(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Hello everyone. My interest in politics and political blogging has gone way down. But I’m still a big fan of music and I’d like to move this little series here. It has never gotten much interest anywhere else but I’m hope you can enjoy it as much as I do.
This failed series is about my many memories of many Tuesdays listening to back to back songs by the same band on WNEW-FM “Where rock lived.” The station is long gone now and as far as my music taste goes those favorite DeeJays have mostly been replaced by a man named John Schaefer.
If you listen to John Schaefer long enough you will hear this same named mentioned over and over as the man who was the direct link between “Rhythm & Blues” and “Rock & Roll.” The last time I heard John Schaefer mention this familiar Blues Man as a Father of Rock & Roll was on August 19th during the fascinating interview about Traveling the Chitlin’ Circuit.
He has been called “the Father of Rhythm & Blues” and “the Grandfather of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” In the Forties, bandleader Louis Jordan pioneered a wild – and wildly popular – amalgam of jazz and blues. The swinging shuffle rhythms played by singer/saxophonist Jordan and his Tympany Five got called “jump blues” or “jumpin’ jive,” and it served as a forerunner of rhythm & blues and rock and roll. In fact, it has been plausibly argued that “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” is worthy of consideration as the first rock and roll record, containing many of the genre’s key ingredients: a distorted electric guitar, an early use of the word rocking, party-themed lyrics, and danceable, uptempo music. Similarly, with their breathless, manic spoken delivery, both “Look Out” and “Saturday Night Fish Fry” – released in 1947 and 1949, respectively – can be seen as early examples of what would come to be known as rap.
Oh read the rest of that because it is an amazing story about a man who grew up learning the saxophone in Arkansas. Started off touring with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels Revue. Touring with Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Ida Cox. Do you remember “W.S. Walcott Medicine Show” by The Band? That’s who they were singing about!
In the 1930’s Louis Jordan was playing the alto saxophone with jazz legions like Clarence Williams and Louis Armstrong on the New York City Jazz scene. Then he hooked up with Chick Webb’s swing band and took up singing.
In 1938 Jordan started his own group that was called the Elks Ren-dez-Vous Band. This was the band “whose specialty was jump blues delivered with madcap wit and a danceable beat.” The band that signed with Decca Records and changed their name to The Tympany Five in 1939. “During the Forties, Jordan ruled the R&B charts like no other performer.”
Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five launched 54 singles into the R&B charts in the Forties, including eighteen songs that went to #1. Their most popular numbers included “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” (#1, 18 weeks), “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” (#1, 17 weeks), “Boogie Woogie Blue Plate” (#1, 14 weeks), “Saturday Night Fish Fry” (#1, 12 weeks), “Buzz Me” (#1, 9 weeks), “Caldonia” (#1, 7 weeks), “Jack, You’re Dead” (#1, 7 weeks), “Blue Light Boogie” (#1, 7 weeks) and “G.I. Jive” (#1, 6 weeks), From 1943 to 1950, Jordan occupied the top position for a total of 113 weeks – more than one-fourth of the time! For good reason he was dubbed “King of the Juke Boxes.” His peak year was 1946, when seventeen of his songs made the upper reaches of the R&B chart. His popularity led to starring roles in a series of musical film shorts from the late Forties, including Caledonia, Look Out Sister, and Reet, Petite and Gone.
But where is that Rock & Roll?
“Chuck. Chuck. It’s Marvin – your cousin, Marvin BERRY. You know that new sound you’re looking for? Well, listen to this.”
I once heard a reviewer say that Louis Jordan was “humorous and bluesy.” Is that where Rock & Roll comes from? All of those tunes above I’ve heard covered by some of the biggest names but it was actually Joe Jackson’s tribute “Jumpin’ Jive” when I first heard the name Louis Jordan.
Jordan’s appeal stemmed from his songs’ lively evocation of good times, performed in a swinging style that ranged from hot jazz to bluesy boogie. Jordan supplied a good deal of the slang of early rock and roll and directly influenced the freewheeling spirit of the music. In retrospect, Jordan’s used of syncopated shuffle rhythms in a small-combo context can be viewed as the bridge between big-band swing and rhythm & blues (and, by extension, rock and roll). His incorporation of electric guitar and organ proved a major stepping-stone from jazz to R&B, as well.
I’m still learning but if you want to hear a really great story than listen to that John Schaefer interview about “The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll.” It goes a much different place than this diary and is a very interesting story about the birth of “Rockin'” and the use of the word.