Friday, September 01, 2006

friday cat blogging

This is a short quick post - I might add links and info after the weekend if anyone is interested.

Louis Jordan may well be the guy who started rock n roll, if you count sustained output, ongoing influence and not just a one off song (not that there's anything wrong with that). He possibly is also the first musician to use video clips, his were called "soundies", in a similarly sustained way, so that along with his movies we have a fairly large collection of clips of him in action. As this is a quick post you will need to look up youtube yourself to see him in action

I first heard of him at a hippy party on a farm around 1971 up in the Dandenongs. A live combo with sax was playing very tight, infectious dance music. The most requested replay all night was a song I hadn't heard before, "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens". I immediately went out and grabbed all the Louis Jordan I could find. "chickens" has been one of my favourite songs ever since. Perfect rock 'n' rhythm & blues jump pop, great sly lyrics, very adult music but kids always love it. No wonder it stayed at No 1 for 17 weeks in 1947.

Louis Jordan was born in Brinkley, Arkansas on July 8, 1908. His father was a music teacher and leader of the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. (Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith also sang with Rabbit Foot Minstrels - there may have been more than one band of Rabbit Foot Minstrels). Louis majored in music at Arkansas Baptist College and started as a musician around 1920 . He was the alto saxophonist with jazz bands led by Clarence Williams, Chick Webb and others, and played with a then unknown Ella Fitzgerald. In 1938 he formed his own band.

Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five had 54 singles into the charts in the Forties. Eighteen songs that went to #1. From 1943-1950, Louis was a No 1 hit for 113 weeks - more than 25% of the time. He had his first million-seller in 1944 with "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't Ma Baby?" He still remains one of the top selling black artists ever.

It is perhaps a surprise, or maybe no surprise, that he was so popular as his songs were uncompromisingly 'black' in their content and delivery, with no concessions made to soften the message. Many of his songs had clever, smooth, hip but undisguised social comment on the problems of the day and race and poverty combined with a full on party atmosphere. Although this was radical for the day, his music was equally popular with both blacks and whites.

Mostly called jump music, this is stuff that will lift you up and set you dancing and wondering why there is so little of this quality around these days.

You can't go wrong with a any Louis Jordan album. Unlike a lot of other artists I don't think I've heard a dud from him ever. The two CD Best Of Sets around are a good buy, even the cheap ones.