July 31-August 3, 2014
Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong was born in New Orleans on August 4, 1901. By the time he was in his 20s he was already starting to change the face of American popular music. By the time of his death 70 years later, he had completely revolutionized it.
One of the most dynamic personalities of the 20th century, Armstrong almost single-handedly transformed jazz into the popular musical art form it is today. With his trademark solos, his gravelly voice and numerous other stylistic innovations, he became a recording industry superstar and a movie star, as well, playing himself and his horn with a broad, infectious grin. He was a goodwill ambassador for his country for much of his adult life, traveling widely and introducing American jazz to the world.
Although he spent most of his adult life elsewhere, Satchmo never forgot his native city. One of the highlights of his very eventful life was during the Mardi Gras Season in 1949 when he triumphantly returned as the King of the Krewe of Zulu parade, an achievement that landed him on the cover of TIME magazine.
Fifteen years later he made musical history by being the oldest performing artist to have a #1 hit record. When his gravelly-voiced version of “Hello Dolly” hit the charts in early 1964 he was almost 63 years old, and the song had the additional distinction of being the first record to knock The Beatles out of their long-held #1 position.
Shortly before his passing, Armstrong recorded what has since become a classic ode to the simple joys of life, “What a Wonderful World,” a song that could very well sum up the story of his life as well. His death on July 6, 1971 was universally mourned and his music today remains as popular as it was during his lifetime.
Celebrate the legend at his old stomping grounds at Satchmo SummerFest in New Orleans.
Beginnings of Satchmo SummerFest
When the City of New Orleans was planning a tribute to one of its most famous native sons, the late Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong on the centennial of his birth, they had no way of knowing how successful such an event would be at the height of the summer when most people are seeking comfort in the shade, the swimming pool, or in their air-conditioned homes.
The summer heat was not the deterrent that many skeptics thought it would be as thousands of people turned out for the first Satchmo SummerFest in 2001. In fact, it was so successful that it became an annual three-day event held on the first weekend of August every year since.
Sponsored by French Quarter Festivals, Inc., the organization that also sponsors the highly successful French Quarter Festival and Christmas New Orleans Style, “SatchmoFest,” has evolved into one of the top celebrations in a city internationally renowned for its large-scale festivities. For many people who regularly attend the festival it is the highlight of the summer season.
Satchmo SummerFest 2014 will take place over the weekend of July 31-August 3, primarily on the grounds of the Old U.S. Mint, conveniently situated on the edge of the French Quarter between the French Market and Esplanade Avenue. The festival is free and open to the public.
Outdoor events at SatchmoFest feature live bands on several stages, starring some of New Orleans’ top musicians. Many of them will pay their tributes to Armstrong and his music. Samplings of New Orleans’ world-famous culinary delicacies will be offered for sale in and around the festival site, while refreshing Southern-style beverages and other soft drinks will keep you cool and hydrated.
This year’s musical lineup and participating vendors has not been announced yet, but several details have been released that distinguish this event from others in the past. This summer, festival visitors will be able to tour a new, jazz-centered exhibit at the Mint, as well as attend various seminars on location. Details about the complete 2014 musical lineup and seminars can be found here.
The Friends of the Cabildo and Louisiana Museum Foundation will host the exhibit's opening event on July 30, in association with Satchmo SummerFest, in the Mint's third-floor performance hall. Many representatives of Louisiana's musical families will be in attendance.
Other Events at Satchmo SummerFest
Also this year the festival will serve as the launch event for a major new collection of Armstrong recordings. “The Columbia and RCA Victor Live Recordings of Louis Armstrong and the All Stars” (Mosaic Records, $149) gathers much of Satchmo’s work from 1947-1958 and includes many hard-to-find and newly released performances in a nine-CD boxed set. The collection will be on sale at this year’s Satchmo SummerFest.
Among the other SatchmoFest highlights from past years that are likely to be repeated this year are the “Satchmo Club Strut” down Frenchmen Street, a Satchmo-themed art contest and show at the Crescent City Brewhouse, and a commemorative Satchmo-themed mass at St. Augustine Catholic Church in the Treme district early Sunday morning. Many of the SatchmoFest events are “kid-friendly” and educational for the youngsters who want to learn more about one of America’s greatest musical entertainers.
For More Info
For the most up-to-date information on Satchmo SummerFest call French Quarter Festivals at (504) 522-5730 or log onto www.fqfi.org.