There are few singers with a voice so recognizable that it cannot be mistaken for anyone else. But Louis Armstrong is one you simply cannot miss.
His gravelly tones and uplifting melodies paired with his tremendous trumpet and scatting skills have cemented the New Orleans native into American musical history.
With his career beginning in the 1920s, Armstrong’s unique style helped define the golden era of jazz. Known by the nickname Satchmo, he performed with some of the biggest stars of the day from Ella Fitzgerald to Frank Sinatra.
After decades as a celebrated star, Armstrong died in Harlem, N.Y., in 1971. And since this year marks the 50th anniversary of his passing, many are honoring the legend with programs that celebrate his work. One of those is being hosted by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society.
The local nonprofit is hosting a virtual program featuring Ricky Riccardi, the director of research collections for the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, N.Y. The historian has also recently released a book titled, “Heart Full of Rhythm,” which details the musician’s life from 1929 through 1947. An earlier book by Riccardi, “What a Wonderful World,” examined Armstrong’s later life.
A musician himself, Riccardi has been an Armstrong fan since age 15, when he saw the trumpeter perform in the 1954 movie, “The Glenn Miller Story.” A pianist since the age of seven, he has also been a lifelong collector of Armstrong memorabilia.
Riccardi earned a master’s degree in jazz history and research from Rutgers University in 2005 before joining the Armstrong House Museum. He has co-produced many Armstrong album reissues and teaches a graduate course on the trumpeter at the Louis Armstrong Archives, located at Queens College, City University of New York.
During the program, Riccardi will discuss the trumpeter’s connections to Georgia, including some of his most famous songs, such as “Georgia on My Mind” and “Atlanta Blues.” There’s also a long-held story that Armstrong performed on St. Simons Island which may be explored.
Mimi Rogers, curator of the Coastal Georgia Historical Society, says that the program will be an informative and safe way to celebrate Black History Month.
“The society presents a Black History program each year. Since 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of Louis Armstrong’s death, we wanted to celebrate the life and artistry of this beloved musician who had a profound impact on American music,” Rogers said.
This program is free and open to the public. Registration is required by visiting coastalgeorgiahistory.org. A Zoom link will be sent the week of the lecture.