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Wardell's Monday Night Jazz

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Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901, in New Orleans, Louisiana, in one of the poorest sections of town. Armstrong had a difficult childhood. His father was a factory worker and abandoned the family soon after Louis' birth. His mother, who often turned to prostitution, frequently left him with his maternal grandmother. At the age of 11, after firing a gun in the air during a New Year's Eve celebration, Armstrong was deemed a juvenile delinquent and sent to the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs. There he received musical instruction on the cornet and fell in love with music. In 1914, the home released him, and for several years he made a pittance selling papers, hauling coal to the city's famed red-light district, and singing and dancing for coins.

At the age of 17, Armstrong began playing at dive bars in New Orleans' Storyville section. The exposure earned him invitations to play in local marching and jazz bands, eventually leading him to replace the famed Joe “King” Oliver in the well-known Kid Ory band. During this time, Armstrong adopted a three-year-old boy named Clarence. The boy's mother, Armstrong's cousin, had died in childbirth. Clarence, who had become mentally disabled from a head injury he had suffered at an early age, was taken care of by Armstrong his entire life.