November 23, 2012 by dontbringlulubook
In the article ‘A Divine Voice for Sassy Sarah’ we learn about the jazz icon behind Sarah Onions’ name.
An earlier book extract from Doris Onions explains the thought process behind the choice of her children::
In the summer of 1961 I realized that I was pregnant again. We had a momentary mental wobble when, inevitably, our thoughts turned back to the events surrounding Sarah’s birth, but that passed quickly and we looked forward eagerly to arrive to the arrival of a son. He would be called Louis after one of our jazz heroes. Sarah had been named after another jazz immortal, Sarah Vaughan. Both names would be a nostalgic reminder that we had spent much of our courtship, as it was called in those days, in the basement of 100 Oxford Street jiving to the music of Humphrey Lyttleton and his band, and had seen both Armstrong and Vaughan in action at their concerts in Britain.
In this extract we see Doris’ belief that her second child would be a boy – a boy her and her husband Ron would call Louis after another great jazz musician and vocalist: Louis Armstrong.
As we know, Doris gave birth to another girl – named Louise.
Like many jazz musicians of the era, Louis was born in New Orleans, August 4th 1901 to Mayann and William Armstrong.
Life was hard. The family lived in poverty and Louis’ father left whilst he was still an infant. Louis spent his early childhood with his grandmother Josephine, before moving back with his mother and sister Beatrice.
Louis often ventured near the bars of New Orleans, where he would see and hear musicians play. To earn some money, Louis held many jobs – newspaper seller, coal hauler, sang on street corners with three other boys and even worked on a junk waggon owned by a Russian Jewish family, The Karnofskys. It is believed this family helped to nurture Louis and even loaned him the money needed to buy his first Cornet.
This is just the start of his interest in music. We explore his progression from ‘hobby’ to ‘legend’ next time.