Louis Thomas Jordan (July 8, 1908 – February 4, 1975) was an American musician, songwriter and bandleader who was popular from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. Known as "The King of the Jukebox", his highest profile came towards the end of the swing era.
Jordan was a talented singer with great comedic flair, and he fronted his own band for more than twenty years. He duetted with some of the biggest solo singing stars of his time, including Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Jordan was also an actor and a film personality—he appeared in dozens of "soundies" (promotional film clips), made numerous cameos in mainstream features and short films, and starred in two musical feature films made especially for him. He was an instrumentalist who played all forms of the saxophone but specialized in the alto. He also played the piano and clarinet. A productive songwriter, he wrote or co-wrote many songs that were influential classics of 20th-century popular music.
Jordan began his career in big-band swing jazz in the 1930s, but he became known as one of the leading practitioners, innovators and popularizers of jump blues, a swinging, up-tempo, dance-oriented hybrid of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie. Typically performed by smaller bands consisting of five or six players, jump music featured shouted, highly syncopated vocals and earthy, comedic lyrics on contemporary urban themes. It strongly emphasized the rhythm section of piano, bass and drums; after the mid-1940s, this mix was often augmented by electric guitar. Jordan's band also pioneered the use of the electronic organ.
With his dynamic Tympany Five bands, Jordan mapped out the main parameters of the classic R&B, urban blues and early rock-and-roll genres with a series of highly influential 78-rpm discs released by Decca Records. These recordings presaged many of the styles of black popular music of the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and exerted a strong influence on many leading performers in these genres. Many of his records were produced by Milt Gabler, who went on to refine and develop the qualities of Jordan's recordings in his later production work with Bill Haley, including "Rock Around the Clock".
Jordan ranks fifth in the list of the most successful African-American recording artists according to Joel Whitburn's analysis of Billboard magazine's R&B chart. Though comprehensive sales figures are not available, he had at least four million-selling hits during his career. Jordan regularly topped the R&B "race" charts and was one of the first black recording artists to achieve significant crossover in popularity with the mainstream (predominantly white) American audience, having simultaneous Top Ten hits on the pop charts on several occasions.
Birth and Death Data: Born July 8, 1908 (Arkansas), Died February 4, 1975 (Los Angeles)
Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1936 - 1960
Roles Represented in DAHR: alto saxophone, vocalist, leader, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, clarinet, songwriter, composer
Recordings (Results 1-25 of 274 records)
|Company||Matrix No.||Size||First Recording Date||Title||Primary Performer||Description||Role||Audio|
|Victor||BS-045946||10-in.||1/17/1940||You ain't nowhere||Don Redman Orchestra||Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo and vocal ensemble||composer|
|Victor||BS-074648||10-in.||7/30/1942||I'm gonna leave you on the outskirts of town||Jazz Gillum||Male vocal solo, with instrumental quartet||songwriter|
|Victor||D9VB-1181||10-in.||8/16/1949||Saturday night fish fry||Gay Crosse ; Good Humor Six (Gay Crosse)||Male vocal solo, with jazz/dance band||songwriter|
|Decca||61361||10-in.||10/29/1936||(If you can't sing it) You'll have to swing it||Chick Webb Orchestra||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||61362||10-in.||10/29/1936||Swinging on the reservation||Chick Webb Orchestra||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||61363||10-in.||10/29/1936||I got the Spring fever blues||Chick Webb Orchestra||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||61364||10-in.||10/29/1936||Vote for Mr. Rhythm||Chick Webb Orchestra||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||61520||10-in.||1/14/1937||There's frost on the moon-1||Chick Webb Orchestra||vocalist, instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||61527||10-in.||1/14/1937||Take another guess||Chick Webb Orchestra||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||61528||10-in.||1/14/1937||Love marches on-1||Chick Webb Orchestra||vocalist, instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||61530||10-in.||1/15/1937||Gee, but you're swell||Chick Webb Orchestra||vocalist, instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62064||10-in.||3/24/1937||Rusty hinge||Chick Webb Orchestra||vocalist, instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62065||10-in.||3/24/1937||Wake up and live-2||Chick Webb Orchestra||vocalist, instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62066||10-in.||3/24/1937||It's swell of you||Chick Webb Orchestra||vocalist, instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62067||10-in.||3/24/1937||You showed me the way||Chick Webb Orchestra||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62068||10-in.||3/24/1937||Clap hands! Here comes Charley||Chick Webb Orchestra||vocalist, instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62069||10-in.||3/24/1937||Cryin' mood||Chick Webb Orchestra||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62072||10-in.||3/24/1937||Love is the thing, so they say||Chick Webb Orchestra||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62073||10-in.||3/24/1937||That naughty waltz-1||Chick Webb Orchestra||vocalist, instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62213||10-in.||5/24/1937||All or nothing at all||Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62214||10-in.||5/24/1937||If you ever should leave||Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62215||10-in.||5/24/1937||Everyone's wrong but me||Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62216||10-in.||5/24/1937||Deep in the heart of South||Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62725||10-in.||10/27/1937||Just a simple melody||Chick Webb Orchestra||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
|Decca||62726||10-in.||10/27/1937||I got a guy||Chick Webb Orchestra||instrumentalist, alto saxophone|
Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Jordan, Louis," accessed January 21, 2022, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/109210.
Jordan, Louis. (2022). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved January 21, 2022, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/109210.
"Jordan, Louis." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2022. Web. 21 January 2022.
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