Personalities | Louis Jordan | Forties | Jazz & Blues
(Alto saxophone, vocals, bandleader, 1908–75)
Louis Jordan & his Tympany Five were major stars in the 1940s, providing energized recordings and exciting live shows. The alto saxophonist began by playing in swing bands, including Chick Webb’s, but in 1938 he gambled on the success of his own personality, fronting a small group playing in a more overtly entertaining style. Labelled ‘jump blues’, this was a precursor of both R&B and rock’n’roll.
He reeled off a succession of jukebox hits through the 1940s, often with novelty titles and lyrics, including ‘Five Guys Named Mo’, ‘Choo Choo Ch’Boogie’, ‘Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens’ and ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’. Their appeal, based on melodic good humour and the comic complications of romance, crossed racial boundaries, and his popularity lasted until the early 1950s. Eclipsed by the rise of rock’n’roll, he reverted to more jazz-oriented settings and continued to perform on the cabaret circuit in later years.
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