Route 66 Song Of The Week:  Louis Jordan

Happy birthday, Louis Jordan!  Cooler and hipper than Cab Calloway, who covered a number of Jordan’s many hits, Louis Jordan was one of the biggest black musical stars of the 20th century.  Those of you who don’t know about Jordan obviously don’t know about jump blues, either, in that case.  Jump blues, aka Jump Jive, was a genre of blues that led directly to rock ‘n’ roll.  Wikipedia’s bio of Jordan describes jump blues as “a swinging, up-tempo, dance-oriented hybrid of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie” that often involved fast-talking, hip lyrics about black urban life.  It’s true, as Muddy Waters claimed, that blues begat rock, but it wasn’t Muddy’s style of blues, nor Bessie Smith’s, nor even that of B.B. King – it was jump blues, which makes Louis Jordan, as jump blues’ most successful exponent and innovator, at least the granddaddy of rock ‘n’ roll if not the actual father.  Even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognized him as such in 1987.

Louis Jordan, circa July 1946  (photo courtesy of William P. Gottlieb via Wikimedia Commons)

Louis Jordan and his alto sax, circa July 1946  (photo courtesy of William P. Gottlieb via Wikimedia Commons)

However, Jordan’s music crossed musical lines, from blues and jazz to swing, big band, R&B and even comic ‘novelty’ songs.  He also crossed color lines:  Jordan was one of the first black entertainers whose records did well on the pop charts, and he did duets with several of his Decca Records label mates, including Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.  A gifted instrumentalist as well as a vocalist – who could sing a ballad as well as he could jive lyrics – he played piano, clarinet, and alto, tenor and baritone sax, though his instrument of choice was the alto.  He was also a bandleader and a clever songwriter, though he didn’t get credit or royalties for some of his songs (that was his own doing:  in an attempt to get around an existing publishing contract, he credited some songs, including the famous “Caldonia,” to his third wife, childhood sweetheart Fleecie Moore; but as that marriage was tempestuous and, thankfully, short lived – Fleecie stabbed Jordan on two occasions during domestic disputes, once near fatally – they soon divorced, but she retained ownership of songs she’d never written, much to his dismay).

Some performers come to music by accident or by desire, but not Jordan – he was born into it on July 8, 1908 in Brinkley, Arkansas, to Adell and James Aaron Jordan.  His mother died when he was young; his father, however, was a musician, music teacher and bandleader for two local groups, the Brinkley Brass Band and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, and young Louis was surrounded by music before he could walk.  His father taught him music, starting with the clarinet, and as a youth he played in his father’s bands whenever school was out.  Jordan briefly attended Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, where he majored in music.  He also played piano professionally early in his career and played with other local bands, including Bob Alexander’s Harmony Kings.  When he moved with his family to Philadelphia in 1932, he played clarinet in the Charlie Gaines band and also did gigs with pianist Clarence Williams.

Continue reading

Route 66 Song Of The Week, bonus edition:  Nat ‘King’ Cole

Hello again, fellow roadies!  Welcome to the holiday bonus edition of the Route 66 Song Of The Week.  Only a few days ago, we treated you to Natalie Cole’s take on her daddy’s big hit and our favorite road anthem.  But no sooner had we posted it than a hue and cry went up for Daddy Dearest.  Well!  This being the ultimate All-American Weekend, what with The Fourth, and it being the height of the road-trip season as well, how could we refuse? After all, who could beat the guy who held the title of King long before Elvis?

So:  by popular demand, we give you the definitive Nat King Cole and King Cole Trio’s YouTube version of “Route 66,” as uploaded by Gene Vincent’s Official Nat King Cole Fan Club.  This is clearly a filmed/videotaped version meant to look like a club date but is most likely a performance the group did for television.  It may even be from Nat Cole’s own brief TV show, which ran in 1956 and 1957.  It seems Cole was much more popular as a guest on other people’s TV shows and specials, at least where TV sponsors were concerned.

Continue reading

Route 66 Song Of The Week:  Natalie Cole

Howdy, road music lovers!  We’re overdue for an installment of our favorite road anthem, and this week it’s Natalie Cole’s turn.  Given that her dad, Nat ‘King’ Cole, made this tune a big hit only a few weeks after Bobby Troup and his first wife Cynthia wrote it while driving down said route on the way to L.A. (Cynthia suggested the title), it seems only appropriate to feature the lovely Ms. Natalie right before the July 4th holiday.  Nat and his King Cole Trio were playing in L.A. at the time (yes, now you know how he got his nickname); before that, he and the trio spent a while making music in Chicago, a city to which Nat and his family had moved when he was four years old and to which he often returned.

Continue reading

Route 66 Song Of The Week:  Rosemary Clooney

Greetings, fellow roadies and road music lovers!  It’s time for that Route 66 Song Of The Week, one of the multitudes of versions of our favorite travel anthem.  We really meant to put this one up last year around the time that George Clooney got married (hoping that he and his new bride would take the hint from George’s Aunt Rosie), but for some reason we never did, silly us.

Rosemary Clooney was the prototypical ‘girl singer’ of the World War II and postwar era.  There was always at least one attached to most big swing bands.  In the case of Benny Goodman, it was Peggy Lee.  Duke Ellington had Joya Sherrill and a few others.  Count Basie stuck with the guys most of the time – Jimmy Rushing and, later, Joe Williams – but Basie was atypical.  Rosie began her recording career in 1946 singing with Tony Pastor’s big band for Columbia Records.

