Sunday February 3 gives us the opportunity to remember one of the first important songwriters in jazz, Lillian Hardin Armstrong. She was born on that day in 1898 in Memphis and may be best known as Louis Armstrong’s second wife and writer of some of his enduring classics, such as “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue,” which has been covered more than 500 times. Other notable Lil Armstrong originals include “Doin’ the Suzie Q,” “Just for a Thrill” and “Bad Boy.” She married Louis Armstrong on February 4, 1924 and helped groom him for stardom. She also appeared as pianist with Louis on his justly famous Hot Five recordings with Kid Ory, Johnny Dodds and Johnny St. Cy. In later years she led an All Girl Orchestra broadcast on NBC radio, worked with Red Allen and eventually earned a post-graduate degree at New York College of Music. In 1971 after attending Louis Armstrong’s funeral, she returned to Chicago. She died there from a heart attack before completing her autobiography.
On December 10, 2015 Jazz scholar Dan Morgenstern gave a lecture at the Library of Congress titled “Louis and Lil: A Couple Making Musical History” available here as a webcast.