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O'NEILL
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LOUIS JORDAN

Born on July 8, 1908, in Brinkley, Arkansas, the son of a music teacher, Louis Jordan started his career in a traveling vaudeville show. In the furtherance of his musical future he travelled first to Philadelphia, then to New York performing as sidesman, playing the alto sax and singing with numerous bands, including the Charlie Gaines, Clarence Williams and Chick Webb orchestras.

He began his solo career in 1938. Leading his own combo, The Tympany Five, he started to forge his individual style as showman, comic, entertainer and leader. The Tympany Five (although his pool of artists was larger) began to record for Decca in 1939. During Jordan's time with Decca he produced over 200 sides, many making the charts. Throughout that time the band enjoyed itself and many talents were nurtured. "In the Tympany Five, the trumpets had real fil," Kurt Mohr later reminisced. Bill Jennings, Aaron Izenhall, Bill Doggett, Wild Bill Davis and Bob Mitchell all spent time as part of the Five. ANd up front there was always Louis. He could croon, he could scat and his songs covered an enormous range. His satirical lyrics did not fight shy of covering the problems of being black and his group became a major attraction both on disc and radio. His brilliant vocals and comic asides fired the popular imagination.

Major hits of that time were: "Caladonia," "My Baby Said Yes" with Bing Crosby (1945), "GI Jive," "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't Ma' Baby" (sold a million), "Choo, Choo Ch'boogie" (1946), "Open the Door Richard" (1947), "Baby It's Cold Outside" with Ella Fitzgerald and "Saturday Night Fish Fry" (1949).

Jordan left Decca just before the rise of Bill Haley, when "Rock Around the Clock" saw the popular beginnings of Rock-and-Roll. In 1954 he signed with 

[[image: black and white photograph of a man holding a saxophone in both hands in front of his body. The man is wearing a suit and tie and a ring on his left ring finger. The man has some facial hair and is smiling with his teeth gaping. ]]

Eddie Messner's Aladdin label for two years before joining Mercury in 1956. 1961 saw Luis with Morty Croft's Warwick Records after which he moved on to Ray Charles' Tangerine label in the mid-'60s and 1968 brought him to Paul Gayton's Los Angeles-based Pzazz company.

Luis Jordan's style, though rooted in blues and jazz, encompassed jump, boogie, the calypso, rumbas and ballads. Although it was as an entertainer that Louis Jordan wanted to be remembered-- "I want to play for the people," he said-- the importance of his work as one of the fathers of Rock-and-Roll has been acknowledged by many later performers, including Ray Charles and Chick Berry: "If I had to work with anyone through Eternity, it would be Louis Jordan."

He died in Los Angeles of a heart attach on February 4, 1975.

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