Sounds from the Soil & Soul
—Arkansas Delta Music Trail —
Louis Jordan, born July 8, 1908, in Brinkley, Arkansas, was one of the
state's brightest musical stars, ruling the rhythm and blues charts of the
World War II era with hits like "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie," "Let the
Good Times Roll," "Is You Is or Is You Ain't (My Baby)," and "Beans and
Cornbread." Along with his Tympany Five combo, the band he fronted
or more than twenty years, Jordan's infectious and readily identifiable
shuffle rhythm is widely regarded as the foundation of what would
become American rock n' roll music.
Jordan studied music under his father, a member of the traveling Rabbit
Foot Minstrels, and quickly learned the clarinet. He also played piano
early in his career, but alto saxophone became his main instrument.
Above all else, however, he became best known as a songwriter,
entertainer, and vocalist.
As one of the first black recording artists to achieve a significant
"crossover" in popularity into the mainstream American audience, Louis
Jordan scored simultaneous Top Ten hits on the pop and rhythm and
blues (R&B) charts on several occasions during his career. Although
Jordan began his career performing"big band" swing jazz, he became
famous as one of the leading practitioners, innovators, and popularizers
of "jump blues," a swinging, up-tempo, dance-oriented hybrid of jazz,
blues, and boogie-woogie.
Jordan was also an actor and a major black film personality, appearing in
dozens of "soundies" (promotional film clips). He made numerous cameos
in mainstream features and short films, including the highly successful
. Several feature films
were made especially for him such as
in 1946 and Look Out Sister
A prolific songwriter, many of the songs Louis Jordan wrote or co-wrote
became influential classics of 20th century popular music. Today, songs he
made famous are found on the soundtracks of many contemporary movies,
in advertising campaigns, and are at the core of the hit Broadway musical
revue Five Guys Named Moe
. Numerous performers, including B.B. King,
James Brown, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, and Ray Charles have acknowledged
their debt to the charismatic entertainer and his music.
Jordan was posthumously welcomed as a pioneer into the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame in 1987, and was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall
of Fame in 1998 and the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2005. Ironically
Jordan was among those veteran musicians whose careers were
undermined with the coming of rock n' roll. Though he continued to be a
draw at nightclubs in the U.S. and abroad through the l950s, Jordan never
returned to the charts he once dominated. He died in I1975 in Los Angeles,
California, and is buried near St. Louis, Missouri.
The music of the Arkansas Delta is the music of America. With roots in gospel or "church music," the blues, jazz, country, and rock n' roll flowed from the rich, fertile landscape bordering the lower Mississippi River and spread out across the country and the world. Follow the Arkansas Delta Music Trail to experience the sounds that shaped the land, its people, and the nation.