Jordan, Louis: selected sides, Soundies, and feature film songs, 1941-1950

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jordan-&-TympanyFive-1

Above: The Tympany Five evidently became the Tympany Six for awhile at some point in the late 1940s. In 1951 Jordan put together a big band but returned to the Tympany Five format within a year.

All recordings on this page are by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five unless otherwise noted.

1941

I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town (Casey Bill Weldon, Roy Jacobs, Andy Razaf) — recorded by Louis Jordan & his Tympany Five on 22 November 1941; issued in December 1941 as the B-side of “Knock Me a Kiss,” on Decca 8593

The recording charted in January 1942, according to the musicianguide.com biography. Second Hand Songs lists only one previous recording, by Casey Bill Weldon, in 1936.

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Casey Bill Weldon — 1936 recording under the title “We Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town”

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1942

Down, Down, Down (songwriter credits: unknown) was one of the earliest of the 17 Soundies made by Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five, dated 31 December 1942 at LouisJordan.com (one of four with the same date).

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What’s the Use of Gettin’ Sober (When You’re Gonna Get Drunk Again) (Bubsey Meyers) — recorded on 21 July 1942, and issued on Decca 8645, b/w “The Chicks I Pick are Slender, Tender and Tall.” It was released in November 1942, according to the Louis Jordan discography at markbarrydiscographies.blogspot.com. The Louis Jordan charting singles discography at Wikipedia indicates that Decca 8645 A was Jordan’s first #1 hit on the R&B chart, then known as the Harlem Hit Parade.

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The Chicks I Pick Are Slender, Tender and Tall (Mike Jackson) — recorded on 21 July 1942, and issued on Decca 8645, as the B-side of  “What’s the Use of Gettin’ Sober (When You’re Gonna Get Drunk Again)” — According to Wikipedia, the side peaked at #10 on Billboard’s R&B chart in January 1943

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1943

Five Guys Named Moe (Larry Wynn, Jerry Bresler)

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From the “Early 1940s” section of the Louis Jordan Wikipedia page:

Sessions in July 1942 produced nine prime sides, allowing Decca to stockpile Jordan’s recordings as a hedge against the American Federation of Musicians’ recording ban, which was declared the same month. The ban — imposed in order to secure royalty payments for union musicians for each record sold — led to Jordan’s enforced absence from the studio for the next year, and it also prevented many seminal bebop performers from recording during one of the most crucial years of the genre’s history.

“I’m Gonna Leave You on the Outskirts of Town” was an “answer record” to Jordan’s earlier “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town”, but it became Jordan’s first major chart hit, reaching #2 on Billboard’s Harlem Hit Parade. His next side, “What’s The Use of Gettin’ Sober (When You’re Gonna Get Drunk Again)”, became Jordan’s first #1 hit, reaching the top of the Harlem Hit Parade in December 1942. A subsequent side, “The Chicks I Pick Are Slender, Tender and Fine”, reached #10 in January 1943.

Their next major side, the comical call-and response number “Five Guys Named Moe”, was one of the first recordings to solidify the fast-paced, swinging R&B style that became the Jordan trademark and it struck a chord with audiences, reaching #3 on the race charts in September 1943. The song was later taken as the title of a long-running stage show that paid tribute to Jordan and his music.

Their next major side, the comical call-and response number “Five Guys Named Moe”, was one of the first recordings to solidify the fast-paced, swinging R&B style that became the Jordan trademark and it struck a chord with audiences, reaching #3 on the race charts in September 1943. The song was later taken as the title of a long-running stage show that paid tribute to Jordan and his music.

1944

G. I. Jive (Johnny Mercer) —  recorded on 15 March 1944 and issued on Decca 8659, b/w  “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” — The Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five recording of “G. I. Jive” topped the Billboard R&B singles chart for several weeks in July and August 1944. A recording by Johnny Mercer with Paul Weston and his Orchestra had topped the chart for one week in January of the same year.

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Footage from the Soundie G. I. Jive (1944)

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Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby (Louis Jordan and Billy Austin) — recorded on 4 October 1943, and issued on Decca 8659 as the B-side of “G. I. Jive”

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Deacon Jones (Johnny Lange, Hy Heath and Richard Loring) — The songwriter credits are from IMDb, but the character and a song of this title evidently have a long tradition. Here’s a relevant thread at the folk music forum The Mudcat Cafe: Lyr Req: Deacon Jones.

