69. Louis Jordan (& His Tympany Five)

Louis Jordan was a singer, bandleader and saxophonist from Brinkley, Arkansas. His father was a music teacher and local bandleader. He first learned the clarinet, and also played piano, but is best known as an alto saxophone player. In 1936, he was invited to join Chick Webb’s orchestra, where he also became a featured singer, often in duets with a young Ella Fitzgerald. A couple years later, Jordan left the great Savoy Ballroom orchestra to front his own small band. The classic sextet, known as Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five, scored their first major hit in 1942 with “I’m Going To Move To The Outskirts Of Town”, which began an unprecedented string of successful hit songs on Billboard’s R&B/Race Charts, with 15 #1 songs and a total of 113 weeks on top of the charts.

“It might seem like a stretch to say that Louis Jordan helped to pave the way for everyone from Led Zeppelin, U2 and The Beatles to James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Parliament/Funkadelic, but when you get down to it, that’s a very fair and accurate assertion. The jump blues/swing/early R&B innovator definitely played a crucial role in the development of rock & roll and soul music, and it’s been argued that he was the first rock & roller.”

— Alex Henderson, “The All Music Guide”, 4th Edition

Louis Jordan (1908-1975), singer, saxophone, songwriter

Louis Jordan Website

A Few Notable Collaborators:

William Henry “Chick” Webb (1905-1939), drums, bandleader
Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996), singer
Milt Gabler (1911-2001), record producer
Carl Hogan (1917-1977), guitar
Wild Bill Davis (1918-1995), piano, arranger
Bill Doggett (1916-1996), piano, arranger

The recorded version of “Ain’t That Just Like A Woman” is notable for Carl Hogan’s guitar introduction, which precedes Chuck Berry’s intro to “Johnny B. Goode”:

Starting around the 4:00 mark of this ten minute clip, “Beware, Brother Beware” offers a similar warning about the fairer sex:

Mr. Jordan clowns around with a stone fox sitting on the nearby piano as the Tympany Five plays one of their big hits, “Caldonia”:

The first Louis Jordan song I heard was Joe Jackson’s version of “Jack, You’re Dead”, from Jackson’s album tribute to Louis Jordan, Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive. A friend of a friend brought the album to a party. After Joe Jackson scored a minor new wave hit with “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”, he followed with this unusual ode to jump blues. Jordan transformed the deep blues into a light, comical look at love’s struggles.

“When a chick is smilin’ at you, even though there’s nothing said, if you don’t respond to romance, Jack you’re dead.”

— Dick Miles, Walter Bishop

Rhythm and blues titan Ray Charles covered both “Early In The Morning” and “Let The Good Times Roll”.

Most of his songs are light and happy, but my favorite song is his simple and effective reading of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out”. It’s a no-frills performance, with subtle musical backing, particularly the piano fills that punctuate Jordan’s lyrics. Perhaps the man who plays the clown delivers a somber or serious story best.

Louis Jordan Song Notes:

1. A great place to start collecting Louis Jordan music is the compilation called Louis Jordan: Let the Good Times Roll — The Anthology 1938-1953. The remastered sound is excellent.

2. “Rose Room (Live)” features Barney Bigard on clarinet, and can be found on Five Guys Named Moe.

3. “Keep A-Knockin’ (But You Can’t Come In)” can be found on Saturday Night Fish Fry.

4. “Alabama Bound” can be found on 1940 Radio Hits.

Louis Jordan Songs:

Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭✭✭
Knock Me A Kiss, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭✭✭
Jack, You’re Dead!, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭✭✭

Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭✭
Let The Good Times Roll, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭✭
Early In The Morning, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭✭
Five Guys Named Moe, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭✭
Beware, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭✭
Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Cryin’, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭✭
Caldonia, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭✭

Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭
What’s The Use In Getting Sober (When You Gonna Get Drunk Again), Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭
Saturday Night Fish Fry, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭
Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭
Ain’t That Just Like A Woman, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭
I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five ✭✭

Rose Room (Live), Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Boogie Woogie Blue Plate, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Pan Pan, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Beans And Corn Bread, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Barnyard Boogie, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Salt Pork, W. Va., Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Keep A-Knockin’ (But You Can’t Come In), Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five

Related Songs:

Early In The Morning, Ray Charles ✭✭
Early In The Morning (Alt), Ray Charles ✭✭

Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Bessie Smith ✭✭
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Eric Clapton

Rose Room, Benny Goodman Sextet ✭✭✭

Let The Good Times Roll, Ray Charles ✭✭

Jack, You’re Dead!, Joe Jackson ✭✭✭

Keep A-Knockin’, Little Richard

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