Lil Hardin helped introduce America to jazz music. She was a dedicated jazz pianist, who established a reputation as Hot Miss Lil, one of the few female band ensemble members of the 1920’s. She played on many of the first jazz recordings ever made and she wrote many of the early songs of the jazz era. Though she might be identified in the jazz world as the wife of Louis Armstrong, she was much more than that.
Lil Armstrong was born Lillian Beatrice Hardin on February 3, 1898. Her grandmother, Priscilla Thompson, was born into slavery in 1850 in Lafayette County near Oxford, Mississippi. Her parents separated when Armstrong was very young. As a young child Lil lived with her mother in a boarding house in Memphis, a few blocks from Beale Street, a bustling nightlife area for blacks where much of blues and jazz music was beginning to take shape. Young Lil began playing the organ at early by taking music lessons at age six. By nine, she played the organ for sunday school, at 16, Lil won a music contest at her music school. It was this contest that made her realize she had a future in music.