From the 1944 musical film Meet Miss Bobby Sox

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1945

Caldonia (Fleecie Moore*) – from a 1945 short of the same title, directed by William Forest Crouch, which included three other songs Honey Child, Tillie and Buzz Me.

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Buzz Me (Fleecie Moore*, Danny Baxter)

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1946

Ain’t That Just Like a Woman (Claude Demetrius, Fleecie Moore*) — recorded on 23 January 1946 and issued on Decca 23669, b/w “If It’s Love You Want, Baby That’s Me”

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Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie (Denver Darling, Milt Gabler, Vaughn Horton)

From Wikipedia:

“Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie”was first recorded in January 1946 by Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five. It topped the R&B charts for 18 weeks from August 1946, a record only equalled by one other hit, “The Honeydripper”. The record was one of Jordan’s biggest ever hits with both black and white audiences, peaking at number seven on the national chart and provided an important link between blues and country music, foreshadowing the development of “rock and roll” a few years later.

Although “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” is now seen as epitomising the style known as jump blues, it was written by white songwriters whose background was in country and western music. The song is credited to Darling, Horton and Gabler. Denver Darling (1909-1981) was a hillbilly guitarist and songwriter, as was his occasional songwriting partner Vaughn Horton (1911-1988). Horton’s first writing success was with “Mockin’ Bird Hill”, and as well as working with Darling on such songs as “Address Unknown”, a 1939 hit for The Ink Spots, also worked with Gene Autry. His other writing successes included “Dixie Cannonball” and “Muleskinner’s Blues”. The third credited songwriter was Milt Gabler (1911-2001), then the vice-president of Decca Records and Louis Jordan’s record producer. A few years later, still at Decca, Gabler was also responsible for producing Bill Haley’s epoch-defining “Rock Around The Clock” (and Haley, in turn, recorded a version of “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” for his album, Rock ‘n’ Roll Stage Show.

Recorded on 23 January 1946; issued on Decca 23610 as the B-side of “That Chick’s Too Young to Fry”

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Louis Jordan-Tympany, prob. late 1940s (1a)

(below) live, undated

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Let the Good Times Roll (Sam Theard, Fleecie Moore*) – clip from the film Reet, Petite, and Gone (1947)

Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens (Alex Kramer, Joan Whitney) – 1946

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A faster 1956 version

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From the film Look Out Sister, dated 1947 at IMDb (where the title reads “Look-Out Sister,” probably quoting a poster) but 1946 at LouisJordan.com.

Look Out (Sister, Look Out) (Claude Demetrius, Louis Jordan, J. Mayo Williams)

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Beware, Brother, Beware (Dick Adams, Fleecy Moore*, Morry Lasco)

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Salt Pork, West Virginia (William Tennyson Jr.)

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1947

Reet, Petite, and Gone — complete film

Soundtrack numbers, performed by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five unless otherwise noted:

  • “Texas and Pacific” (Jack Wolf Fine)
  • “All for the Love of Lil”
  • “Tonight, Be Tender to Me” — Bea Griffith and Louis Jordan, with piano accompaniment
  • “The Blues Ain’t Nothin'” — Pat Rainey (vocal), Mabel Lee (dance), with Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five
  • “The Green Grass Grew all Around” (m. Harry Von Tilzer, w. William Jerome) arrangement by Louis Jordan
  • “I’ve Changed Completely” — vocal: June Richmond
  • “Wham, Sam! (Dig Them Gams)” (Louis Jordan)
  • “I Know What You’re Puttin’ Down” (Louis Jordan)
  • Let The Good Times Roll” (Sam Theard**, Fleecie Moore)
  • “Reet, Petite, and Gone” (Louis Jordan)
  • “You Got Me Where You Want Me” — vocals: June Richmond and Louis Jordan
  • “That Chick’s too Young to Fry” (Tommy Edwards, Jimmy Hilliard)
  • “Ain’t That Just Like a Woman?” (Fleecie Moore, Claude Demetri) —  with unknown feature dancer
  • “If It’s Love You Want, Baby, That’s Me” (Sid Robin) — with Bea Griffith (no vocal)

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From Reet, Petite & Gone:

  • That Chick’s Too Young to Fry (Tommy Edwards and Jimmy Hilliard)

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Jordan made three feature films Beware (1946), Reet, Petite & Gone (1947) and Look Out Sister (1947). I haven’t looked for the first and third of these yet. Because the songs in the films were isolated scenes they have been extracted and are available as single videos or in collected works (see the Wild Realm Reviews link, above, for details). He also made numerous Soundies, film shorts featuring individual songs.

