Wham, Sam (Dig Those Gams!)

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Louis Jordan on sax witha lovely young woman in front of him

Wham, Sam (Dig Those Gams!)

This classic film clip stars a musician, Louis Jordan, who is little known to modern music audiences. However, from the early 1940’s to the early

Louis Jordan and his band, the Tympany Five, play to a room full of beautiful women in this number from an all black musical, Reet, Petite, and Gone!

This classic film clip stars a musician, Louis Jordan, who is little known to modern music audiences. However, from the early 1940’s to the early 1950’s, Jordan ruled the R&B charts with an amazing 57 charted hits.

To deem a musician to be “overlooked” implies a limit on that performer’s influence. Jordan’s musical accomplishments haven’t been so much overlooked as completely incorporated into the fabric of modern pop music.

Jordan was the son of a musician and began his career onstage at an early age. He performed with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels in his youth, a well-known, touring tent show that provided a starting place for many singers, dancers, and musicians of that era. He studied music at Arkansas Baptist College. In 1936, Jordan’s first break came when he joined drummer Chick Webb’s band.

Beginning in 1938 with 78rpm recordings for Decca Records, Jordan began defining a popular R&B sound. Fans included R&B and Rock & Roll founders Ray Charles and Bill Haley. Charles cited Jordan as a primary influencer and covered many of Jordan’s songs including, “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” and “Early in the Morning.”

Louis Jordan was also a fixture in early black musical film. In just 5 short years, between 1942-47, Jordan reportedly appeared in about 20 short films  and four full-length movies. The films held little plot interest, but were filled with attractive women and fun, upbeat musical numbers from Jordan and his group, as well as other popular black performers of the era.

Jordan’s music had strong crossover appeal, and this made his name known to audiences across the country. He played with the top pop music singers or his generation, including Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald.

This classic film clip is from the all-black musical, Reet, Petite and Gone! The title was slang for an attractive woman, as in, “she’s reet, petite and gone!” While the title of the film, and the title of the song reflect a past era and attitude toward women that may not hold up well in the current era, the song and the wonderful dancing make this classic film clip worth a look!

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