Rosemary Clooney, head and shoulders, 1954

Rosemary Clooney in a 1952 publicity glamour photo.

Before that Rosie Clooney and her sister Betty, who grew up with their brother, newsman and broadcaster Nick Clooney (George’s dad) in Maysville, KY, about 60 miles southeast of greater Cincinnati, started singing locally on Cincinnati’s radio station WLW in 1945.  By 1951, she had a hit single on the pop music charts, “Come On-a My House,” which turned out to be the first of many hit recordings during the 1950s and 1960s.  She’s perhaps best known for having co-starred with Bing Crosby, Vera Ellen and Danny Kaye in the musical film White Christmas, which featured the song of the same name, and for her many TV appearances during the 1950s and 1960s.  However, her career began to wane during the 1960s in part because of her bipolar disorder and drug addiction.  She also had a nervous breakdown in 1968 following her second divorce from actor José Ferrer (in 1967; she had divorced him the first time in 1961 and had remarried him in 1964), from which it took her some years to recover.

Her singing career got a reboot in 1976 when she signed with United Artists Records for two albums, then got a further boost in 1977 when Bing Crosby asked her to appear with him at a show marking his 50th anniversary in show business.  Starting that same year, she recorded an album a year for Concord Records, a jazz label.  She continued rrecording until her death in 2002.  What most of the younger (Gen X?) generation might remember, however, is her guest appearance with nephew George on the popular TV series ER in 1995 (in which George was one of the stars), for which she received an Emmy nomination the following year.

A lolngtime smoker, Clooney died from lung cancer.  This recording is from one of her later albums.  We hope you enjoy it.  It includes actress Dorothy Malone and Bobby Troup himself, author of our favorite Route 66 song.  Cheers!

Until next time,
your own DJ SweetMarie


Route 66 Christmas Song Of The Week:  Chicago has its own holiday song!!!

Hello there, fellow roadies!  Bet you didn’t know Chicago has its own seasonal song now, did you?  Actually, this baby will do for a general holiday song.  And since tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, we figured we’d better get our holiday greeting out there to everyone (don’t worry, Buddhists like me still celebrate Christmas and Saturnalia; Joe and Keith, on the other hand, are strictly Christmas guys).  Besides, I’m late in sending Hanukkah cards to my Jewish friends … but never mind that.

Cindy Lyn holiday close-up - blog (MRTraska)

Greetings of the Season (minus snow) at the Cindy Lyn Motel on Route 66, Cicero, IL

Continue reading

Route 66 Halloween Song Of The Week:  BOO!  It’s Duke getting creepy, with a Glenn Miller seance

Good eeeeeeeevening, fellow roadies; and how are you this spooky night?  It’s bloody well slushing in Chicago, a night not fit for man or beast – but the beasties are out there, all the same.  Bwahahaha!  And we have a ghostly double-header for you for the Song Of The Week, in memory of all those ghosts out on the route from the days when it was dangerous to drive and earned the nickname “Bloody 66.”

Is there haunting, haunted Route 66 song for Halloween?  Well, no, not really (ghouls howling Bobby Troup’s road anthem don’t count).  However, Route 66 begins in Chicago, home to jazz and blues (especially in 1926), so creepy-crawly jazz will  have to do.  And to whom shall we turn for such music?  Well!  Who else?  Duke Ellington, the master.  His suite Night Creature has three movements, and the creepiest by far is the middle section, entitled Stalking Monster.  Perfect for something slinking through the dark and about to scream Gotcha!

Ghost around the lamppost - SedonaParanormal-com

Continue reading

Route 66 Song Of The Week:  Dawg Days, plus coming events

Yes indeedy, fellow roadies, the long weekend of the dog days is gone.  August with its humid but confusing weather this year is defunct, only a sleepy memory.  We’ll celebrate that yet with our Song Of The Week below, but for now let’s take a moment to remember what a great weekend it was with the Chicago Jazz Festival on tap!  Buoyed with a little of that leftover energy, we thought we’d update you on what’s ahead in the near future and then throw in an appropriate song, too.

To start, we have two Route 66 car shows coming up in September in Illinois.  First: The Berwyn Route 66 Car Show is this coming weekend, Saturday Sept. 6th, from 10am to 4pm along Ogden Avenue in Berwyn.  It’ll be held between Oak Park Avenue on the west end and Ridgeland Avenue on the east.  Admission is free, but there’s a registration fee for cars that will be exhibited; registrants can get their cars lined up starting at 7am.  Food vendors and live music will be on site, and parking is wherever you can get it, but try the municipal garage on Oak Park Avenue, a few blocks north of Ogden Avenue.  Please DO remember to bring a few dollars for the Berwyn Route 66 Museum’s artifact restoration fund; no doubt museum director Jon fey will have the kitty set up at his usual tent.

Second:  The International Mother Road Festival is at the end of the month, starting at 5pm Friday the 26th through Sunday the 28th, in downtown Springfield, IL.  Admission is free, but there’s a registration fee for cars that will be exhibited.  Food vendors and live music will be on site, and parking will be available in the garage on 7th Street at Washington Street, next to the DoubleTree President Abraham Lincoln Springfield Hotel, or wherever else you can find it in a public lot (the streets nearby will be taken over by the fest all weekend long).

The annual Berwyn Route 66 Car Show along Ogden Avenue

The annual Berwyn Route 66 Car Show along Ogden Avenue  (Photo courtesy Berwyn DevCorp)

Continue reading