L is for singer/vocalist/pianist Lil Hardin. Lil first learned to play the piano from her third grade teacher who Lil reports “taught me all the wrong things but the she meant well.” She learned proper music technique at Fisk University. She got her first job in show business as a pianist in the New Orleans Creole Jazz Band (circa 1917). She later toured with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band then, in 1921 she moved back to Chicago and became the second Mrs. Louis Armstrong. They divorced in 1931 and that same year Lil began touring with her “All-Girl Orchestra.” They appeared on radio and recorded several records. In the 40s and 50s she worked as a soloist then, after a brief stint as a tailor, she continued to work on various group and solo projects until her death in 1971. Here’s Lil with Louis’ band performing one of her compositions “Let’s Get Happy Together” (1938). I know Lil is singing and I believe that’s her on piano too.
Lil Hardin and I are exactly alike! She was a woman and I’m a woman. She was Black and I’m Black. She was from Chicago and I’m from Chicago. She wrote a book and I wrote a book (3 books actually). She liked to sew and I like to sew. She was a musical genius who was once married to the great Louis Armstrong and I… own some CDs. Okay so maybe we’re not “exactly” alike. Still, it’s close enough that I feel justified in declaring myself genius adjacent. I’m pretty sure that means there’s McArthur money waiting for me somewhere.