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Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  414 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
”In all my whole career the Brick House was one of the toughest joints I ever played in. It was the honky-tonk where levee workers would congregate every Saturday night and trade with the gals who’d stroll up and down the floor and the bar. Those guys would drink and fight one another like circle saws. Bottles would come flying over the bandstand like crazy, and there was ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published August 22nd 1986 by Da Capo Press (first published 1954)
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Please Kill Me by Legs McNeilChronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob DylanLove Is a Mix Tape by Rob SheffieldOur Band Could Be Your Life by Michael AzerradJust Kids by Patti Smith
Best Non Fiction About Music
105th out of 904 books — 839 voters
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy TooleA Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee WilliamsThe Awakening by Kate ChopinL'Immortalite by T.R. HeinanThe Witching Hour by Anne Rice
Best New Orleans Books
65th out of 274 books — 228 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,175)
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Oct 26, 2010 Teresa rated it really liked it
Armstrong uses the word 'cute' a lot to describe something, so I don't think he'd mind me using the word 'cute' to describe this book. It's written in a conversational style, as if he's talking to his reader; he even goes on tangents before always coming back to his original thought. He also uses some slang (some of which he explains) which adds to its 'period' feel.

He's a generous man, very grateful to his musical forebears and those who gave him his first breaks. And while he doesn't gloss ove
Jan 18, 2010 Paul rated it really liked it
I didn't want this book to end. High energy writing that's clear and full of sauce (though several times the modesty of the times allowed Armstrong to equivocate when I wanted DETAILS!), this early history brought New Orleans vividly to life for me. Satchmo's focus on the players he loved and the characters he ran with, suffused with warmth and good humor throughout, whet my appetite for some serious listening. Hear that solo on "Basin Street Blues"? Having read the book, I can now recognize the ...more
Nov 30, 2007 Terry rated it it was amazing
What shines out from each page of this book is the essential optimism and loving-heart of Louis Armstrong. I guess I should have known this from his music, but it's words that affect me more strongly. Told simply and without affect this story of Louis Armstrong's childhood and young manhood is actually Dickensian, but in his words, it's a song of love and hope.
Jun 30, 2013 Marsha rated it really liked it
Armstrong claims he was born in 1900 (although in the 1980s, a researcher discovered that his true birthdate was August 4, 1901). He lived on a little street called James Alley. Armstrong writes: “Only one block long, James Alley is located in the crowded section of New Orleans known as “Back o’ Town.” His family was poor and when his father abandoned the family, his mother Mayann left Louis in care of his grandmother Josephine. At the age of five, he returned to his mother.

A turn of events hap
Mrs. Gallagher
Jan 08, 2010 Mrs. Gallagher rated it liked it
I didn't know much about Louis Armstrong (except that I love his song, "What a Wonderful World." I find his raspy voice and incredible horn playing refreshingly unique. I was excited when one of my students loaned me this book.

I loved learning about Louis' early years in New Orleans and how an employee at a home for children fostered his interest and talent in playing the cornet. It was fun to learn about how his career took off. I especially liked reading about how he played in the marching ba
Phil Overeem
May 24, 2015 Phil Overeem rated it it was amazing
Essential. About halfway through, I had to stop and figure out who Louis' authorial voice reminded me of, and it came to me pretty quickly: Huck Finn. That says a lot. The same joy, generosity, ingenuity, humor, and respect you hear in his playing is in his words in great abundance. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to learn to cook cubie yon!
Byron Stripling
Jul 03, 2014 Byron Stripling rated it it was amazing
Who doesn't love Louis Armstrong and anything he writes or says?
Italo  Perazzoli
Mar 28, 2014 Italo Perazzoli rated it it was amazing
Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans is the story of New Orleans and of the jazz.

Dippermouth was also a great writer, the proof is this autobiography.

This story is written in first person, it seems to be with him we will witness of his experiences and the difficulties of that times.

