Louis Jordan was a musician, songwriter, and bandleader who became well-known during the 1930s to 1950s. He was dubbed as “The King of the Jukebox,” and was extremely popular with both black and white fans.
Jordan was born on July 8, 1908, in Brinkley, Arkansas. His father, James Aaron Jordan, was a music teacher and bandleader for the Brinkley Brass Band and for the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. His mother, Adell, died when Louis was young.
Jordan studied music under his father, starting out on the clarinet. In his youth, he played in his father’s bands instead of doing farm work when the school closed. He also played the piano professionally early in his career, but alto saxophone became his main instrument. However, he became even better known as a songwriter, entertainer, and vocalist.
In late 1936 he was invited to join the influential Savoy Ballroom orchestra, led by the drummer Chick Webb. Based at New York’s Savoy Ballroom, Webb’s orchestra was renowned as one of the best big bands of its day and regularly beat all comers at the Savoy’s legendary cutting contests. Jordan worked with Webb until 1938.
In 1938, Webb fired Jordan for trying to persuade Fitzgerald and others to join his new band. By this time Webb was already seriously ill with tuberculosis of the spine.
By 1941, Jordan had signed with the General Artists Corporation, and the agency appointed Berle Adams to be his agent. Adams secured an engagement at Chicago’s Capitol Lounge, supporting the Mills Brothers, and this proved to be an important breakthrough for Jordan and the band.
During the 1940s, Jordan released dozens of hit songs, including the swinging “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” “Blue Light Boogie,” the comic classic “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens,” and “Buzz Me.” Jordan was married five times. He died on February 4, 1975, from a heart attack.