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Louis Jordan

Louis Thomas Jordan (July 8, 1908 – February 4, 1975) was an American saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and bandleader who was popular from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. Known as "the King of the Jukebox", he earned his highest profile towards the end of the swing era. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an "early influence" in 1987.

Specializing in the alto sax, Jordan played all forms of the saxophone, as well as piano and clarinet. He also was a talented singer with great comedic flair, and 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 14 three-minute Soundies filmed for "movie jukeboxes" of the 1940s. He also worked as a specialty act in the Hollywood theatrical features Follow the Boys and Swing Parade of 1946. His very successful musical short Caldonia (1945) prompted three more feature films, all starring Jordan and his band: Beware; Reet, Petite and Gone; and Look Out Sister.

Jordan began his career in big-band swing jazz in the 1930s, but he became known as an innovative popularizer 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, and was the most popular rhythm and blues artist with his "jump blues" recordings of the pre-rock n' roll era. 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, achieving the Number 1 slot eighteen times, with 113 weeks in that spot over the years. He was also one of the first black recording artists to achieve significant crossover in popularity with the predominantly white mainstream 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 are available for online listening.
= Recordings were issued from this master. No recordings issued from other masters.

Recordings (Results 26-50 of 274 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Decca 62728 10-in. 10/27/1937 Holiday in Harlem Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 62738 10-in. 11/1/1937 Rock it for me Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 62739 10-in. 11/1/1937 Squeeze me Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 62740 10-in. 11/1/1937 Harlem conga Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 62743 10-in. 11/2/1937 Hallelujah! Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 62744 10-in. 11/2/1937 I want to be happy Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 62886 12-in. 12/17/1937 I want to be happy-1 Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 62887 10-in. 12/17/1937 The dipsy doodle-1 Chick Webb Orchestra ; Ella Fitzgerald instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 62888 10-in. 12/17/1937 If dreams come true Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 62889 12-in. 12/17/1937 Hallelujah! Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 62890 10-in. 12/17/1937 Midnite in a madhouse (Midnite in Harlem) Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 62896 10-in. 12/21/1937 Bei mir bist du schoen Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 62897 10-in. 12/21/1937 It's my turn now Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 63225 10-in. 1/25/1938 It's wonderful Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 63226 10-in. 1/25/1938 I was doing all right Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 63693 10-in. 5/2/1938 A-tisket, a-tasket Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 63694 10-in. 5/2/1938 Heart of mine Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 63695 10-in. 5/2/1938 I'm just a jitterbug Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 63696 10-in. 5/2/1938 Azure Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 63703 10-in. 5/3/1938 That time it's real Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 63704 10-in. 5/3/1938 What do you know about love? Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 63705 10-in. 5/3/1938 You can't be mine (and someone else's too) Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 63706 10-in. 5/3/1938 We can't go on this way Ella Fitzgerald and her Savoy Eight instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 63707 10-in. 5/3/1938 Spinnin' the Webb Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
Decca 63708 10-in. 5/3/1938 Liza (All the clouds 'll roll away) Chick Webb Orchestra instrumentalist, alto saxophone  
(Results 26-50 of 274 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Jordan, Louis," accessed June 13, 2024, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/109210.

Jordan, Louis. (2024). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved June 13, 2024, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/109210.

"Jordan, Louis." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2024. Web. 13 June 2024.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/109210

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