If any figure can be claimed as the sole godfather of rock & roll, it's saxophonist, bandleader, songwriter and vocalist Louis Jordan. One of the most phenomenally popular performers of the 20th century, Jordan virtually owned the R&B charts between 1943's "What's the Use of Getting Sober (When You're Gonna Get Drunk Again)" and 1950's "Blue Light Boogie," racking up 17 number one R&B hits and topping the charts for a staggering 106 weeks. (During the whole of 1946 and 1947, only 16 weeks total passed with Jordan not on top.) Even now, one listen to his vast catalogue will tell you why: few artists from any era grasped basic record-making as thoroughly as Jordan. His intros grab, his casual, good-humored delivery holds, his band cracks like a whip and his songs have more hooks than an anglers 'convention. Like that other famous Louis, Armstrong, Jordan was equally adept at humor and heartache, and frequently offered pithy social commentary, from the early "You Run Your Mouth and I'll Run My Business" to the later "Saturday Night Fish Fry." Five discs (these cover his Decca years, 1938-1950) are a lot from anyone, but Jordan is so consistently joyful it's worth the shot.
Rock & roll was on the horizon, and if Jordan's two-part "Saturday Night Fish Fry," from 1949, isn't the genre's first record, it's certainly Jordan's masterpiece. "Hungry Man" sums up his food mania (with a side order of "Lemonade," please), while "(You Dyed Your Hair) Chartreuse" may be his greatest straight-laced novelty hit.