Louis Jordan

July 8, 1908 - February 4, 1975
Inducted in 1999

Louis Jordan

Birthplace: Brinkley, Arkansas

In the Forties, bandleader Louis Jordan pioneered a wild, and wildly popular, amalgam of jazz and blues with salty, jive-talking humor. The music played by singer/saxophonist Jordan and his Tympany Five got called "jump blues" or "jumpin' jive," and it served as a precursor to the rhythm & blues and rock and roll of the Fifties. Jordan was born into a musical family, his father was the leader of the Arkansas-based "Rabbit Foot Minstrels", and he majored in music at Arkansas Baptist College.

After serving stints as an altosaxophonist with jazz bands led by Clarence Williams, Chick Webb and others, Jordan broke off in 1938 to form his own band, whose specialty was small-combo jump blues delivered with madcap wit to a danceable beat. Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five launched 54 singles into the R&B charts in the Forties, including 18 songs that went to #1. During the period 1943-1950, Jordan held down the top slot for a total of 113 weeks - more than 25% of the time! For good reason he was dubbed "King of the Juke Boxes."

Jordan's best-loved songs include "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" (#1, 18 weeks), "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" (#1, 17 weeks) and "Saturday Night Fish Fry" (#1, 12 weeks).

His songs' appeal stemmed from their lively evocation of good times and the swinging sounds of Jordan's band, from hot jazz to shuffling boogie blues Jordan not only supplied a good deal of the slang of early rock and roll but also directly influenced the freewheeling spirit of its progenitors, including Bill Haley and Chuck Berry. The latter paid tribute to Jordan with this simple declaration: "I identify myself with Louis Jordan more than any other artist."

In the late 1940s he bought a house in Phoenix, Arizona, where climate eased his arthritis. His longtime deal with Decca ended in 1953. He continued to tour, and to record, for Aladdin, Mercury and X Records. In the late 60s Jordan toured England and Asia. In 1966 he and Martha Weaver, a dancer, were married. He played regularly around Los Angeles until his death there in 1975. He was buried in St. Louis.

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