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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bluer Than Blue - Lil Hardin Armstrong

Lil Hardin Armstrong (February 3, 1898 – August 27, 1971) was a jazz pianist, composer, arranger, singer, and bandleader, and the second wife of Louis Armstrong with whom she collaborated on many recordings in the 1920s. Hardin's compositions include "Struttin' With Some Barbecue", "Don't Jive Me", "Two Deuces", "Knee Drops", "Doin' the Suzie-Q", "Just For a Thrill" (which became a major hit when revived by Ray Charles in 1959), "Clip Joint", and "Bad Boy" (a minor hit for Ringo Starr in 1978). She was born as Lillian Hardin in Memphis, Tennessee, where she grew up in a household with her grandmother, Priscilla Martin, a former slave from near Oxford, Mississippi. During her early years, Hardin was taught hymns, spirituals, and Classics on the piano. She was drawn to popular music and later blues, but could only listen to or play these styles occasionally and covertly, because her mother, Dempsey (Lil called her "Decie"), a deeply religious woman, considered them "sinful" In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Hardin worked mostly as a soloist singing and playing piano. In the late 1940s, she decided to leave the music and become a tailor, so she took a course in tailoring. Her graduation project was to make a tuxedo for Louis. It was displayed prominently at a New York cocktail party she threw to announce her new field of endeavor. "They looked at Louis' tux and all the other things I had made and they were very impressed", she recalled, "but then someone asked me to play the piano. That's when I knew that I would never be able to leave the music business." Louis wore Hardin's tuxedo and she continued to tailor, but only as a sideline and then only for friends. Her shirts, which friends received regularly on birthdays, proudly bore a label with her mother's name, "Decie", and beneath that, "Hand made by Lil Armstrong." Hardin eventually returned to Chicago and the house on East 41st Street. She also made a trip to Europe and had a brief love affair in France, but mostly she worked around Chicago, often with fellow Chicagoans. Collaborators included Red Saunders, Joe Williams, Oscar Brown, Jr., and Little Brother Montgomery. In the 1950s, Hardin recorded a biographical narrative for Riverside's Bill Grauer, which was issued in LP form. She would again appear on that label in 1961, participating in its "Chicago: The Living Legends" project as accompanist for Alberta Hunter and leader of her own hastily assembled big band. At that time, her favorite living pianists were Thelonious Monk and Billy Taylor, which helps to explain why, when Riverside producer Chris Albertson approached her about these recordings, her immediate reaction was, "Who's going to listen to that old stuff?" The Riverside recordings led to her inclusion in a star-studded 1961 NBC network special, "Chicago and All That Jazz," and a follow-up album released through the Verve Records imprint. In 1962, Hardin began writing her autobiography, in collaboration with Albertson, but she had second thoughts when she realized that such a book could not be done properly without including material that might discomfit Louis Armstrong, so the project was shelved with only five chapters written.[citation needed]In 1969, Hardin told a University of Alabama professor that she wanted to work on the book alone and self-publish it When Armstrong died, in 1971, Hardin was deeply shaken by the loss. She traveled to New York for the funeral and rode in the family car. "I think Louis would have found a way getting back at me if I hadn't put Hardin in that car", his widow, Lucille, told Albertson.[6] Returning to Chicago, Hardin felt that work on her autobiography could now continue, but the following month, performing at a televised memorial concert for Louis, Lil Hardin Armstrong collapsed at the piano. She died an hour later, aged 73.[citation needed]In the aftermath of her funeral, her letters and the unfinished manuscript of her autobiography disappeared from her house If you support live Blues acts, up and coming Blues talents and want to learn more about Blues news and Fathers of the Blues, ”LIKE” ---Bman’s Blues Report--- Facebook Page! I’m looking for great talent and trying to grow the audience for your favorite band!

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