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Famous Like Me > Composer > J > Louis Jordan

Profile of Louis Jordan on Famous Like Me

Name: Louis Jordan  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 8th July 1908
Place of Birth: Brinkley, Arkansas, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Louis Jordan (July 8, 1908 - February 4, 1975) was an African-American jazz and rhythm & blues musician who, unlike many of his black peers, was highly popular with mainstream audiences in the post-swing era.

Early life

Louis Jordan was born in Brinkley, Arkansas, where his father was a local music teacher and bandleader. Jordan started out on clarinet, and also played piano professionally early in his career, but alto saxophone became his main instrument. However, he became even better known as a songwriter, entertainer and vocalist.

Career in 1930s

In 1932, Jordan began performing with Chick Webb and Clarence Williams, recording "Honey in the Bee Ball" for Decca Records in 1938. Though this was recorded with The Elks Rendezvous Band, Jordan would go on to play with His Tympany Five, which eventually included Bill Jennings and Carl Hogan on guitar, Wild Bill Davis and Bill Doggett on piano, Chris Columbus on drums and Dallas Bartley on bass. Jordan played alto sax and sang. (The word tympany is an old-fashioned one meaning, "swollen, inflated, puffed-up", etymologically related to timpani, or "kettle drum", but historically separate.)

The band's sound was similar to that of Fats Waller and his Rhythm with a touch of the Caribbean sound commonly called "the Spanish tinge".

Career in 1940s

In the 1940s, Jordan released dozens of hit songs including "Saturday Night Fish Fry" (one of many contenders for the title of "First rock and roll record"), "Blue Light Boogie", "Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens", "Buzz Me," "Ain't That Just Like a Woman", and the multi-million seller "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie". One of his biggest hits was "Caldonia", with its energetic punchline, banged out by the whole band, "Caldonia! Caldonia! What makes your big head so hard?" After Jordan's success with it, the song was also recorded by Woody Herman in a famous modern arrangement, including a unison chorus by five trumpets. However, many of Jordan's biggest R&B hits were inimitable enough that there were no hit cover versions, a rarity in an era where poppish "black" records were rerecorded by white artists, and where many popular songs were released in multiple competing versions.

Jordan's raucous recordings celebrated African American urban life and were infused with good humor and energy that had a great influence on the development of rock and roll; his music was popular with both blacks and whites. One of Jordan's biggest fans was Chuck Berry, who modelled his musical approach on Jordan's, changing the text from black life to teenage life.

Most successful period

The prime of Louis Jordan's recording career, 1942-1950, was a period of segregation on the radio. Despite this, he was able to score the crossover #1 single "G.I. Jive"/"Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?" in 1944, thanks in large part to his performance in the Universal film Follow the Boys. Two years later, MGM had its cartoon cat Tom lip-sync Jordan's record in the 1946 Tom & Jerry cartoon short Solid Serenade.

Jordan also placed another 15+ songs on the national charts. However, Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five was the dominant behemoth on the 1940's R&B charts (or as they were known at the time, the "juke box race" charts.) There, Jordan had 18 #1 singles, 54 Top Tens, and an incredible 113 weeks in the #1 position (the all-time runner-up is Stevie Wonder with 70). From July 1946 through May 1947, Jordan scored five consecutive #1 songs, holding the top slot for 44 consecutive weeks.

Influence on Rock and Roll

Jordan is one of a number of seminal black performers who is often credited with, if not inventing rock and roll, certainly providing some of the building blocks for the music. He was the progenitor and foremost practictioner of the jump blues style, later to be followed by Roy Brown, Wynonie Harris, Tiny Bradshaw. etc. Jump blues was a direct precursor of rock 'n roll. Aside from the aforementioned influence on Chuck Berry, Jordan also strongly influenced Bill Haley & His Comets, whose producer, Milt Gabler, had also worked with Jordan and attempted to incorporate Jordan's stylings into Haley's music. Haley also honored Jordan by recording several of his songs, including "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" (which Gabler co-wrote) and "Caldonia."

Decline of popularity

By the mid 1950s, Jordan's records were not selling as well as they used to and he began switching labels. At Mercury Records, Jordan managed to update his sound to full rock and roll with such non-charting songs as "Let the Good Times Roll" and "Salt Pork, West Virginia". After this, however, Jordan's popularity waned and he recorded only for a small following of enthusiasts. He seldom recorded at all after the early 1960s. Jordan died in Los Angeles, California from a heart attack. During an interview late in life, Jordan made the controversial remark that rock and roll music was simply rhythm and blues music played by white performers, which contradicted the likes of Chuck Berry and Little Richard, both black artists playing what they considered to be rock and roll.

Tribute show

The Broadway show, Five Guys Named Moe was devoted to Jordan's music. The Bear Family label in Germany has released a 9-CD collection of Jordan's work.


  • Download sample of "Caldonia"

External link

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Louis Jordan