Howard Armstrong

stringband musician, LaFollette

National Heritage Fellowship (1990)
Tennessee Folklife Heritage Award (2003)


Fiddle and mandolin player Howard Armstrong (1909-2003) lived in Chicago, Detroit, and Boston during his adult life, but he spent his childhood in Tennessee where his father labored in the steel and coal industries.  He was born in Dayton, lived for a time in Sparta, and became a musician during a longer residence in LaFollette.  As a teenager, he frequently played on the streets in Knoxville, and from the beginning his music showed diverse influences ranging from hillbilly to tin-pan alley and jazz.  He was sometimes known as “Louie Bluie” from an early recording pseudonym.  As a professional player in northern cities, he was exposed to even more cultural diversity than he’d experienced in Tennessee coal camps, and he became conversant with a variety of languages and ethnic music traditions.  Late in his career, Armstrong and some of his early musical cohorts were rediscovered as veterans of forgotten African American country stringband music.  He took part in the Tennessee program at the 1986 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, and two films were made about his life.  In 2007, the local Louie Bluie Festival was launched in Campbell County as an annual tribute to him.


For Howard Armstrong’s National Heritage Fellowship profile, go to

To see Howard Armstrong’s profile in the 2003 Governor’s Awards in the Arts program, click here.

For more about Howard Armstrong, go to:

Youtube addr for 2003 Gov Awd video profile

For further reading, see:

Govenar, Alan, Masters of Traditional Arts: A Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2001), pp. 33-35, 703.
Lauder, Kathy, “Howard ‘Louie Bluie’ Armstrong, A Tennessee Treasure,” Tennessee Conservationist 74, no. 4 (Sept/Oct, 2013): 14-17.


Sweet Old Song , by Leah Mahan (film, 2002)
Masters of Traditional Arts, Documentary Arts (CD-Rom, 2002)
Howard Armstrong, Louie Bluie, Arhoolie 470 (CD 1998) 
Howard Armstrong, Louie Bluie, Blue Suit BS106D (CD 1995)
Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong, That Old Gang of Mine, Flying Fish CDFLY 3 (CD reissue 1993)
Louie Bluie, by Terry Zwigoff (film, 1986)
Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong, Let’s Have Party, Flying Fish 27003 (LP)
Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong, Barnyard Dance, Rounder 2003 (LP 1974)