Louis Jordan: Son of Arkansas, Father of R&B Paperback – 18 Mar 2014
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However, there's not much new information in this book that hasn't already been covered in John Chilton's biography, "Let the Good Times Roll." Chilton's book has much more detail; Koch hits the highlights. With that said, Koch's book includes a few pictures and album covers that are not in Chilton's book. I appreciate the information that Koch includes describing local efforts to have Jordan memorialized. It's obvious Koch is a fan of Jordan and respects Jordan's legacy. Koch's efforts to perpetuate Jordan's memory should be applauded! Koch's book is a good read for a broad introduction to Louis Jordan.
Koch has a weekly radio segment on local public radio entitled "Arkansongs" and covers everything from old a capella hillbilly folk music to blues, rock and country. Our humble state has been the birthplace of Jordan, from Brinkley, doowop singer Jesse Belvin, supposedly from Texarkana, Glenn Campbell from Delight, and some guy named Johnny Cash, from Dyess. Add to that list Levon Helms of Springdale and Otis Rush of Osceola. No slouches, we. And the King Biscuit Flower Hour came from Helena.
Unfortunately and maddeningly, the city of Springdale for example has no signs or hint that Helm ever lived there. Brinkley isn't much better. Aside from a bust made and displayed in the old Union Pacific railroad depot where Jordan once handled bags as a youngster, almost nobody there can tell you who he was.
So, I'll tell you, but I recommend you get this book and get a good Jordan collection. He is the father of R & B, a pioneer of rock and roll, and if you don't believe that listen to "Ain't That Just Like A Woman", and blended 40's pop with jazz chops creating an amazing body of work that sold in the millions during his heyday. Maybe you don't recognize his name, but you've heard "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby", "Nobody Here But Us Chickens" and "Let The Good Times Roll" unless you've been in a deep dark cave.
Jordan and his rotating line-up called the Tympani Five, although there were usually more than five band members had enormous hits and he shattered sales records all through the forties, with the above mentioned tunes and the hilarious "Caldonia Boogie" and "Open The Door Richard". His spoken word lyrics were a hoot, and his alto saxophone playing was stellar, always in great jazz taste but with a good beat that helped formulate the tempos that would define rock and roll in a few short years.
For those who love delving into the musical history that became rock and roll, jazz and modern blues, you can't afford not to give him a listen. Koch pulls no punches in his admiration for the man, writes the book lovingly and respectfully, and has done wonders to try to renew interest and respect in an American giant, easily as important as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Christian, Miles Davis and others who were on the same road of wonderful original American music. It's hip to be into blues legends like Robert Johnson - now it's time to dig the beat of Jordan. His lingo and catch phrases were the inspiration for latter day cool like Steely Dan, right down to the "get back, Jack", "hep cats" and just plain cool. Get the book. Get a good compilation, too.
This book goes a short way toward rectifying that situation. It has some very good information on Louis Jordan's music and some very interesting information on his life and times, but I would have liked to have seen more details of Jordan's life and music.
There are some fascinating subjects that just get glossed over in this book:
- Louis Jordan's manager in his peak years was Berle Adams, who left the personal management business to become a leading executive at MCA and a major player in the music business. Adams brought bands like The Who to the MCA label. This book gives some information on Berle Adams but it could give so much more.
- Louis Jordan's strange song writing credit and royalty arrangements with his wife (later ex-wife; she stabbed Jordan after a domestic dispute, inflicting some serious injuries) Fleecy Moore gave Moore undeserved credit for co-writing many of Louis Jordan's biggest selling songs. After their divorce, Fleecy Moore continued to receive royalties on these songs and her descendants still own the rights, and collect the royalties, for them. Fleecy Moore certainly fleeced Louis Jordan, but while this book mentions these strange financial arrangements it doesn't go into detail about the reason(s) Jordan entered into such strange business arrangements which cost him millions in royalties. I find the business end of the music business to be very interesting and I would have liked to read far more about why Fleecy Moore ended up with the song writing credits and royalty rights she received and IMHO did not deserve and did nothing to earn.
- Louis Jordan's producer during his peak years was Milt Gabler, who had a long career in the music business. After producing Louis Jordan, Gabler produced Bill Haley & The Comets, who covered some Jordan songs and clearly copied Louis Jordan's style with Gabler's active encouragement. I would have liked to read more about Milt Gabler.
- Louis Jordan was a contemporary of, and rubbed shoulders with, some major figures in American music history. I would have liked more information on those major figures and Jordan's relationships with them. This book has some good information about this but could have taken it much further.
Overall, a good book but a short one. This book is well worth reading for anyone interested in Louis Jordan and/or American music history. For the casual fan it is very worthwhile; for those with a more serious interest in music history, this book is a very good starting point for additional research into Louis Jordan.
The author is clearly a long time Louis Jordan fan. I would encourage him to do a far more detailed follow up to this book, going into greater detail about Jordan's life and music.
I’m a big fan of composer, musician, bandleader, film star and all-around entertainer Louis Jordan (though I guess I’m a bit tired of hearing his biggest hit “Five Guys Named Moe”), so I was interested in anything written about him.
The author Stephen Koch – lives in Jordan’s home state of Arkansas and has a radio show there. The impetus for writing this book was when he realized there were no markings in Jordan’s home town of Brinley, and an informal survey of locals showed most never heard of Jordan. So he set out to write it. When you look at the Bibliography in the back of this 170-page paperback, you’ll see that he did most of his research locally. And that’s fine with me. Even the subtitle of the book – “Son of Arkansas; Father of R&B” shows the local viewpoint. While the cover is in color, all the illustrations (album covers – including import bootlegs – and ad posters – are in black and white. (I bet they’d be great in color). The 18 chapters are short less than eight pages or so it’s an easy read.
Of course I’d love to have seen a Jordan discography and A filmography included but – again – this is not as much a serious bio of the entertainer as it is an “introduction” to him. And it serves that purpose.
One of the hardest things for me in beginning to read this book is that Koch uses the spelling “Louie” when referring to him. (He uses the word “Louis” when quoting a “title”). Jordan’s predecessor – Louis Armstrong – is usually called “Lou-ee” but always spelled as Louis, even though Armstrong always pronounced his own name as “Lou-IS”. I have never seen Jordan’s name spelled “Louie” anywhere else than this book – and it slowed me down as I wanted to correct the spelling. Koch explains his reasoning for his spelling, but – honestly – I found it unnecessary and confusing. (This, of course, is my opinion and may not bother other readers.
So I did like this book and do recommend it if you only know his life and career from his hits or from the Broadway hit “Five Guys Named Moe” – which was not a bio but a “musical revue” composed of his songs.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.
The author loves him too, I can tell....but the book has so little content....he describes on and on Lous' sound movies, his band members, but no content about Louis' life, except a teeny bit about all his wives, and his problems with women....I was hoping for so much more....one day someone will write it....he deserves it.
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