Skip to comments.Louis Armstrong: "niger, illegitimus" -- and baptized Catholic
Posted on 12/23/2008 9:32:29 AM PST by NYer
Over at McNamara's Blog, Patrick McNamara has found another surprising bit of Catholic trivia, about one of the great popular jazz artists of the 20th century:
According to his own, cherished tradition, Louis Armstrong was an all-American jazz baby, born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on the Fourth of July 1900. He believed this to the end of his days, and so did everyone else, until a baptismal certificate confirming his actual birth date as August 4, 1901, surfaced and in the name of scholarship silenced one of the happiest legends in American popular music. Exactly three weeks after his birth, the infant was taken to Sacred Heart of Jesus Church at 139 South Lopez Street to be baptized "according to the rite of the Roman Catholic Church."
The baptismal card, signed by the Reverend J. M. Toohey, described Louis as "niger, illegitimus," apparently because his father had by that time abandoned his mother and was living with another woman. So it was that Louis Armstrong, an illegitimate black child, was baptized into the Catholic Church. Since his grandmother, Josephine, was a practicing Catholic, she was most likely the one responsible for arranging the baptism, and the earliest religious influence over him, though limited, was largely Catholic.
Although baptized as a Catholic, Louis never thought of himself as a member of the Church. He remained similarly aloof from Protestantism, the religion of his mother and other family members. Even so, he was vaguely religious, and, at times, deeply spiritual, but his approach to religious matters was always unorthodox, and he took what he wanted from Catholicism, Baptism, and Judaism, and, under his grandmother's influence, voodoo.
Today, he’d be president
One of the founding fathers of Jazz. Great man. He looked silly when he was blowing his horn, because he puffed his cheeks out, but he was a great man.
He also did admit to a marijuana habit.
Was he born in Africa too? A Communist?
It’s a Wonderful World.....
Barack Hussein Obama has not presented a birth certificate OR baptismal certificate yet. But his staff professes his agnostic mother and non-practicing muslim fathers raised him as a Christian.
(as CNN screws over another Republican)
I had a short acquaintance with Louis over the period of 4 years in my early teens. A gentleman and a superb musician. It was he who first called me “Jimbo”, a name I still use in recollection of how he treated me; a nobody.
Since his grandmother, Josephine, was a practicing Catholic,
under his grandmother's influence, voodoo.
I take it Grandma wasn't that good of a Catholic?
His importance to American music can hardly be overstated. And as much as his reputation was for his trumpet playing, it's probably his singing that has been more influential.
Not a chance. He was a great musician, accomplished businessman and deeply patriotic. He made it a point to remind people how good this country had been to him at every concert. The audience loved Louie even more than Louie loved his audiences.
Heck, I wouldn't even be surprised if he was a Republican.
I remember actually attending one of his concerts in the 1960's in Kansas City. For some reason, I remember his shiny teeth better than his music. Please cut me a little slack because I was 7 or 8 years old at the time.
Might you have him confused with Dizzy Gillespie?
Among the public perhaps. But it was his playing that influenced many a jazz musician.
It was he and his "All Stars" who played yearly in Lake Geneva, WI at the Riviera Ballroom. That's where I met him. I got to know all those guys, the same ones in "High Society" with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. In fact, that bus at the beginning of the movie, or one like it, was parked outside the Riviera at each concert. The only switch in band members I recall over the years was Barney Bigard sitting in for Ed Hall on clarinet once or twice. Velma Middleton was the band's singer at the time.
Great pic of a great musician.
Everyone has two grandmas, so might not have been the same one.
They asked Niger Innis about that screenshot and he said, “I think they thought I was a rap singer.”
They both puffed out their cheeks when playing. Dizzy's were more predominant that Satch's, however.
With all due respect, you are thinking Dizzy Gillispe.
Armstrong kept his cheeks tight.
A great man and a great musician. I want to cry when I think of how black culture has devolved from Armstrong, Basie, Ellington, Parker and Monk into 50 Cent, Jay-Z and Ludacris.
I’ve seen many pictures of Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet and do not recall any showing poor tecnique.
Heh heh. Nice comeback on his part.
Shocking!!! Jazz musicians and marijauna...just shocking! :)
“Today, hed be president”
Probably better than what we’re stuck with in a month.
Sad but true and if any of them were around today probably couldn't get any radio play.
I think I need more sleep. I meant to slam MSNBC for that, not CNN.
I think it was as much perspective as anything, much to do with his facial structure. When sitting in an audience you were somewhat below stage level and it did appear his cheeks were puffed out at times. See the photo below, I think you'll get an idea what I mean...
Niger Innis and has dad, Roy are class guys, the kind of examples we'd like to see black kids (or ANY kids) emulate.
“Armstrong kept his cheeks tight.”
Barney Frank can take a tip from Louie.
Charlie Parker was a huge drug user, dying at 36. The coroner though he was in his 60s. I love Charlie Parker, but the Bird would have been right at home with 50 Cent, Jay-Z and Ludacris.
“He looked silly when he was blowing his horn, because he puffed his cheeks out” Me thinks you are remembering Dizzy Gillespie who did indeed have baloon cheeks and a horn that pointed up to boot. He was a very unorthodox horn player.
I don’t remember any of this being true about Louie though... (me being a trumpet player in my youth noticed such things..)
Hmmm, I don’t see the comparison. Parker was self-destructive, but I don’t recall him advocating anything destructive, or law-breaking in his music, or publicly in any way.
finding next to nothing of value in this one.
because "niger illegitimus" is about the only qualification of the one we currently have?
“Today, hed be president
because “niger illegitimus” is about the only qualification of the one we currently have?”
He and Bing Crosby were great friends according to TMC.
No, I remember this clearly... I LOVED Louie Armstrong when I was a kid. He made me want to play the trumpet, which i did for several years. He was a showman. He moved a lot when he blew his horn, stuck his elbows out, broke all the rules for sedate classical trumpet players. He was awesome. I had no idea he was one of the fathers of Jazz until much later. I didn’t know who Dizzy Gillespie was until I was much older, and Louie was still goin, he was still goin, he was still going strong through the sixties at least.
It’s sort of a different sect... saint worship, santeria in spanish. It doesn’t necessarily include sticking pins in dolls and dancing around with bloody chickens.
I would suggest that his trumpet was what was influential to the music, his singing was what propelled him to worldwide fame and crossover fortune. Good for him. Such a lovable figure.
Thank you. IIRC, it was the jazz style to do that, unlike the classical world which of course was very staid and proper. It was the DIXIELAND jazz style, which was all about the New Orleans joie de vivre, unlike “cool” jazz which came along later. It’s all good.
saint worship, santeria
makes sense, thanks.
Black lady I know, remembers her Mom doing "weird stuff" when she was a little kid. Glow in the dark rosaries -- does that sound like familiar?
Check out The Red Hot Jazz Archive if you haven't already for a real early jazz music experience.