On November 12, 1925, Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five met up at the Okeh studio in Chicago, Illinois. They were to record their first tunes for Okeh Records.
The record label had wanted to put together a band of New Orleans musicians to buy into the recent success of New Orleans-style music. Having heard this, Armstrong put together his own band of musicians, most of whom had played in King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.
The group consisted of Armstrong on trumpet; Hardin on piano; Kid Ory on trombone; Johnny St. Cyr on banjo and; Johnny Dodds on clarinet.
The session was unrehearsed and the acoustic equipment used for the recording was rudimentary and far from ideal (these were still early days for music recordings in general.) Yet, the music was superb and since then the Hot Five, and subsequently Hot Seven, recordings have been named among the best recordings in jazz history.
The first tune they waxed was “My Heart,” credited to Hardin. It was followed by the bluesy “Yes! I’m in the Barrel” and “Gut Bucket Blues.” In the latter, Armstrong introduces the members of the band in an exciting song-and-comedy routine that has since become a staple of music performance in general.
The musicians enjoyed playing in the informal setting. Armstrong, unlike many other bandleaders of the day, was very collaborative. Being the leader of his own band also meant for Armstrong that unlike his previous recording experiences with King Oliver and Fletcher Henderson, with his Hot Five he would no longer be denied the freedom he had craved, both as trumpeter and as a singer.