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Profile: Louis Jordan


Louis Jordan

Louis Jordan

source: mattthecat.com


Louis Thomas Jordan, July 8, 1908, Brinkley, AR; d. February 4, 1975, Los Angeles, CA


Rhythm and Blues, Jump Blues, Rock and Roll


Vocals, Saxophone

Contributions to music:

  • Perhaps the most important figure in the development of rock and roll music
  • The biggest R&B star of the Forties, scoring an astonishing 54 Top 10 hits and spending over 100 weeks at #1
  • Essentially invented the genre that became to be known as "Rhythm and Blues"
  • Moved postwar jazz music from a big band methodology to a reliance on small, self-contained units
  • A major influence on Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Ray Charles, and especially Chuck Berry
  • One of the R&B world's greatest songwriters, saxophonists, and bandleaders
  • One of the top Five R&B artists of all time
  • The first R&B artist to crossover to white audiences

Early years:

Born in Arkansas and raised by a music teacher and bandleader, young Louis knew what he wanted to do from an early age, starting on clarinet and working his way up to alto saxophone, playing in his father's band, and eventually studying music at Baptist College. Eventually, he found himself in New York, and a mere four years later, in 1936, was asked to join the house band at Harlem's legendary Savoy Ballroom, birthplace of swing music. He eventually gravitated towards lead vocals and soon convinced the band's female lead, one Ella Fitzgerald, to form a new group with him.


That group, the Tympany Five, landed a prime gig at the Elks Rendezvous Club in Harlem, and was soon recording for Decca, a cute novelty number Jordan had written called "Barnacle Bill The Sailor." Although he charted for the next few years, his first hits didn't come until 1941, when Decca began releasing his singles on their Sepia Series labels, designed to cross over to white markets. With his hilarious, jumping mixture of blues and jazz finally at home in white jukeboxes, Jordan took off, crossing over to the pop charts with wartime favorites like "Ration Blues" and "G.I. Jive."

Later years:

Although his appeal was still greater in the black community, whites began picking up on his groove in the late Forties, leading directly to the rock and roll boom of half a decade later. By the mid-Fifties, he'd switched to a big band, a bad move at a time when amplification was making the self-contained rock band the order of the day. He continued to record without much success into the early Sixties, and died of a heart attack in 1975. The '90s Broadway musical "Five Guys Named Moe," a tribute to his music, is credited for reviving his status as a great American musical innovator.

Other facts:

  • Jordan's "Keep A-Knockin'" and "Let The Good Times Roll" eventually became hits for Little Richard and Ray Charles, respectively
  • Gained fame from a series of one-reel "soundies," early music videos viewable at coin-operated film jukeboxes
  • Extraordinarily popular with US troops, Jordan often made appearances on the Armed Forces Radio network
  • Was stabbed twice by his wife Fleecie Moore during arguments, almost dying the second time
  • 1949's smash "Saturday Night Fish Fry" is cited by some as the first rock and roll record
  • The guitar intro on "Ain't That Just Like A Woman" was copied by Chuck Berry for "Johnny B. Goode"


  • Blues Foundation Hall of Fame (1983)
  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (1998)
  • R&B Foundation Legacy Tribute Award (2001)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:
  • "G.I. Jive" (1944)
  • "What's the Use Of Getting Sober (When You Gonna Get Drunk Again)" (1942)
  • "Ration Blues" (1943)
  • "G.I. Jive" (1944)
  • "Mop! Mop!" (1945)
  • "Caldonia" (1945)
  • "Buzz Me" (1946)
  • "Don't Worry 'Bout That Mule" (1946)
  • "Stone Cold Dead in the Market (He Had It Coming)" with Ella Fitzgerald (1946)
  • "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" (1946)
  • "Ain't That Just Like a Woman (They'll Do It Every Time)" (1946)
  • "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" (1946)
  • "Texas and Pacific" (1947)
  • "Jack, You're Dead" (1947)
  • "Boogie Woogie Blue Plate" (1947)
  • "Run Joe" (1948)
  • "Beans and Corn Bread" (1949)
  • "Saturday Night Fish Fry (Pts. 1 & 2)" (1949)
  • "Blue Light Boogie (Pts. 1 & 2)" (1950)
Top 10 hits:
  • "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby" (1944)
  • "Caldonia" (1945)
  • "Buzz Me" (1946)
  • "Stone Cold Dead in the Market (He Had It Coming)" with Ella Fitzgerald (1946)
  • "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" (1946)
  • "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" (1946)
  • "Open The Door, Richard!" (1947)
  • "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Ella Fitzgerald (1949)
  • "I'm Gonna Leave You on the Outskirts of Town" (1942)
  • "The Chicks I Pick Are Slender and Tender and Tall" (1943)
  • "Five Guys Named Moe" (1943)
  • "That'll Just 'Bout Knock Me Out" (1943)
  • "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" (1944)
  • "You Can't Get That No More" (1945)
  • "Somebody Done Changed The Lock On My Door" (1945)
  • "Salt Pork, West Virginia" (1946)
  • "Reconversion Blues" (1946)
  • "Beware (Brother, Beware)" (1946)
  • "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'" (1946)
  • "Petootie Pie" with Ella Fitzgerald (1946)
  • "That Chick's Too Young to Fry" (1946)
  • "Let the Good Times Roll" (1946)
  • "I Like 'Em Fat Like That" (1947)
  • "Open the Door, Richard!" (1947)
  • "I Know What You're Puttin' Down" (1947)
  • "Early In The Mornin'" (1947)
  • "Look Out" (1947)
  • "Barnyard Boogie" (1948)
  • "How Long Must I Wait for You" (1948)
  • "Reet, Petite and Gone" (1948)
  • "Don't Burn The Candle At Both Ends" (1948)
  • "Daddy-O" (1948) with Martha Davis
  • "Pettin' and Pokin'" (1948)
  • "Roamin' Blues" (1949)
  • "You Broke Your Promise" (1949)
  • "Cole Slaw (Sorghum Switch)" (1949)
  • "Every Man to His Own Profession" (1949)
  • "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Ella Fitzgerald (1949)
  • "School Days" (1950)
  • "I'll Never Be Free" with Ella Fitzgerald (1950)
  • "Tamburitza Boogie" (1950)
  • "Lemonade" (1951)
  • "Tear Drops from My Eyes" (1951)
  • "Weak Minded Blues" (1951)
Appears in the movies: "Meet Miss Bobby Socks" (1944), "Caldonia" (1945), "Beware" (1946), "Reet, Petite, And Gone" (1947), "Look-Out Sister" (1947)
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