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Let the Good Times Roll: The Story of Louis Jordan and His Music (The Michigan American Music Series) Paperback – December 15, 1997


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Product Details

  • Series: The Michigan American Music Series
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press (December 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 047208478X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472084784
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #420,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Louis Jordan (1908-1975) was a great rhythm and blues musician who combined his talents as saxophonist and vocalist with showmanship learned as a child touring black minstrel shows with his father. Chilton ( Song of the Hawk: The Life and Recordings of Coleman Hawkins ) documents Jordan's life and career, showing how he developed from a sideman in Chick Webb's band to a bandleader with Tympany Five, the group he led, in various permutations, from 1938 to the end of his life. Jordan's engaging stage personality and passion for perfection contributed to the success of his band, which became popular as much for the flamboyance of the musicians, who dressed in bright colors and delighted audiences with well-rehearsed theatrics, as for an innovative style that some consider the forerunner of rap. Nevertheless, Jordan could be a moody and difficult taskmaster. The author's painstaking attention to every detail of Jordan's story, including his numerous failed marriages, and his careful analysis of his many recordings will appeal to jazz aficionados. Discography included. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The rhythmic music and energetic showmanship of Jordan's Tympany Five band led to national fame from the 1940s through the 1960s; hits included "Choo Choo Ch' Boogie," "Knock Me a Kiss," and "Caldonia." A biographer of Louis Armstrong (Louis, 1972. o.p.) and Coleman Hawkins (The Song of the Hawk, Univ. of Michigan Pr., 1990), English critic Chilton offers what is apparently the first full-length study of the singer and saxophonist. Besides interviewing many of Jordan's peers, employees, and lovers, Chilton analyzes many recordings and places them in their musical context. Most interestingly, he argues that Jordan anticipated rock and rhythm and blues. Chilton tends to lavish description on rather insignificant recordings, but because of Jordan's contributions to popular music, this well-researched study belongs in most serious music collections.
Paul Baker, Wisconsin Ctr. for Education Research, Madison
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Eddie Landsberg VINE VOICE on November 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
Louis Jordan's consumate professionalism, and the clean life he lead wouldn't make him seem to be the ideal topic of an autobiography (on the surface)... Nevertheless, between his wit, his horn and his passionate desire not to be upstaged by ANYONE he managed to revolutionize modern music by smashing Jazz, the blues, and a bit of down home entertainment together, paving the way for what would eventually become the music known as rock and roll and R & B.
Written in a well researched anecdotal matter, this book documents the man who was one of the biggest selling artists of his time. His movie shorts managed to inspire an entire generation of artists who would later take his formula and create rock and roll. In his own biography James Brown (The Godfather of Soul) rants and raves about Louis, mentioned the influence that Caldonia in particular had on his life, especially the way he'd go up and shout real high, just like Little Richard (only long before Little Richard.)
In this book you will meet many legendary entertainers (now virtually forgotten) and find out what it was like to be an entertainer of color in some very difficult, yet changing and turbulent times... and in particular the riff between him and many of the younger musicians who's music he absorbed but often accused him of being an "uncle Tom" for his whimsical style of performing.- - You'll find out about life on the road, the difficulty of holding together bands, and touring the chitlin' circuit in the days of segregation... and suddenly those silly songs like "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" and "Iz You Iz" will take on a whole new meaning.
The book contains a nice discography, about a dozen pages of pictures...
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By chris meesey Food Czar on February 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
For many years, while Bill Haley, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, and even bluesman Muddy Waters were all celebrated as having contributed to the birth of rock and roll, the contributions of jump blues/swing/jive man Louis Jordan were almost always overlooked, if not forgotten. It was left to his contemporaries such as James Brown, Ray Charles, and BB King (King recently released a tribute album of all-Jordan material), not to mention such former duet partners as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Bing Crosby, to sing the praises of this very talented but always underappreciated legend. John Chilton seeks to right the wrong with this biographical treatment, and for the most part, does an admirable job. Louis' rural beginnings in oil-boom Arkansas are chronicled, as are his tenure with the Chick Webb band (where he was "cut" in a musical contest by the immortal Lester Young), his many hits, his many marriages, his relentless drive for perfection, his decline in popularity at the hands of rock and roll, the music he helped inspire, and his final vindication (as with many black musicians) in front of appreciative British audiences. Overall, Chilton does a thorough job, but one senses that he is rushing to get through the material; he rarely spends any time on any one subject. Example: Jordan's most famous songs, such as Choo, Choo, Ch'Boogie and Saturday Night Fish Fry, are given no more time and attention than such lesser gems as Honey In The Bee Ball or Sax-A-Woogie. Another example: He mentions the affair between Jordan and Fitzgerald, but leaves it at that; no discussion on how this affair affected his marriages or how the former bandmates relationship changed over time.Read more ›
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By porter@redshift.com on May 17, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book helps bridge the gap between the pre-war big band era and the modern juump blues bands and eventually rock and roll. It is a very readable book, whether or not you are familiar withn Jordan's life and music. Because Louis Jordan was such a big influence on Chuck Berry, I found it particularly interesting in developing the context from which rock and roll arose. To fully appreciate this book, have recorded versions of Jordan's music available for reference.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Andre M. on February 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
Louis Jordan, the super-lunatic madman supreme of jazz comedy and sultan of storytelling and the saxophone, has had somewhat of a cult following for many years among jazz and r&b fans of his era and historians of the music (and people like myself, whose father passed down his love of Jordan's records to me). Unfortuantely, while his contemporaries such as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Cab Calloway were deservedly honored as elder statesmen of the music at the time of their deaths, Jordan was forgotten by all but a few when he died in 1975 and a revivial of his music among the masses was about 15 years in the future.

John Chilton also helps to rectify this tragic wrong in his biography of the great jazz comedian. He does an excellent job in combiining research with interviews with Jordan's then-living family and contemporaries, old interviews with LJ, and films and recordings of the jive-master. He gives our man his long-forgotten due not only as a fine musician, but as a treasurer who preserved a lot of genuine African-American humor and folklore in his recording. His early influences, such as his father's love for Bert Williams' recordings of comical story-songs and Jordan's own relationship with the legendary Satchmo, explain the roots of Jordan's unique style of comical jazz storytelling.

Chilton also gives our man his due in managing to preserve a lot of genuine African-American folklore and comedy in his story-songs and closes with a timey quote from Martin Luther King on the need to preserve such things.

The only weakness is a not-too thorough discography (although a lot of Jordan Cds and DVD's have been relelased since the initial publication of this book).A familiarity with Jordan's music and films would help the reader, and if you like Louis Jordan, you'll love this book.
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