Ever get a whoopin’ for playing the devil’s music? No? Me neither, though I got whoopin’s for plenty of other junk-all of which I deny, then, now and forever. It was obviously my brother who did it all.
As a child, Lil Hardin got a whoopin’ from her ma, however, because Momma Hardin thought the devil was coming through her daughter’s piano-playing hands. That story is included in an upcoming book by James L. Dickerson: Just for a Thrill: Lil Hardin Armstrong, First Lady of Jazz (Cooper Square Press). The book, which will be out in Feb. 2002, recounts the life of the former Mrs. Louis Armstrong, from her Memphis childhood to her death onstage, while playing “St. Louis Blues,” during a memorial jazz concert for Pops in 1971.
The woman known as “Hot Miss Lil” was a prolific songwriter, including the classic “Struttin’ with Some Barbeque,” and she was a member of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and her husband’s legendary groups the Hot Fives and the Hot Sevens. Hardin Armstrong directly altered Satchmo’s career by convincing him to leave King Oliver’s band and move to New York City to play with Fletcher Henderson.
She had a long career after her marriage to Armstrong dissolved, recording many albums for Decca in the 1930s and playing around Chicago the last 30 years of her life. These stories and more are included in Just for a Thrill.