[Dixielandjazz] This week's Riverwalk streaming links
mophandl at landing.com
Fri Mar 12 15:24:10 PST 2004
MY HEART: LIL HARDIN ARMSTRONG
Broadcast the week of 3/11/04
Lil Hardin was one of the most influential women in early jazz. At a time
when women, especially black women, were relegated to being singers or
dancers in a chorus line, Lil had a serious career as a jazz composer,
pianist, and bandleader.
Whenever Lil's name comes up these days, it's probably because of her famous
last name. She became Lil Hardin Armstrong in 1924 when she married
trumpeter Louis Armstrong while playing piano with King Oliver.
Lillian Hardin was born in 1898 in Memphis. Her mother worked as a maid, but
gave her kids a comfortable, and in some ways, a refined life. Lil's music
training began at Mrs. Hicks School of Music.
After three years of formal music study at Fisk University, Lil's family
moved to Chicago in 1917. She found a job as a music demonstrator in Jones'
Music Store, where she was invited to play with Sugar Johnny's Creole
Orchestra. From there she went to Freddie Keppard's Original Creole
Orchestra, and then led her own band at the Dreamland Cafe in Chicago. In
1921 she joined King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. The next year, Louis
Armstrong joined the band.
She wasn't impressed with Louis on first sight. In fact, she thought he was
too fat and had a funny hairdo. Nonetheless, Louis and Lil were married
within the year.
Lil is generally credited with persuading Louis to be more ambitious and
leave King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. Lil was a major contributor to Louis
Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings. She played piano and sang
occasionally, and composed several of the group's major songs including
Struttin' with Some Barbecue and My Heart.
Lil was the leader of several other recording groups, including Lil's Hot
Shots and the New Orleans Wanderers. She and Louis were separated in 1931
and were divorced in 1938, although they remained friends for life.
Lil gained diplomas from the Chicago College of Music and the New York
College of Music. She went on to lead bands in New York and performed in the
Broadway revues Hot Chocolates and Shuffle Along. During the late 30s, she
functioned as house pianist, composer, and vocalist for 46 Decca recording
sessions. Lil moved back to Chicago in 1940 and worked mainly as a solo
pianist and entertainer.
By the late 1960s, Lil began to back off from the music business. She spent
more and more time at a home she and Louis had bought in the early years of
their marriage in the lake resort town of Idlewild, Michigan.
Then in July 1971, Louis Armstrong died. The following month Lil was invited
to perform at a memorial concert for him in Chicago. Lil was playing St.
Louis Blues on stage at the concert when she suddenly collapsed and died.
Seven years later, a song by Lil Hardin Armstrong topped the pop charts all
over the world. In 1978, Ringo Starr recorded her composition, Bad Boy. It
was on the radio everywhere. No doubt, Lil would have enjoyed that
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