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B.B.King :: Sings Louis Jordan
by David Guy
B.B. King belongs to the category of musicians that do not need to be introduced to any audience in any country. It will be a waste of time to enumerate all the albums he has released and all the concerts he has played. We just offer you an interview with B.B. King recorded while his latest tour on the 30th of September.
David Guy: Hi, I'm David Guy host of the World Cafe and it was my honor recently to climb onto B. B. King's tour bus, his home for over two hundred and fifty nights a year and talk with him about his new album, Let The Good Times Roll, the music of Louis Jordan, a project that is very close to B. B.'s heart. Louis Jordan's music, a combination of jump blues, swing, and his own kind of jive ruled R & B music throughout the nineteen forties. His songs like Choo-Choo-Choo Boogie and Caledonia are classics. Now, B. B. King has added his trademark vocals and his usual impeccable guitar playing and as you will hear the results swing ferociously. So, join me, let's climb on me bus with B. B. King and let the good times roll. Tell people, just if you can just a brief sketch for those who don't know who Louis Jordan was.
B.B.: Louis Jordan was a great musician, and in my opinion was way ahead of his time. As people get to know more about him, they will realize what a great contribution he left to the music of today.
David: When did you first see him live?
B.B.: Uh, I don't think I saw him live until in the fifties, but I was getting ready to go in the army in forty-three and that's when I first saw him. I saw him on one of those soundies they called them and I was crazy for him ever since.
David: You know his show was pretty exciting from what I understand.
B.B.: Oh, yeah. He was a brilliant man as when it come to entertaining, clever in songs, he used to make the songs as humorous but you still want to dance on 'em.
David: This must have been kind of interesting for you to be able to cut things in a little bit different style then what you've been doing.
B.B.: It's a whole lot different...
David: Yeah, is it hard to play this way?
B.B.: Of course it is. Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens or things like that you know, my lips are too big to even seem to wrap around those words, (laughter)
David: Truth be told, this is not the first time you've cut songs that are associated with Louis Jordan. You've been playing Caledonia for for a long time.
B.B.: Well, yeah, my theme song was Let The Good Times Roll I've done that for years.
David: Dr. John is your piano player last time, have you cut with him in the past?
B.B.: Many times, he is one of the best, he's a dear friend but when it come to playing, he's a good guitarist too, but he really plays keyboard for me, he knocks me out playing the keyboard.
David: And you give him a chance to kind of play a flow for you on You Ain't My Baby.
B.B.: (laughter) yeah, I can hear him saying, ‘hey B.B. my child' (laughter)... he's great, he is identifiable by his voice as well as his playing, few people've been like that, Louis Jordan, Frank Sinatra, and few few people, you know, he's one of a kind. Dr. John.
David: And you got a little bit more of that New Orleans feel with Earl Palmer, helping out on the drums.
B.B.: Oh. Earl's yeah, well Earl had been around like myself, he knew Louis Jordan, he was around during that time and things that was happening at the time, he know about them today.
David: There's such a warm feel to the disc and I think that's gotta be a lot of where that comes from.
B.B.: Yeah, we did eighteen tunes.
David: Wow. Now how did you decide which of Louis' tunes...
B.B.: I didn't decide by myself, like I said, Stewart Levine was the producer and when we got ready to do it. He and I we decided which ones we thought would be the best to do at this time. He did, you know Louis did so many I'd have to go on from now on to try to find out you know, which ones would be the best, but we felt that the ones we pulled out was tunes that would really for the young people or people that wasn't familiar with Louis. They would get more I think out of what Louis did from these songs.
David: Absolutely, he's probably best known for the you know the jive and the jump blues but things like Early In The Morning or um Pretty Straight Ahead really...
B.B.: ...yeah, they were good.
David: You're listening to a great new album called Let The Good Times Roll the music of Louis Jordan and most of these were hit songs on the radio between the nineteen thirties and the nineteen fifties and he cut most of these for Decca. First time around and then I understand he put together a big band or do you know anything about his career after that?
B.B.: Yeah, he put together a big band. a great band, in fact the tune that you've heard me do probably um, How Blue Can You Get is the name of it and when I first heard it, that's who I heard it from, Louis Jordan, How Blue Can You Get with the big band.
David: Now, I didn't know that Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out was associated with Louis Jordan.
B.B.: You didn't?
David: No that's...
B.B.: Well, he had a great cut on it for me, one of the nines, I've heard it before but it's sort of like, for example, if the Beatles had made The Thrill Is Gone it would’ve been a hit long before it was, Frank Sinatra, or Ray Charles, and many other people did some of the songs that I've done, they would've been hits long before because they had that status of just making things work. Louis Jordan had that, so when he did When You're Down and Out a lot of people may not have picked up on it, but I did. To me it told my story, B. B. King's story.
David: There's so many tracks to choose from in this new collection of the music of Louis Jordan, this project is gonna be I think really well received by a whole number of different people, of course blues fans, Jordan's fans, a whole generation of swing music fans. Jump blues music fans who may be getting turned on to something for the first time.
B.B.: Well, I'm thinking the same, because — that's one of the reasons why I thought it was time to do this. I have a following of young people, a lot of young people that come to see me and hang with me now and I wanted to share some of the music that Louis Jordan did because to me Louis Jordan was the first rapper.
David: Now you talk about rapper you get to you're talking about rapping your lips around some of these words like Saturday Night Fish Fry.
David: Ooh... you cut that one in one take?
B.B.: Yeah, oh no (laughter) believe it or not most of the things we did in more, no more than two to three cuts or takes on it, we really did and a lot of times there was times especially the musical part of it and there was times that I went back maybe three or four times or more to do takes on the vocal parts to it and clear it up a bit but the music thing. Man we got right into that, it was swinging from the beginning.
David: One thing I was always curious about Louis Jordan was the language he used was like hipster jive and was it put on for the records or was that do you know if that's.
B.B.: No, he wasn't like that offstage.
David: Was he?
B.B.: Offstage he was very clever, he didn't use all those, but he was a clever man, a great dancer too, not only could he but he sing ballads, blues and he had to be a great musician, and he was the first alto sax in the orchestra for a long while this is during the Ella Fitzgerald days. Early days.
B.B.: ...and in order to do that you had to be a good musician, good leading musician as well.
September 30th, 1999
This interview is provided by "Universal Russia"
published 23.04.2005© 2005 jazz news :: home page