Long before the British Rock Invasion there was an American Jazz Invasion and leading the charge was Louis Armstrong. He was such an icon that even The Beatles couldn’t best him: in 1964 Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly!” replaced The Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love” at the top of the charts.
Accompanying Armstrong at the time, as part of his All Stars, was pianist Marty Napoleon (July 2, 1921-April 27, 2015). Napoleon played with Armstrong’s All Stars during several periods, in the early 1950s and then in the mid 1960s until Armstrong’s death in 1971.
Napoleon was a self-taught pianist from a musical family. Four of his uncles were prominent jazz and big band musicians, and his brother, Teddy, preceded him as the pianist for The Gene Krupa Trio. In addition to Armstrong and Krupa, Napoleon played with Buddy Rich, Coleman Hawkins and Nat King Cole.
In this video of the film “Follow That Music,” Napoleon can be seen intermittently with Gene Krupa, appearing as “Gene Knight,” an aspiring young musician.
He retained his love of playing into his 90s.