From the main Wikipedia article on Soundies:

Soundies were an early version of the music video: three-minute musical films, produced in New York, Chicago, and Hollywood between 1940 and 1946, often including short dance sequences. (The completed Soundies were generally released within a few months of their filming; the last group was released in March, 1947.) The films were displayed on the Panoram, a coin-operated film jukebox or machine music, in nightclubs, bars, restaurants, factory lounges, and amusement centers.

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Early in the Mornin’ (Dallas Bartley, Louis Jordan, Leo Hickman) — recorded on 23 April 1947 in NYC — Louis Jordan (as, voc, ldr); Wild Bill Davis (p, arr); Carl Hogan (eg); Dallas Bartley (b); Christopher Columbus [Joe Morris] (d); The Calypso Boys (maracas, claves); singles chart success: #3 hit on the Billboard R&B (Race) chart, 1947

The disc in the video below is Decca [Swi] 30640. Player credits (adapted) and disc identification courtesy of the Eddie Johnson discography at hubcap.clemson.edu. Of the five sides listed for the session, Johnson is credited on all but this one. Tympany Five trumpeter Aaron Izenhall is also uncredited on this track. But a note in the same discography says,

Our basic information comes from Tom Lord’s Jazz DiscographyLord also opines that The Calypso Boys are actually Aaron Izenhall and Eddie Johnson.

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1949

Saturday Night Fish Fry — See the special feature, with lyrics, at the bottom of this page.

Beans and Cornbread (songwriter credits: N/A)

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Incomplete

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1950

Blue Light Boogie (Parts 1&2) – written by Jessie Mae Robinson. The recording by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five reached the #1 spot on the Billboard R&B chart, and remained there for seven weeks in September and October 1950.

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From the Louis Jordan biography by Bill Dahl at allmusic.com:

Effervescent saxophonist Louis Jordan was one of the chief architects and prime progenitors of the R&B idiom. His pioneering use of jumping shuffle rhythms in a small combo context was copied far and wide during the 1940s.

Jordan’s sensational hit-laden run with Decca Records contained a raft of seminal performances, featuring inevitably infectious backing by his band, the Tympany Five, and Jordan’s own searing alto sax and street corner jive-loaded sense of humor. Jordan was one of the first black entertainers to sell appreciably in the pop sector; his Decca duet mates included Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald.

The son of a musician, Jordan spent time as a youth with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and majored in music later on at Arkansas Baptist College. After moving with his family to Philadelphia in 1932, Jordan hooked up with pianist Clarence Williams. He joined the orchestra of drummer Chick Webb in 1936 and remained there until 1938. Having polished up his singing abilities with Webb’s outfit, Jordan was ready to strike out on his own.

The saxist’s first 78 for Decca in 1938, “Honey in the Bee Ball,” billed his combo as the Elks Rendezvous Band (after the Harlem nightspot that he frequently played at). From 1939 on, though, Jordan fronted the Tympany Five, a sturdy little aggregation often expanding over quintet status that featured some well-known musicians over the years: pianists Wild Bill Davis and Bill Doggett, guitarists Carl Hogan and Bill Jennings, bassist Dallas Bartley, and drummer Chris Columbus all passed through the ranks.

From 1942 to 1951, Jordan scored an astonishing 57 R&B chart hits (all on Decca), beginning with the humorous blues “I’m Gonna Leave You on the Outskirts of Town” and finishing with “Weak Minded Blues.” In between, he drew up what amounted to an easily followed blueprint for the development of R&B (and for that matter, rock & roll — the accessibly swinging shuffles of Bill Haley & the Comets were directly descended from Jordan; Haley often pointed to his Decca labelmate as profoundly influencing his approach). » Read more

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Saturday Night Fish Fry (E. Walsh, Louis Jordan)***

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Saturday Night Fish Fry was a big hit for Louis Jordan & His Typany Five, topping the R&B chart for 12 weeks in late 1949. It also reached #21 on the national chart, a rare accomplishment for a “race record” at that time (although the very popular Jordan had already hadearlier crossover hits). Jordan’s jump blues combo was one of the most successful acts of its time, and its loose and streamlined style of play was highly influential.

