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Howard Armstrong

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.

Accession Number

A2003.077

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/12/2003

Last Name

Armstrong

Maker Category
Middle Name

Howard Taft

Organizations
Schools

La Follette Colored High School

Tennessee State University

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Dayton

HM ID

ARM01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Thank you.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

3/4/1909

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

7/30/2003

Short Description

Painter and country and blues musician Howard Armstrong (1909 - 2003 ) was one of the world's greatest fiddle players. Armstrong played a total of twenty-two instruments and was fluent in seven languages. Two PBS documentary films were made about Armstrong including, "Louie Bluie."

Employment

Chrysler Corporation

Favorite Color

Dark Colors

DAStories

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