Louis Jordan the Originator of R&B
Louis Jordan was the first original trend setter for R&B music. Louis was born on July 8, 1908 in Brinkley Arkansas. Jordan reigned from 1930-1950; he was known as “The King of the Jukebox.” Jordan was an instrumentalist who played the saxophone, but specialized in the alto. He was very skilled in all areas of the saxophone. Louis also played the clarinet and the piano. He starred in two featured musicals written especially for him.
Jordan was ranked #59 amongst the 100 Greatest Artist of all time by the Rolling Stones in 2004. The Billboard magazine’s chart methodology ranked Louis 5th of the all time most successful black recording artist.
Louis Jordan studied music under his father. Instead of going to work on a farm after school, Jordan chose to play in his father’s band. Louis majored in music at the Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock. Although he did not stay long Jordan used his time wisely. Jordan went to Philadelphia and then New York to play with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and Bob Alexander’s Harmony Kings. In 1932 Clarence Williams invited Jordan along to play with his band.
In every performance Louis displayed joy and charisma. Jordan’s performances would soon catch the eyes and ears of some very influential people. Chick Webb, who was the founder of the world renowned Savoy Ballroom orchestra, invited Louis Jordan to play with them. During his time with the Savoy Ballroom orchestra he met the young and talented Ella Fitzgerald. Ella was the lead female vocalist for the Savoy Ballroom orchestra. Fitzgerald often did duets with Jordan and the crowed loved it.
In 1938 Jordan wanted to start his own band and began to ask fellow band mates if they wanted to join his band. Chick fired Jordan when he discovered Louis trying to recruit Fitzgerald and his band members.
Louis later started the Tympany Five band. Jordan scaled down to a sextet from a nine-piece. The members included: Jordan (sax vocals), Courtney Williams (trumpet), Lem Johnson (tenor sax), Clarence Johnson (piano), Charlie Drayton (bass), and Watter Martin (timpani drums).
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In 1941 Jordan signed with General Artist Corporation Agency. The group was paid $70 a week ($35 for Louis and $35 for the band). Jordan’s come out year was in 1948 where he grossed $70,000 in two weeks. Louis produced his first #1 Hit What’s the use of getting sober? When you going to get drunk again? A song called Five Guys named Moe reached #3 and set Jordan’s trademark as a fast paced, swinging R&B style.
Louis Jordan dominated the 1940s R&B charts. He scored an amazing 18 No. 1 singles in terms of the total number of weeks at #1. His record scored 5 consecutive No.1 songs, holding the top slot for 44 consecutive weeks. Jordan sold 4 million albums during a time when that was unheard of.
By: Yolanda English