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Louis Jordan

Brinkley, Arkansas-born Louis Jordan (1908-1975) is one
of the most important -- and most forgotten -- figures
in American popular music. A 1987 inductee into the 
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jordan is a direct link between
minstrelsy and medicine shows of the early part of the
1900s and modern-day rock, rap and R&B music. He charted
fifty-five songs on the Billboard charts in the 1940s.
He starred in some of the earliest examples of music
video, and did endorsement deals for U-Haul, "ethnic"
hair products, clothing, and other products.
He recorded with Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Louis
Armstrong and many others. He appeared on the Steve
Allen Show, the Jack Paar Show, with Ronald Reagan
and many more. Louis Jordan is an influence to those
many consider influences themselves. Chuck Berry said
"I identify myself with Louis Jordan more than any 
other artist." James Brown simply said Louis Jordan
"was everything." B.B. King, Ray Charles, Dizzy
Gillespie and countless others have acknowledged the
impact of the Monroe County, Arkansas native.
Jordan's impact on rock is also direct -- his longtime
producer, Milt Gabler, went on to produce Bill Haley
and the Comets, who also appeared on Jordan's longtime
record label, Decca. Bill and the Comets recorded several
Louis Jordan songs -- but Jordan was dropped from the label
in 1952 after 14 years of selling millions and millions
of records for Decca on the race, country and pop charts.
On July 8, 1997, a tribute to Jordan's
overlooked contributions and influence
was held in downtown Little Rock. The Louis Jordan Tribute
has since become an annual event featuring writers,
artists and academia as well as musicians performing
their versions of Jordan's classic songs, like "Caldonia,"
"Choo-Choo Ch' Boogie" and others. On July 8, 1998 -- which
would have been Jordan's 90th birthday -- Jordan's widow,
Martha, was guest of honor at the Louis Jordan Tribute. Mrs.
Jordan returned to Arkansas in October when Louis was inducted
into the new Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame, located in
the Pine Bluff Convention Center. A third Jordan tribute is
scheduled for July 8, 1999. Jordan's music can be heard on
a variety of current media, despite his current obscurity.
His "Barnyard Boogie" is featured in the movie "Babe: Pig
in the City;" his "Beans & Cornbread" is featured on the 
cable TV program "Dinner & A Movie;" and his "Ain't Nobody
Here But Us Chickens" (a multi-million seller in its time)
was recently featured in a Burger King commercial.
Jordan's signature song, "Let the Good Times Roll,"
(later adopted by B.B. King as a concert-opener)
appeared in the movie "The Blues Brothers."
In the early 1990s, Jordan experienced a slight
comeback of sorts when "Five Guys Named Moe," a musical
based on Louis Jordan's songs, became a surprise hit in
London's West End. The fanciful musical repeated its
success on Broadway, and the show toured nationally.
But, inexplicably, Louis Jordan has not been a household
name for several decades. His musical legacy, however,
lives on in today's rap, rock, and R&B sounds -- even
if many modern musicians don't realize it.
Jordan's witty blend of rural blues and urban jazz
with a rocking shuffle is unique to Mr. Jordan himself,
but it paved the way that many would follow. 

Louis Jordan Tribute site

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