Undoubtedly Louis has had a difficult childhood surrounded by poverty ignorance, and the racial hatred between black and white and violence of any kind.

Surprisingly Louis was not devoured by the revenge the main deterrent
Jun 25, 2007 Greg rated it it was amazing
Apocryphal? Probably half. Beautiful? Yup. You can hear him typing. In tempo.
Dec 21, 2015 Mark rated it it was amazing
An amazing read. This is Louis Armstrong's (aka Satchmo) memoirs about his childhood in New Orleans 1900 to 1920 until he went to Chicago. The story is an incredible view into the old New Orleans music scene and how one gifted child rose through it. First, Satchmo's description of New Orleans is a wild delight. He writes of street musicians, honky tonks, juke joints, bordellos and the characters that populated them. Those characters are a colorful bunch. They are the hustlers, madams, pimps, wor ...more
Oct 14, 2008 Adam rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Homesick New Orleanians, Musicains, Jazz Fans, Tulane Students
Shelves: memoirs, new-orleans
Gotta bring a little piece of 'home' with me to Seoul right!?

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? Well certainly anyone that has ever been should! There is simply something about that city that ones it gets in your blood its no easier to get rid of then the mardi gras beads stuck in the topmost branch of a tree!

In "Satchmo," Louis Armstrong recounts the younger years of his life growing up and learning to play the horn in New Orleans, Louisiana. While his writing style offers a unique,
Jul 23, 2011 Frank rated it liked it
Reading this book has made me appreciate Mr. Armstrong more than I already did. It was interesting to get a glimpse of New Orleans in the early days of Jazz through the eyes of one of the most famous and respected musicians to come out of the city. The flow of the story was a little tough to keep up with at times due to the wide array of musicians, pimps, hustlers, saloon owners, cops, and whores that Louis constantly introduced but all in all, I believe that they helped provide a wonderful cast ...more
Aries Eroles
Feb 17, 2013 Aries Eroles rated it really liked it

Louis Armstrong's (known as Satchmo or Pops) simple testimony to his early life is a fun and great read. Written with great candor, Louis delivered an inspiring tale beginning from his conception, to his life with his grandma, to his first love (which was very unpleasant), to his first break-up (which I think was good for him), to his first first adventure with his bugle, and stop to the beginning of his wonderful career in Jazz music, which he leaves a wonderful legacy.

