The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Howard Armstrong

Share on Social Media

Information about Howard Armstrong

Profile image of Howard Armstrong

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Painter
Country and Blues Musician

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Dark Colors
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Hawaii
Favorite Quote:
Thank you.

Birthplace

Born:
3/4/1909
Birth Location:
Dayton, Tennessee

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Painter
Country and Blues Musician

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Dark Colors
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Hawaii
Favorite Quote:
Thank you.

Birthplace

Born:
3/4/1909
Birth Location:
Dayton
See how Howard Armstrong is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong was born on March 4, 1909, in Dayton, Tennessee, to Daisy and Thomas Armstrong. Armstrong's great-grandfather was a slave owner, and his grandparents were slaves. His father, a gifted musician, artist and preacher, worked as a furnace man at the LaFollette Iron and Coal Company in eastern Tennessee to support his wife and nine children. He taught his children to play a variety of musical instruments, and Armstrong learned to play the mandolin, fiddle and guitar, among others during his childhood. Armstrong's father had a gift for languages and learned to speak Italian, German, Polish and Spanish from the European immigrants working at the blast furnace. Armstrong shared this gift with his father. It was during his childhood that Armstrong also started drawing and painting, using homemade paints and brushes.

As a teenager Armstrong played blues, country, hokum and ragtime with his brothers in local bands, and in 1929 he recorded with bluesman Sleepy John Estes and string band leader Yank Rachell. With Ted Bogan and Carl Martin he formed the Martin, Bogan & Armstrong Trio and in 1933 they migrated north to Chicago, performing at the World's Fair, working as street musicians and recording music.

After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Armstrong worked as an assembly-line spot welder for the Chrysler Corporation in Detroit to support his family. After he retired in 1971, the Martin, Bogan & Armstrong Trio reunited, performing and recording several albums throughout the decade until Martin's death in 1979.

Armstrong was fluent in seven languages and was know for his fiddle and mandolin playing, but could play twenty-two different instruments. He was the subject of two documentary films, Louie Bluie (1985) and Sweet Old Song (2002), and received a National Heritage award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Armstrong passed away June 30, 2003 at age 94.

