Wynonie Harris
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No blues shouter embodied the rollicking good times that he sang of quite like raucous shouter Wynonie Harris. "Mr. Blues," as he was not - so - humbly known, joyously related risqué tales of sex, booze, and endless parties in his trademark raspy voice over some of the jumpingest horn - powered combos of the postwar era.Those wanton ways eventually caught up with Harris, but not before he scored a raft of R&B smashes from 1946 to 1952. Harris was already a seasoned dancer, drummer, and singer when he left Omaha for L.A. in 1940 (his main influences being Big Joe Turner and Jimmy Rushing). He found plenty of work singing and appearing as an emcee on Central Avenue, the bustling nightlife strip of the Black community there. Wynonie Harris's reputation was spreading fast - - he was appearing in Chicago at the Rhumboogie Club in 1944 when bandleader Lucky Millinder hired him as his band's new singer. With Millinder's orchestra in brassy support, Harris made his debut on shellac by boisterously delivering "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well" that same year for Decca. By the time it hit in mid - 1945, Harris was long gone from Millinder's organization and back in L.A. The shouter debuted on wax under his own name in July of 1945 at an L.A. date for Philo with backing from drummer Johnny Otis, saxist Teddy Edwards, and trumpeter Howard McGhee. A month later, he signed on with Apollo Records, an association that provided him with two huge hits in 1946: "Wynonie's Blues" (with saxist Illinois Jacquet's combo) and "Playful Baby." Harris's own waxings were squarely in the emerging jump blues style then sweeping the West Coast. After scattered dates for Hamp - Tone, Bullet, and Aladdin (where he dueled it out with his idol   Big Joe on a two - sided "Battle of the Blues"), Harris joined the star - studded roster of Cincinnati's King Records in 1947. There his sales really soared. Few records made a stronger seismic impact than Harris's 1948 chart - topper "Good Rockin' Tonight." Ironically, Harris shooed away its composer, Roy Brown, when he first tried to hand it to the singer; only when Brown's original version took off did Wynonie cover the romping number. With Hal "Cornbread" Singer on wailing tenor sax and a rocking, socking backbeat, the record provided an easily followed blueprint for the imminent rise of rock & roll a few years later (and gave Elvis Presley something to place on the A side of his second Sun single). After that, Harris was rarely absent from the R&B charts for the next four years, his offerings growing more boldly suggestive all the time. "Grandma Plays the Numbers," "All She Wants to Do Is Rock," "I Want My Fanny Brown," "Sittin' on It All the Time," "I Like My Baby's Pudding," "Good Morning Judge," "Bloodshot Eyes" (a country tune that was first released on King by Hank Penny), and "Lovin' Machine" were only a portion of the ribald hits Harris scored into 1952 (13 in all) - - and then his personal hit parade stopped dead. It certainly wasn't Harris's fault - - his King output rocked as hard as ever under Henry Glover's supervision - - but changing tastes among fickle consumers that accelerated Wynonie Harris's sobering fall from favor. Sides for Atco in 1956, King in 1957, and Roulette in 1960 only hinted at the raunchy glory of a short few years earlier. The touring slowed accordingly. In 1963, his chauffeur - driven Cadillacs and lavish New York home a distant memory, Harris moved back to L.A., scraping up low - paying local gigs whenever he could. Chess gave him a three - song session in 1964, but sat on the promising results. Throat cancer silenced him for good in 1969, ending the life of a bigger - than - life R&B pioneer whose ego matched his tremendous talent. - - Bill Dahl , All-Music Guide

Louis Jordan
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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 pointing to his Decca labelmate as profoundly influencing his approach)."G.I. Jive," "Caldonia," "Buzz Me," "Choo Choo Ch' Boogie," "Ain't That Just like a Woman," "Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens," "Boogie Woogie Blue Plate," "Beans and Cornbread," "Saturday Night Fish Fry," and "Blue Light Boogie" - - every one of those classics topped the R&B lists, and there were plenty more that did precisely the same thing. Black audiences coast - to - coast were breathlessly jitterbugging to Jordan's jumping jive (and one suspects, more than a few Whites kicked up their heels to those same platters as well).The saxist was particularly popular during World War II. He recorded prolifically for the Armed Forces Radio Service and the V - Disc program. Jordan's massive popularity also translated onto the silver screen - - he filmed a series of wonderful short musicals during the late '40s that were decidedly short on plot but long on visual versions of his hits (Caldonia, Reet Petite & Gone, Look Out Sister, and Beware, along with countless soundies) that give us an enlightening peek at just what made him such a beloved entertainer. Jordan also cameoed in a big - budget Hollywood wartime musical, Follow the Boys.A brief attempt at fronting a big band in 1951 proved an ill - fated venture, but it didn't dim his ebullience. In 1952, tongue firmly planted in cheek, he offered himself as a candidate for the highest office in the land on the amusing Decca outing "Jordan for President."Even though his singles were still eminently solid, they weren't selling like they used to by 1954. So after an incredible run of more than a decade - and - a - half, Jordan moved over to the Mesner brothers' Los Angeles based Aladdin logo at the start of the year. Alas, time had passed the great pioneer by - - "Dad Gum Ya Hide Boy," "Messy Bessy," "If I Had Any Sense," and the rest of his Aladdin output sounds great in retrospect, but it wasn't what young R&B fans were searching for at the time. In 1955, he switched to RCA's short - lived "X" imprint, where he tried to remain up - to - date by issuing "Rock 'N' Roll Call."A blistering Quincy Jones - arranged date for Mercury in 1956 deftly updated Jordan's classics for the rock & roll crowd, with hellfire renditions of "Let the Good Times Roll," "Salt Pork, West Virginia," and "Beware" benefiting from the blasting lead guitar of Mickey Baker and Sam "The Man" Taylor's muscular tenor sax. There was even time to indulge in a little torrid jazz at Mercury; "The JAMF," from a 1957 LP called Man, We're Wailin', was a sizzling indication of what a fine saxist Jordan was.Ray Charles had long cited Jordan as a primary influence (he lovingly covered Jordan's "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" and "Early in the Morning"), and paid him back by signing Jordan to the Genius' Tangerine label. Once again, the fickle public largely ignored his worthwhile 1962 - 64 offerings.Lounge gigs still offered the saxman a steady income, though, and he adjusted his onstage playlist accordingly. A 1973 album for the French Black & Blue logo found Jordan covering Mac Davis's "I Believe in Music" (can't get much loungier than that!). A heart attack silenced this visionary in 1975, but not before he acted as the bridge between the big - band era and the rise of R&B.His profile continues to rise posthumously, in large part due to the recent acclaimed Broadway musical Five Guys Named Moe, based on Jordan's bubbly, romping repertoire and charismatic persona. - - Bill Dahl, All-Music Guide

Louis Jordan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987

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