The Louis Jordan Tributes 

click to enlarge JORDAN: Tribute coming up.
  • JORDAN: Tribute coming up.

R&B pioneer Louis Jordan charted more than 50 top-ten songs. Accomplishment enough, but he’s also influenced the likes of James Brown, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, B.B. King and many more.

But, despite being among the most important figures in American popular music, Jordan — born July 8, 1908, in Brinkley — isn’t a household name. In the 1990s, a group of music lovers gathered to better preserve Jordan’s legacy, at least in his home state. Full disclosure: I was part of that group.

The first Louis Jordan Tribute concert was held at Vino’s Brewpub on July 8, 1997, on what would have been Jordan’s 89th birthday.

Luminaries of the late 1990s Little Rock rock scene, such as Ashtraybabyhead and Toast, joined writers Phil Martin and Bill Jones in celebrating Louis Jordan. The Amy Garland Band performed one of Jordan’s signature songs, 1946’s “Let the Good Times Roll,” while John Senner and former Little Rock Wind Symphony clarinetist Diana Taylor did a beat poetry-style version of Jordan’s No. 1 hit “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” recorded in 1949 and co-written by Jordan.

Nessie, with Vino’s owner Henry Lee on vocals and trumpet, performed two of Jordan’s No. 1 songs, “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” and “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” a song so identified with Jordan it was played at his February 1975 funeral. Jordan co-wrote it, recorded it in 1943, and performed it in the 1944 Hollywood movie “Follow the Boys.” Jordan’s part in the film was expanded after he made friends with actor George Raft and they exchanged Hot Springs stories.

Jordan briefly attended Arkansas Baptist College after moving to Little Rock as a young man. He later was a benefactor to the college, which didn’t contradict him when he claimed to have graduated there. And the college’s Eugene Porter, brother of piano playing legend Art Porter Sr., spoke at the first Jordan Tribute event. Porter, like Garland and many others, began participating regularly in the Jordan tributes:

“Arkansas Baptist College, it offered [Jordan] the opportunity to travel,” Porter remarked. “Travel where? Travel to Hot Springs. What’s in Hot Springs? Gambling. Music. Music. Gambling. Gambling. Music. Now you don’t have to be a sophomore to understand, if you’re a good musician, where the action is. [Jordan] only stayed on our campus for one year.”

The second Jordan Tribute, in July 1998, saw Jordan’s widow, Martha, participate, and the event was expanded to two days. Martha Jordan returned to Arkansas again that October for Jordan’s posthumous induction into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame in Pine Bluff. Jordan was the special inductee that year of Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who had been hipped to Jordan by the Jordan Tribute, which had asked him to write a letter honoring Jordan and tribute participants. Other well-wishers in this regard have included Lucinda Williams, Levon Helm and Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel.

Martha returned to the Jordan Tribute in July 2001. In 2005, she visited Arkansas again when Jordan was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

Over the years, the Jordan tributes have been recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the U.S Library of Congress. Participants have included bluesmen CeDell Davis, John Weston and Doc Tomato, the Greasy Greens, the Bob Boyd Sounds, Stax Records executive Al Bell, Little Rock native producer/musician Jim Dickinson, and Trout Fishing in America of Prairie Grove.

The Grammy-nominated Trout Fishing duo has made Jordan’s 1953 song, “Everything That’s Made of Wood,” one of its concert standbys. Chester Lane, who’d first joined Jordan to play oil-booming Union County back in the 1920s, played piano on Jordan’s recording of the song. In 1998, his son Chester Lane Jr. attended the Jordan tribute.

All the proceeds from the Jordan tributes go to a Jordan memorial in his hometown of Brinkley. In 2004, a bust of Jordan sculpted by artist John Deering was unveiled at Brinkley’s Central Delta Depot Museum.

The 10th annual Jordan Tribute will be staged at 7:30 p.m. July 6 at Cornerstone Pub. Suggested donation is $6. The Louis Jordan centennial is 2008.

Hear more about the Louis Jordan Tributes on this week’s “Arkansongs,” hosted by Stephen Koch and heard Fridays at 6:40 a.m. and 6:20 p.m. on KUAR-FM, 89.1, in Little Rock and syndicated statewide.

• “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” Diana Taylor and John Senner
• “Caldonia Boogie,” Toast
• “Let the Good Times Roll,” Amy Garland Band
• “Everything That’s Made of Wood,” Trout Fishing in America
• “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” Nessie




Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Stephen Koch

  • Young Gods of America come to Revolution

    Also, American Princes at Lost Forty and White Water, Arkansas basketball at Verizon, "The Great Russian Nutcracker" at Robinson Center Music Hall, Kwanzaa, Festivus at the Firehouse, 'The Polar Express' in Hot Springs, Noon Year's Eve at the Mid-America Science Museum and Peckerwolf and co. at Dogtown Sound.
    • Dec 22, 2016
  • Gucci Mane comes to Clear Channel Metroplex

    And more.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Watch the trailer for 'Shelter,' the Renaud Bros. new doc on homeless kids in New Orleans

    Check out the trailer for "Shelter," the Renaud Bros. new feature-length documentary about homeless teens navigating life on the streets of New Orleans with the help of Covenant House, the longstanding French Quarter shelter for homeless kids.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Arkansongs

  • Floyd Cramer's country keys

    Floyd Cramer, who grew up in Huttig, became one of the most important piano players in the development of country music.
    • May 3, 2007
  • Dorough finds his voice

    From his beginnings in Cherry Hill, Bob Dorough knew music was his thing.
    • Mar 15, 2007
  • ‘Sunday Afternoon’

    Soundtrack album forges on without film.
    • Jan 25, 2007
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »


1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation