Louis Armstrong is one of the most written-about musicians in history. The following list of books suggested by the Louis Armstrong House Museum is merely a brief survey of the autobiographies, biographies, and reference works about Louis Armstrong.
All of Me: The Complete Discography of Louis Armstrong by Jos Willems

Format: Paperback, 447 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-8108-5730-8
Pubisher: Scarecrow Press
Year: 2006

The most authoritative and complete listing of every recording that Louis ever made. Includes recording personnel, titles, and citations for all re-issues on 78, LP and CD. Supplemental material includes a guide to musicians in the Louis Armstrong Orchestra (1935-1947) and in the All-Stars (1947-1971). A definitive reference work that belongs in every music library and in every Satchmophile’s collection.
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If I Only Had a Horn: Young Louis Armstrong
by Roxanne Orgill, Leonard Jenkins

Format: Hardcover, 32pp
ISBN: 0-395-75919-6
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Year: 1997

A charming biography for young readers that maintains interest without sacrificing historical accuracy. Perhaps the best of the biographies for young readers. The narrative ends with Louis receiving his first trumpet in the Waif’s Home.
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Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story, 1900-1971
by Max Jones and John Chilton

Format: Paperback, 302pp.
ISBN: 0-306-80324-0
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Year: 1988 (originally published 1971)

The first book length biography to appear after Louis’s death. Filled with much primary source material (e.g., letters from Louis to the authors, transcriptions of interviews). A wonderful read, although sometimes confusing because the narrative is not strictly chronological. Handy appendices include a list of films, a chronology, and an insightful discography essay.
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Louis Armstrong: An American Genius
by James Lincoln Collier

Format: Paperback, 416pp
ISBN: 0-195-03727-8
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 1983

A problematic, revisionist biography that was condemned by prominent scholars and by those who knew Louis Armstrong. Collier’s central thesis is that Louis was emotionally crippled by insecurities that compelled him to maintain an active schedule of international performances so that he would receive approval from his audiences. In spite of the seriously flawed thesis, the book does present some new information, and the narrative is clearly organized. Coverage is primarily until the 1940s; the author believes (mistakenly) that Louis’s creative powers dwindled in his final decades.
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Louis Armstrong: A Cultural Legacy
by Marc H. Miller

Format: Hardcover, 248pp
ISBN: 0-295-97382-X
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Year: 1994

An exhibition catalog for a major exhibit on Louis Armstrong that toured the United States from 1994 until 1997. (The Louis Armstrong House Museum was the principal lender to this exhibition.) Contains dozens of previously unpublished photographs and images. Contains five scholarly essays which vary in quality.
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Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life
by Laurence Bergreen

Format: Paperback, 592pp
ISBN: 0-767-90156-8
Publisher: Broadway Books
Year: 1997

An entertaining, “show-biz” biography written for a popular audience. The first Armstrong biography to bring together information from Louis’s unpublished manuscripts, previous biographies, magazine articles, oral history interviews and other diverse sources into a single, chronological narrative. A “fun read” that includes gangsters, marijuana-smoking, four wives, and other facets of Louis’s “extravagant life,” but, unfortunately, the book is riddled with dozens of mistakes, large and small.
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Louis Armstrong: In His Own Words
by Louis Armstrong, edited by Thomas Brothers

Format: Paperback, 2nd ed., 256pp
ISBN: 0-195-14046-X
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 1999

This book comprises of a wealth of previously unpublished Armstrong manuscripts and letters held by the Louis Armstrong House Museum, the Institute of Jazz Studies, the Library of Congress, and private collections. Among its many treasures are captivating passages that describe how Louis got his first trumpet at the age of seven (before he entered the Waif’s Home), detailed descriptions of life on the road, and an endearing portrait of his life with Lucille in Corona, Queens. An essential source for every Armstrong lover.
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Louis Armstrong: Jazz Musician
by Patricia and Frederick McKissack

Format: Hardcover, 32pp
ISBN: 0-7660-1675-7
Publisher: Enslow Publishers
Series: Great African Americans
Year: 2001 (Revised edition)

A charming biography for very young readers. A nice selection of photographs illustrate the text. Useful appendices include a timeline, a glossary of jazz words, and a listing of other sources of information. (Back To Top)
Louis Armstrong: The Offstage Story of Satchmo
by Michael Cogswell

Format: Hardcover, 192 pp.
ISBN: 1-888-05481-6
Publisher: Collectors Press
Year: 2003

The “official book” of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, written by the Director of the Museum. Foreword by Dan Morgenstern. The Offstage Story offers an intimate perspective of Satchmo through Louis’s own personal collection of photographs, writings, scrapbooks, and other materials from the extensive collections of the Louis Armstrong House Museum. All proceeds from sales of the book go to the Museum. The Offstage Story is currently out-of-print, but is still available on site in the museum store of the Louis Armstrong House Museum.
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The Louis Armstrong Companion: Eight Decades of Commentary
by Joshua Berrett

Format: Paperback, 300pp
ISBN: 0-825-67193-0
Publisher: Music Sales Corporation
Year: 1999

A wonderful compilation of previously unpublished writings by Louis Armstrong, important source materials that have not been widely available, and new research by Dr. Berrett. Includes letters and manuscripts from the holdings of the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Includes significant essays such as David Ostwald’s “Louis Armstrong: Civil Rights Pioneer” (originally published as an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times). Includes interviews with Arvell Shaw, Trummy Young, and others.
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Louis Armstrong on the Screen
by Dr. Klaus Stratemann

Format: Harcover, 670 pp.
ISBN: 87-88043-18-5
Publisher: JazzMedia
Year: 1996
The authoritative, exhaustive examination of Louis’s appearances in motion picture and television. An exquisitely detailed reference work—the “first place to go” for any such information about Louis. Cast members, personnel, song titles, record releases of soundtracks, publicity stills, you name it, it’s in this book. The publisher (in Denmark) is out-of-business and the book is out-of-print, but because the Louis Armstrong House Museum purchased some of the remaining copies for its museum store, you can purchase it on site, while copies last.
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Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans
by Thomas Brothers

Format: Hardcover, 386 pp.
ISBN: 0-393-06109-4
Publisher: W.W. Norton
Year: 2006

Not a narrative biography per se, but rather a detailed exploration of the environment that profoundly shaped Louis’s early years. Brass bands, rural blues, church music, funerals, parades—all contributed to create the genius who is Louis Armstrong.
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Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong
by Terry Teachout

Format: Hardcover, 475 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-15-101089-9
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Year: 2009

Called "the ultimate biography of Louis Armstrong" by Armstrong's friend and record producer Geroge Avakian, Pops presents Armstrong’s astonishing life and career—from his inauspicious birth into stark poverty to his death as world-wide cultural icon beloved by all—with insight, clarity, and style. It has something for everyone: Armstrong aficionados will learn much new information and those less familiar with Armstrong will race to download his recordings to their iPods. An uplifting story, masterfully told, Pops is essential reading for anyone curious about music, American culture, and one man’s ability to inspire the world.
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by Gary Giddins

Format: Paperback, 1st ed., 240pp.
ISBN: 0-306-80813-7
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Year: 2001 (originally published 1988)

An excellent biography. The author, an award winning jazz critic, recognizes that part of Armstrong’s genius was his ability to be both an artist of the highest caliber and an entertainer who was accessible to all. The original hardcover edition (Doubleday, 1988) included more than one hundred photographs of rare or unique materials from the collections of the Louis Armstrong House Museum; the paperback edition is text only. (Back To Top)
Satchmo: The Louis Armstrong Encyclopedia
by Michael Meckna

Format: Hardcover, 432 pp.
ISBN: 0-313-30137-9
Publisher: Greenwood Press
Year: 2004

The first—and only—encyclopedia devoted solely to Louis Armstrong. Entries on people (e.g., Gertrude Armstrong, David Frost), on song titles (e.g., “Cornet Chop Suey,” “Red Cap”), on places (e.g., Regal Theatre), and much more. Two useful appendices include an annotated listing of Armstrong recordings on CD and a detailed chronology of Louis’s life. A reference book that is as entertaining as it is informative.
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Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans
by Louis Armstrong

Format: Paperback, 256pp
ISBN: 0-306-80276-7
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Year: 1986 (originally published 1954)

A captivating autobiography that covers Armstrong’s life until his debut with King Oliver in Chicago in 1922. Unlike Swing That Music, the text is undoubtedly in Louis’s own voice, although the book has been edited. The Da Capo edition has a new foreword by Dan Morgenstern. An essential source for research into early Armstrong. If you own only one book on Louis Armstrong, this should be the book. (Back To Top)
Satchmo’s Blues
by Alan Schroeder; illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Format: Hardcover, [24] pp.
ISBN: 0-385-32046-9
Publisher: Doubleday
Year: 1996

A captivating, inspirational book that focuses upon little Louis’s quest to own a trumpet. The dialogue is imaginary (not a problem in a children’s book) and the history is sometimes off-base (e.g., Louis got the money for his first horn from the Karnofsky family, not from his mother). But the book is gorgeously illustrated and a joy to read.
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Swing That Music
by Louis Armstrong

Format: Paperback, 200pp
ISBN: 0-306-80544-8
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Year: 1993 (originally published 1936)

The first autobiography of a jazz musician. Although based upon Louis’s manuscript, the published book is heavily edited and partially ghost written. Covers Armstrong’s life until 1936. The book contains significant details that do not appear in Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans but that have been verified by recent research. The Da Capo edition has a new foreword by Dan Morgenstern. An essential source for research into early Armstrong.
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What a Wonderful World
by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele, illustrated by Ashley Bryan

Format: Hardcover, xx pp.
ISBN: 0-689-80087-9
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Year: 1995

This delightful book presents the text to Louis’s hit song, “What a Wonderful World,” enchantingly illustrated by Ashley Bryan. After listening to a recording of the song (not included), sit your little one on your knee and follow the lyrics (“I see trees of green, red roses too…”) line by line. A clear winner with young kids.
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