Louis Armstrong was born in the Storyville District of New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 4, 1901. He celebrated his birth as July 4, 1900 because that is what he was always told and believed. His real date of birth was not known until after his death July 6, 1971. His father left the family soon after he was born, his mother left Louis and his sister Beatrice, in the care of his grandmother most of the time. However he always believed the love of his family helped him make it through those rough times. .
On New Year's in 1913, Louis shot off a pistol into the air and was arrested. This turned out to be a very fortunate occurrence for Jazz and probably for him; he was admitted to the city's Colored Waif's Home for Boys. In this home he began his tutorship of Peter Davis who was the music instructor there. He began to study music, first vocal, and then percussion, then he became a bugler, and finally began to play a cornet. The music he played was very structured, mostly marches and other ensemble music. Armstrong was released from the waif's home at fourteen and began work. He sold papers, unloaded boats, and sold coal from a horse and cart.
Soon later he began listening to bands at clubs like the Come Clean Dance Hall, Funky Butt Hall, and Mahogany Hall, in Storyville. Joe "King" Oliver with the Kid Ory Band was his favorite. In 1917 Louis played in various groups at bars in New Orleans. In 1919 he joined Fate Marable's band in St. Louis, and stayed with him until 1921. King Oliver left New Orleans in 1919 to go to Chicago, and Louis took his place in Kid Ory's band, at the suggestion of Oliver. One year later Joe Oliver asked Armstrong to play in his Creole Jazz Band at Lincoln Gardens in Chicago. Playing second cornet to Oliver helped Louis develop his ear and harmonies. While playing in this band Armstrong met Lillian Hardin, the piano player in the band, and they were married in February of 1924.