Saturday Night Fish Fry was first recorded by Eddie Williams and His Brown Buddies, which featured the talk-singing vocals of Ellis Walsh. The act had recently had a #2 R&B hit with the song “Broken Hearted”, and “Fish Fry” was intended to be the band’s followup. However, the acetate for the Williams band version found its way to Louis Jordan’s agent, and as Williams later recalled, “They got theirs out there first.”

However, Jordan also reconfigured the song, taking a refrain that had been intermittent in Wiliams’ version– “And it was rockin’, it was rocking, you never seen such scuffling and shuffling ’til the break of dawn”– and refocusing it as the recording’s hook, singing it twice after every other verse. The Jordan band also dropped the shuffling rhythm of the Eddie Williams original, accelerating the pace into a raucous, rowdy jump boogie-woogie arrangement.

Saturday Night Fish Fry

by Ellis Walsh / Louis Jordan ***

Now if you’ve ever been down to New Orleans
Then you can understand just what I mean
All thru the week it’s quiet as a mouse
But on Saturday night they go from house to house
You don’t have to pay the usual admission
If you’re a cook, a waiter or a good musician
So if you happen to be just passin’ by
Stop in at the Saturday Night Fish Fry

It was rockin’, it was rockin’
You never seen such scufflin’
And shufflin’ ’till the break of dawn
It was rockin’, it was rockin’
You never seen such scufflin’
And shufflin’ ’till the break of dawn

Now my buddy and me was on the main stem
Foolin’ around just me and him
We thought we could use a little something to eat
So we stopped in at a house on Rampart Street
We knocked on the door and it opened up with ease
And a lush little Miss said, “Come in, please”
Before we could even bat an eye
We was right in the middle of a big fish fry

(repeat chorus)

Now the folks was havin’ the time of their life
And Sam was jivin’ Jimmie’s wife
Over in the corner was a beat up grand
Being played by a big fat piano man
Some of the chicks wore expensive frocks
Some of them had on bobbie socks
But everybody was nice and high
At this particular Saturday Night Fish Fry

(repeat chorus)

(Missing 4th section)

Now the women were screamin’ and jumpin’ and yellin’
The bottles was flyin’, and the fish was smellin’
And way above all the noise we made
Somebody hollered, “You better get outta here, this is a raid!”
I didn’t know we was breaking the law but
Somebody reached over and hit me on the jaw
Now they had us blocked off from front to back
And they was puttin’ ’em in the wagon like potatoes in a sack

(repeat chorus)

I knew I could get away if I had a chance
But I was shakin’ like I had the St. Vitus dance
So I tried to crawl in under a bath tab
When a policeman said, “Where are you goin’ there, bub?”
Now they got us out of there like a house on fire
And put us all in the black Maria
Now they might have missed a pitiful few
But they got both me and my buddy too

(repeat chorus)

Well we headed for jail in a dazed condition
They booked each one of us on suspicion
Now my chick came down and went my bail
And finally got me outta that rotten jail
Now if you ever want to get a fist in your eye
Just mention a Saturday Night Fish Fry
I don’t care how many fish in the sea
But don’t ever mention a fish to me

(repeat chorus)

THE FILMS (from LouisJordan.com)

Film reviews:

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*Fleecie Moore was Jordan’s wife. Jordan evidently used the name as pseudonym to enable him to work with an alternate music publisher. Jordan later said, “Fleecie Moore’s name is on it, but she didn’t have anything to do with it. That was my wife at the time, and we put it in her name. She didn’t know nothin’ about no music at all. Her name is on this song and that song, and she’s still getting money.[1]  — information and quote from Wikipedia

** Samuel Allen Theard — IMDb indicates that the songwriting credit came under his stage name Spo-De-Odee

*** Though ASCAP’s ACE catalog and most other information sites credit only Jordan and Walsh (Ellis Lawrence), Heptunes gives the songwriting credits as Louis Jordan, Ellis Walsh and Al Carters.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John Duke Kisch
    Jan 12, 2012 @ 05:47:27

    The Separate Cinema Archive has hi res images taken from the original posters in the collection. Plenty of Louis Jordan material . http://www.SeparateCinema.com

    Reply

  2. Thomas Van Keuren
    May 29, 2014 @ 17:37:26

    You must include the 1948 Louis Jordan record, “Run Joe”. It has the chorus chanting, “Louie, Louie, Louie, Louie, Louie” and using Jamaican dialect that were both obvious inspirations for Richard Berry’s 1957 “Louie Louie”, later made famous (or infamous) by the Kingsmen in their rock ‘n’ roll version.

    Reply

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