When I think of Louis
Timothy Neesam
Jan 25, 2014 Timothy Neesam rated it it was amazing
Superb autobiography by Louis Armstrong, from his early years growing up in New Orleans up to his first musical engagement in Chicago. No varnish in this book, very much in his own words, with slang, nicknames and much time spent in a boys home (where he learned to play cornet), growing up too poor to own shoes, with much time spent earning money in the red light district of Storyville. It's a great read about a remarkable time as told by a very remarkable man. Highly recommended.
Matt Carton
Aug 16, 2015 Matt Carton rated it it was amazing
What's not to like about this book, this story, and this man? I made it a point to purchase this at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens. Take the tour there, learn how he lived in and loved that neighborhood, and it will make you appreciate all of his New Orleans reminiscences all the more.
Megan Stewart
Nov 12, 2015 Megan Stewart rated it liked it
It's a good easy read. Fun to get to see his perspective on life in New Orleans growing up. Wrote the book through voice recordings and that is obvious when reading. Great book for a little history of New Orleans music through the eyes of the musician.
Ms. Koss
May 18, 2011 Ms. Koss rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: 7th and 8th grade, adults
Recommended to Ms. Koss by: Mr. Higgins
Satchmo was a autobiographical primer on Louis Armstrong's early life in New Orleans before he was an internationally acclaimed cornet (trumpet) player and jazz icon. Armstrong shared great stories about his family, learning to play the trumpet in a home for wayward boys (basically juvie), and his eventual rise to success playing with bandleader and mentor, King Oliver. Although he had a tough time growing up, Armstrong come across as having a very strong moral compass that helped him become the ...more
May 06, 2013 Michel rated it really liked it
I liked this book way more that I thought I would. It was well written and really let me know how it was like in the olden days. Also it showed how it was like for the black people and in some parts of the book I thought it was very unfair that they were treated differently and could get arrested just because they looked suspicious. Like when he was in a dark ally at night and a man saw him and Louis felt he had to explain himself, and when he did the man says that Louis was lucky because he was ...more
Richard Shepard
Apr 24, 2014 Richard Shepard rated it really liked it
Excellent! If you have any interest in the history of jazz or in New Orleans life in the very early 20th century this book is a must!
Dec 24, 2012 Jim rated it liked it
A very worthwhile read, if you're interested in Louis Armstrong and the history of New Orleans jazz. Written very conversationally, in Armstrong's voice... He tells the stories chronologically, but occasionally skips around and puts an event in time at a later point in the book. He drops a ton of names, which is good for reference and to establish context... In some cases his exuberance causes him to repeat his feelings over and over (especially concerning Joe "King" Oliver and Bunk Johnson's un ...more
Stephen Campbell
Mar 22, 2014 Stephen Campbell rated it it was amazing
A wonderful read, and a lesson to anyone; musician or otherwise. So much wisdom.
Mar 22, 2015 Whitney rated it really liked it
I didn't know New Orleans brick fights were a thing.
Emerson Cardenas
Jun 21, 2015 Emerson Cardenas rated it it was amazing
Love the New Orleans descriptions.
Jul 12, 2013 Andre rated it liked it
I was a kid in the 90's when a read this book. But I do recall Armstrong's ability to capture the interest of the reader. New Orleans is so different than any other city in the U.S. The uniqueness of culture in N.O. consumes you in a such a strange way. After reading this book I was thoroughly convinced that no other place in this country could have possibly developed a Louis Armstrong.
Seeing this book on Goodreads reminds me that I would like to read more fiction and historical accounts embedde
Marie-Louise Olsen
Jul 11, 2014 Marie-Louise Olsen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
I really enjoyed this book. I was already a huge fan of Louis Armstrong. He was amazing, wonderful and such a talented man. His story is amazing. I was so suprised, somehow. He is very real of how he sees himself. Some people tend to exaggerate, when they write an autobiography, but he described himself in a very honest way. I loved the way he described his love for music. You can really feel that love through the whole story. Pure love for this book!
Pearl Yusuf
Nov 22, 2014 Pearl Yusuf rated it liked it
This was written when he was 54. It is exactly as described - an account of his early NOLA years.
must-read for Jazz history fans for its candid reviews of past greats.
Feb 23, 2013 Mairi rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013
A few years ago, I visited made a pilgrimage to the Louis Armstrong House and Museum in Queens. It was fantastic. At a few places through the tour they have recordings--Armstrong apparently recorded a lot of conversations--of him talking, telling stories. Reading this, I could imagine it in his gravelly voice, punctuated by occasional bursts of laughter. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Jan 25, 2016 Clara rated it it was amazing
For anyone who loves Jazz, History, New Orleans, or any combination of those. From the context of historical narrative and then-versus-now, it's pretty unbelievable. Me: "That actually happened?" L.A.: "Yes. Yes it did." Me: jaw drops.
Oct 25, 2014 Reid rated it really liked it
Louie's origins, and he brings you right there in the middle of a turn of the century chaotic seedy town that somehow seems just perfect the perfect environment for his generous and loving genius.
Luke Dombroski
Jan 17, 2013 Luke Dombroski rated it it was amazing
A FANTASTIC book. I do play trumpet ad love Armstrong, and the detail and love woven into this story gives a side to Armstrong that's very like-able and funny. A must-read for any Satchmo fan.
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Louis Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo and Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer.

Armstrong was a charismatic, innovative performer whose improvised soloing was the main influence for a fundamental change in jazz, shifting its focus from collective improvisation to the solo player and improvised soloing. One of the most famous jazz musicians of the 20th century, he was first known as a cornet
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