See how Howard Armstrong is related to other HistoryMakers
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Howard Armstrong interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Howard Armstrong lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Howard Armstrong recalls his family origins
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Howard Armstrong talks more about his family origins
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Howard Armstrong recalls his grandparents and tells a Bible story
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Howard Armstrong talks about his parents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Howard Armstrong talks about his father's personality
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Howard Armstrong talks more about his father's personality
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Howard Armstrong talks about his mother
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Howard Armstrong talks about his siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Howard Armstrong talks more about his siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Howard Armstrong reflects on his childhood and learning to play music
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Howard Armstrong talks more about learning music
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Howard Armstrong recalls meeting the opera singer, Grace Moore
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Howard Armstrong discusses his experiences in school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Howard Armstrong talks about his college experience
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Howard Armstrong talks more about his college experience
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Howard Armstrong talks about his childhood in Dayton, Tennessee
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Howard Armstrong talks more about his childhoood in Tennessee
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Howard Armstrong recalls his religious upbringing
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Howard Armstrong talks about his music career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Howard Armstrong talks more about his music career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Howard Armstrong talks about performing on the radio
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Howard Armstrong talks about leaving school and performing music full time
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Howard Armstrong recalls travelling to Chicago to perform
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Howard Armstrong talks more about performing in Chicago's Century of Progress
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Howard Armstrong talks about performing in foreign languages
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Howard Armstrong speaks briefly on his travels to Chicago
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Howard Armstrong talks more about his experience in Chicago
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Howard Armstrong recalls his move from Chicago and his move to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Howard Armstrong recalls the bombing of Pearl Harbor
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Howard Armstrong talks more about Pearl Harbor and his return to Tennessee
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Howard Armstrong details how he met his first wife
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Howard Armstrong talks more about his ex-wife
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Howard Armstrong returns to talking about his Chicago experience
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Howard Armstrong returns to talking about his ex-wife
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Howard Armstrong talks about what it's like to be a musician
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Howard Armstrong discusses his thoughts about modern black music
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Howard Armstrong reflects on his hopes for the black community and his legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Howard Armstrong talks about his philosophy about marriage
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Howard Armstrong talks more about his marriage philosophy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Howard Armstrong recalls the reunion with his musical group
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Howard Armstrong discusses how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Howard Armstrong and sister Robbie at La Follette Colored High School, La Follette, Tennessee, ca. 1920s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Classmate of Howard Armstrong's, ca. 1930s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Howard Armstrong performing at WJBK radio, 1928
  • Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Howard Armstrong with Ted Bogan in Fort Wayne, Indiana, ca. 1930s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Howard Armstrong with Frances Childrey and unidentified man, Fort Wayne, Indiana, ca. 1930s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's bassist, Bill Ballinger, with others, late 1930s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's ex-wife, Celestine Crook Armstrong, ca. 1930s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Photo - Howard Armstrong, his son, Tommy Lee and ex-wife Celestine Crook Armstrong, Sparta, Tennessee, 1938
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's drawing of him and his wife, Mary Majit, ca. 1940s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's drawing of him and his wife, Mary Majit, ca. 1940s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Photo - Howard Armstrong in Chicago, circa 1944
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Photo - The Armstrong Brothers String Band, La Follette, Tennessee, 1925
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Photo - Howard Armstrong performing at the Club Passim, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1999
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Photo - Howard Armstrong at age sixteen, La Follette, Tennessee, 1925
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's drawing of "The Old Homestead," La Follette, Tennessee, 1980s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's drawing of the voodoo woman at the village pump, La Follette, Tennessee, 1980s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's drawing of Reverend John Moore in La Follette, Tennessee, 1980s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's drawing of the shooting of Sam Wade by Sheriff Dick Gaylor, La Follette, Tennessee, 1980s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's drawing of La Follette Coal and Iron Company's blast furnaces, La Follette, Tennessee, 1980s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's drawing of his father, Reverend Thomas Franklin Armstrong
  • Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Photo - Three photos of a church
  • Tape: 6 Story: 15 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's great uncle, Edward Armstrong
  • Tape: 6 Story: 16 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's uncle, Tennessee 'Tim' Armstrong
  • Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's drawing of his mother, Daisy Ann Milam Armstrong
  • Tape: 6 Story: 18 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's drawing for his mother, ca. 1920
  • Tape: 6 Story: 19 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's drawing of the Armstrong Family Band
  • Tape: 6 Story: 20 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's drawing of his sisters Robbie and Clara, Clara's husband 'Cheese', and Howard at the piano
  • Tape: 6 Story: 21 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's photo of his sister Ella Mae Armstrong Coulter, ca. 1920s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 22 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's brother Tommie, ca. 1920s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 23 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's two drawings of Old Mammy Satterfield ('Mammy Batts'), and his brother Tommie watching Mammy Batts's funeral hearse
  • Tape: 6 Story: 24 - Photo - Howard Armstrong and his band, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1970s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 25 - Photo - Howard Armstrong at age sixty-three, 1972
  • Tape: 6 Story: 26 - Photo - Howard Armstrong posing with a painter's palette in his apartment/art studio in Detroit, Michigan, 1970s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 27 - Photo - Howard Armstrong in his apartment/art studio in Detroit, Michigan 1970s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 28 - Photo - Howard Armstrong playing guitar, 1970
  • Tape: 6 Story: 29 - Photo - Photo/Collage of Howard Armstrong created by Barbara Ward Armstrong, ca. 1960s
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Photo - Poster for the Fulton County Development Corporation benefit concert, Boston, Massachusetts, 1983
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Photo - Howard Armstrong, Tommie Lee Armstrong and Ted Bogan, Washington D.C.
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Photo - Howard Armstrong and Barbara Ward Armstrong
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Photo - Illustration of Howard Armstrong by R. Crumb; album cover art for the soundtrack to the movie 'Louie Bluie', by Terry Zwigoff, 1985
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Photo - Howard Armstrong performing in Tucson, Arizona, 1995
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Photo - Howard Armstrong and Barbara Ward Armstrong, San Francisco, California, 1997
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Photo - Howard Armstrong performing in Augusta, Georgia, 1994
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Photo - Photo of Howard Armstrong by John A. Gallagher, 1996
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Photo - Howard Armstrong at his home in Boston, Massachusetts, 1990s
  • Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Photo - Howard Armstrong performing at Yoshi's Jazz House, Oakland, California, 1990s
  • Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Photo - Promotional flyer for documentary film about Howard Armstrong, 'Sweet Old Song,' 2002
  • Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Photo - Howard Armstrong's wife, Barbara Ward Armstrong, 2000s
  • Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Photo - Howard Armstrong and Barbara Ward Armstrong in their home, Boston, Massachusetts, 2000s