My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Joe Jackson

Fellow Travelers: Louis Jordan

Louis JordanThis is the seventh in a series of short articles about artists who, although not country artists, were of some importance to country music.

WHO WAS HE ?
Louis Jordan was the very successful purveyor of the variety of rhythm and blues usually referred to as “jump blues”, the essential link between big band swing and rock and roll. Jordan was enormously successful during the 1930s and 1940s with several singles that were million sellers. He had eighteen #1 records on Billboard’s R&B/Race charts with another fifteen that reached the top three and several more that stalled out at number four or five. Billboard has Jordan as the fifth most successful R&B chart artist of the twentieth century. Billboard didn’t start its R&B charts until October 1942 and Louis had several big records before that date. His records spent a total of 113 weeks at #1 on Billboard’s R&B charts – Stevie Wonder is second with 70 weeks at #1. From July 1946 – May 1947, Jordan scored five consecutive #1 songs, monopolizing the top slot for 44 consecutive weeks (“Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” held the top slot for eighteen weeks).

On the pop charts Louis Jordan reached the top ten on nine occasions with “G.I. Jive” reaching #1 and “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” reaching #2. Many of his songs were used in movies and Jordan made numerous “soundies”, the precursor to modern-day music videos.

Chuck Berry regarded Louis Jordan as one of his primary influences, and if you were to change the instrumentation on many of his records replacing Jordan’s alto sax with an electric guitar, you would have rock and roll music. B.B King recorded a tribute album to Louis Jordan. English “New Wave” artist Joe Jackson’s 1981 album Jumpin’ Jive was dedicated to Louis Jordan and was an early harbinger of the ‘Swing Revival’ that occurred about fifteen years later. It also revived interest in Jordan leading to the successful Broadway (US) / West End (UK) musical Five Guys Named Moe that ran during the early 1990s and was based entirely on the music of Louis Jordan.

WHAT WAS HIS CONNECTION TO COUNTRY MUSIC?
Louis Jordan only charted three times on the country charts with “Ration Blues” and “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” both reaching #1.

Louis Jordan had considerable influence on latter day western swing bands, although even pioneering western swing artists such as Bob Wills borrowed some of his material. You can clearly hear the influence of Louis Jordan in the recordings of Asleep At The Wheel, whose debut single “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” was a cover of Jordan’s biggest R&B hit. They’ve recorded other Jordan songs such as “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” in their albums and continue to perform them in their live shows. Other more jazz-oriented country bands also carry his songs in their repertoire. Jordan wrote much of his own material, but songs credited to Fleecie Moore (one of his wives) are also Louis Jordan compositions.

Louis Jordan died long before the digital age, but much of his recorded output is available. There is a fansite dedicated to keeping his memory alive.