gaining rights to the songs that they'd co-composed. (Smart lady :))

In July of 1971, Louis Armstrong died. Seven weeks later, Lil Hardin Armstrong was playing at a memorial concert for her ex-husband when she suffered a massive coronary and died.