Louis Armstrong was attracted to trumpet and cornet players at an early age. He greatly admired Joe "King" Oliver and Bunk Johnson and, as early as 5 years old, could distinguish their styles from that of Buddy Bolden. On the corner of the street where Armstrong lived was the Funky Butt Hall where young Louis first heard Bolden play, and he wondered if he would ever have enough "lung power to fill one of those cornets."
It is believed that Louis was first exposed to the cornet around 1907 when the Karnofskys, a Russian-Jewish immigrant family, hired him. The Karnofskys owned a junk wagon and sold coal in the winter to the prostitutes of Storyville. Louis' job was to blow the horn to attract attention. They bought him his first cornet, for which he paid them back a little bit at a time per week.
Then something happened that changed his life forever. Louis found a .38 pistol in the bottom of his mother Mayann's cedar trunk and took it with him when he went out that evening with his friends. It was Dec. 31, 1912. When someone across the street fired a pistol into the air, Louis did the same. The next thing he knew he was in Juvenile Court and on his way to the Colored Waifs' Home for Boys.
That year, 1913, Louis met Peter Davis, the home's music teacher. At first, Davis didn't like Louis, and Louis was terrified of Davis. But after six months, he was invited to join the school's brass band. However, Louis was crushed when the director assigned him to play the tambourine and then the drums.
Shortly thereafter, Louis became the bugler for the school, and Davis was pleased with his performance, so pleased that he gave Louis a cornet and taught him how to play "Home, Sweet Home." Soon Louis was promoted to leader of the band. This, of course, elated him as the band often played at private functions or marched in many of the parades through the streets of New Orleans.
He was especially happy the day the band paraded through his old neighborhood. All of the neighbors gathered -- including the pimps, whores, gamblers, beggars, and thieves -- to wait for Mayann's son. Everyone wanted to give Louis some money, and he collected enough to buy new uniforms and instruments for all the boys in the band.
After his release from the home in June 1914, Louis was fortunate to have his idol, Joe "King" Oliver, as his teacher and mentor.
Next month, from Oct. 1-15, the cornet Louis learned to play in the Waifs' Home will be auctioned over the Internet. Sotheby's auction house is predicting that it will bring between $80,000 and $100,000. From the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, the cornet has been on display at the Louisiana State Museum. It was loaned by George Finola who bought the horn in the early 1960s. Finola has recently passed away, and the cornet is being sold by his estate.
Leila Dunbar of Sotheby's said, "If Armstrong hadn't shot that pistol and wound up in the Colored Waifs' Home, jazz would still exist, but it wouldn't be the same music it is today."
Can you compare and contrast the different ways of removing seafood smell from your hands? (1) Use beer or lemon juice. (2) Crumble crackers in your hands. (3) Rub your hands on the faucet. Are there any others?
R. B. Larose
Dear R. B.,
Why would anyone want to? However, if you insist on being fragrance-free, I believe that all of these, as well as sprinkling your hands with salt, rubbing and rinsing, work pretty well. Since salt, lemon, and crackers are often readily available at a seafood party, they would be the logical things to try. But I will draw the line at using beer. What a waste!