LOUIS JORDAN, July 8, 1908-February 4, 1975

Louis Jordan proved more successful than any other black artist in crossing over to the pop charts in the 1940s. Equally adept at jazz, blues, R&B, and pop music, his experiments in melding these styles played a major role in the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll.

Mastering the saxophone during his formative years in rural Arkansas, he went on to accompany Ida Cox, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and other major blues singers as a member of the legendary Rabbit Foot Minstrels revue. He first recorded with the Jungle Band for Brunswick in 1929, then moving to New York to play with Clarence Williams, among others, in the early 1930s. Joining Chick Webb’s swing band on alto sax in 1936, he would also contribute vocals on blues and novelty material.

In 1938 Jordan struck out on his own, forming the Elks Rendez-Vous Band. Inking a record contract with Decca the following year, he changed the group’s name to the Tympany Five. Mining the jump style of R&B, Jordan’s sassy humor, punning, and driving rhythmic approach (further accentuated by his wordplay) were responsible for a long string of hits, including the following R&B chart toppers: "What’s the Use of Getting Sober" (Decca 8645; 1942), "Ration Blues" (Decca 8654; 1943), "G.I. Jive" (Decca 8659; 1944; #1 pop), "Mop Mop" (Decca 8668; 1945), "Caldonia" (Decca 8670; 1945; #6 pop), "Buzz Me"/"Don’t Worry ‘Bout That Mule" (Decca 18734; 1946; #9 pop), "Stone Cold Dead in the Market" (Decca 23546; #7 pop), "Choo Choo Ch’Boogie" (Decca 23610; 1946; #7 pop), "Ain’t That Just Like A Woman" (Decca 23669; 1946), "Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens" (Decca 23741; 1946; #6 pop), "Texas and Pacific" (Decca 23810; 1947), "Jack, You’re Dead" (Decca 23901; 1947), "Boogie Woogie Blue Plate" (Decca 24104; 1947), "Run, Joe" (Decca 24448; 1948), "Beans and Corn Bread" (Decca 24673; 1949), and "Saturday Night Fish Fry (Part 1)" (Decca 24725; 1949).

The rise of rock ‘n’ roll rendered his sound passe. Although no longer an important recording artist, he was still active performing—particularly around his home base of Los Angeles—until suffering a fatal heart attack. His classic recorded work remains widely available today, must notably the monumental box set, Louis Jordan: Let the Good Times Roll (1938-1954) (Bear Family 15557).

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