Louis Armstrong Centennial
Satchmo.com's Tribute to Jazz Legend Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong Commemorative Stamp Issued in New Orleans
March 15, 1995
Stamp News Release Number 95-024

Louis Armstrong - International Jazz Emissary - Gets Commemorative Stamp
Issued in Home Town New Orleans

"Be good if I get to the Pearly Gates ... I'll play with Gabriel." -- Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong Commemorative Stamp

NEW ORLEANS -- Recognized as a major influence in the evolution of jazz, Louis Armstrong during his lifetime earned the international title of United States Ambassador of Good Will. This Fall, his image will grace 150 million U.S. postage stamps, celebrating his lifetime as America's quintessential jazz composer and musician.

During a press conference today at the Jazz Club Collection of the Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans Postmaster Philip Holland announced the highly coveted Louis Armstrong stamp will be issued in New Orleans. The official first day of issue, September 1, kicks off the Postal Service's month-long American Music Stamp Festival.

Joining Holland in the announcement were the Honorable Marc H. Morial, Mayor of New Orleans; Ellis Marsalis Jr., Chairman of the Louisiana Music Commission; and Donald Marquis, Curator of the New Orleans Jazz Club Collection of the Louisiana State Museum.

"The Postal Service is proud to issue the Louis Armstrong stamp in New Orleans," said Holland. "Here on the streets of New Orleans we can still hear the traditional sounds of the many cultures that made jazz America's greatest artistic contribution to the world."

Jazz is one of three indigenous American art forms. (The other two American originals are comic strips and quilting.) Evolving from a blending of African, Caribbean, Latin and European rhythms and the musical styling of its composer-musicians, it speaks of American culture, in particular, the African American experience. It was on the streets of New Orleans that jazz evolved into a distinctive musical style.

In the early part of the 20th century, the arrival of recorded music and jazz performances on New Orleans riverboats helped spread jazz to the rest of the country.

"Armstrong's music, as with that of so many other jazz musicians from New Orleans, had a global impact on culture and music," said Mayor Morial during the announcement.

"The issuance of this stamp and the tribute to him is particularly timely as the City of New Orleans launches a multi-year 'Celebration of the Birth of Jazz.' We welcome this exciting and historic event to New Orleans."

The Louisiana Music Commission began its observance, 'New Orleans' Jazz Centennial' in January and has initiated a month long tribute to Louis Armstrong. The Armstrong tribute begins August 4 - Armstrong's recently discovered actual birthday - and culminates with the issuance of his commemorative stamp September 1.

"Louis Armstrong is the master of the jazz solo," said Ellis Marsalis. "He became the beacon, the light in the tower, that helped the rest of us navigate the tricky waters of jazz improvisation." In addition to serving as chairman of the Louisiana Music Commission, Marsalis is director of Jazz Studies at the University of New Orleans and the father of contemporary jazz figures Wynton and Branford Marsalis.

Recent market research conducted by the Postal Service indicated Armstrong as the most requested male subject for a commemorative stamp. In the last seven years alone, more than 38,765 signatures representing 62 countries have been collected by the New Orleans Jazz Club Collection of the Louisiana State Museum in support of a Louis Armstrong stamp.

"Louis once said one of his biggest thrills was being honored by his home town as 'King Zulu' (1949)," said Donald Marquis, curator of the collection. "Louis would rank a U.S. stamp of himself issued in his hometown right up there with being 'King Zulu.'"

Armstrong learned to play the cornet and bugle at the Waif's Home in New Orleans where he had been sent by juvenile court when he was about 11 years old. That cornet and bugle are on display in the New Orleans Jazz Club Collection.

At 17, Armstrong joined Edward "Kid" Ory's New Orleans band, replacing his mentor Joseph "King" Oliver. Four years later, he joined Oliver's group in Chicago. Armstrong later played with Fletcher Henderson's big dance band, and in 1925 led a recording band, The Hot Five. The Louis Armstrong All Stars, with clarinetist Barney Bigard, pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines, drummer Big Sid Catlett, trombonist Jack Teagarden, bassist Arvell Shaw and singer Velma Middleton, organized in 1947 and toured several continents.

Armstrong's best known compositions are "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," "Back o' Town Blues," "Ol' Man Mose," "Potato Head Blues," "I Want A Big Butter and Egg Man," and, in collaboration with Jelly Roll Morton, "Wild Man Blues."

The popularity of the recent re-release of Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" testifies to the continuing appreciation and respect for Louis Armstrong and his music.

Source: United States Postal Service

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