"You don't have to wait for the Midnight Hour to have a grand time - just be there from 8 o'clock!"
Born and raised in New Orleans, Herb Armstrong brings to the stage a magnificent deep voice and a lively personality as he performs the music of his grandfather, the late and great Louis Armstrong, accompanied by Adelaide's own Atlantic Street Band at different venues - Nola's and The Gaslight during Adelaide's Fringe in March. Check HERE for details.
"In my younger days, I went through a phase when I was inspired by the Jacksons. I wanted to be so like them. I always wanted to sing like Michael. I got my brothers together and gave them broomsticks and I taught them the steps like the Jacksons. My voice was high. My brothers said, "I don't want to be like them. You do it yourself. So I got some friends in the neighbourhood to join me and we went on this TV show hosted by a singer called King Floyd. He wanted to do a performance with our group. He said, I will sing first, because I am the King. He made this song called 'Groove Me'. Then my voice changed. I cried. My mother said "you are a man now." But I said, I want my high voice back again." But it was gone. Mum said, "This is your gift. This deep voice will make you money." Today I am thankful for that gift, because I don't know where I'd be if I wasn't on stage. I am alive on stage. I try to deliver a high-energy show every time. When I am on stage, I got you under my skin."
"Later my music influences included listening to Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, The Temptations and The Stylistics. I always wanted to be in a Beach Boys type band, and be the bass singer. I have a natural bass voice and wanted to be in a group as the bass singer, so I could show off my natural bass voice and keep the balance in the harmony."
When Herb got his first start he joined a gospel group called The McDermott Singers. He was raised Catholic, so he joined a Gospel group in his church. But there was a Baptist Church next door and their harmony from their choir was so good, that he quit the Catholic Church and went to the Baptist Church.
"My grandmother got pissed off with me for leaving the Catholic church, but she forgave me when I told her I wanted to go to that soul church next door.
"When we sent Louis off, we had a big parade in New Orleans. We were still crying and grieving, but we had a grand party. Everybody bring food and wine and beer, and everybody gathered around his grave site. It was a real celebration of his life. That is how we send them off. At Fats Domino's funeral I heard the band playing I'm Walkin' to New Orleans and they sent him off with all his songs with a jazz band. When we had that flood, Katrina, in New Orleans, Fats was the last one to leave. Harry Cornick Jr did a CD called Nola. I did a few tracks too, to raise funds for New Orleans."
" I sung 'A Wonderful World' at my grandfather's funeral. I was about fourteen. Everyone showed up, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, all those Las Vegas entertainers to farewell my grandfather. When I sung 'A Wonderful World' they say, you sound just like your grandfather, and they all meant it. And I said, 'thank you.'"
What is surprising is when Herb was young, he never pursued jazz, because he was more into rap music and soul music. Every Saturday morning his mother played soul music - Al Green. Her wake-up call for breakfast was soul music. When she played soul music, she sung out loud and she made the family sing along.
Later, Herb was influenced by jazz singers and New Orleans musicians like the Neville Brothers, Fats Domino and Dr John. He went to their shows and watched them, and he told himself, "One day I am going to have my own band. And I'm going to do just what I want to. What I feel like. I am not going to plan it. I'm not going to write it down, I'm just going to do it. And my dream is now. You ask me what type of show I'm going to do? I have no idea until I'm on stage performing. I'll make those changes as I see the audience become more aroused and together we raise the energy in the room."
"My early inspiration from Louis was through listening to all his songs. People ask me, "How did you get that gravel in your voice, Herb?" and I say, " Because, it is part of my genes." I tell them that 'Louis lit the torch for jazz. He was the first improviser of jazz. He was the language of Jazz. Nobody ever can do what Louis did in the 1940's, 50's and 70's and I said, "that torch Louis lit for jazz, I am lighting it up now, what he started. I am carrying the torch through. I see people looking to see, what is all the hype about? Will he sound like Louis? I showed them."
"My audience is always first for me, because without them, there would be no me. So I always try to give my best because of my grandfather, Louis Armstrong. I always thank him, and ask him, "If you were here what would you do? I say that every show. I say What you do?" When I am on stage I become Louis, and that is always how I do my shows."
"I was also influenced by the Jacksons. There was a time I wanted to be like them. I always wanted to sing like Michael. I got my brothers together and gave them broomsticks and I taught them the steps like the Jacksons. My voice was high. My brothers said, "I don't want to be like them. You do it yourself. I got some friends in the neighbourhood to join me and we went on this TV show hosted by a singer called King Floyd. He wanted to do a performance with our group. I will sing first, because I am the King. He made this song called Groove Me. Then my voice changed. I cried. My mother said "you are a man now." But I said, I want my high voice again." But it was gone. Mum said, "This is your gift. This voice will make you money." Today I am thankful for that gift, because I don't know where I'd be if I wasn't on stage. I am alive on stage.I try to deliver it every time. When I am on stage, I got you under my skin."
"Do I really sound like Louis Armstrong? Well, the audience finds out with the first song, and I keep doing all his greatest hits. Then I do my own thing including my original song, Drop Me Off in New Orleans. I try to deliver what the people come to see, and they find out. I say that every show. I say when I am on stage I become Louis, and that is always how I do my shows."