The Louis Jordan Story

A Screenplay by John Byrd & Carl Arnold

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Do you remember Louis Jordan? No, not the French actor of GIGI etc, we're talking the jazz-pop saxophonist and singer who someone called "the last swinger and the first rock 'n' roller". The continuing success of the musical revue FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE and the current "retro-swing" craze is only a reflection of the legacy left by one of the best and the real thing, Louis Jordan. The first million-selling black crossover artist, whose recordings dominated the music charts with hits like "Caldonia", "Let the Good Times Roll", "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" and "Keep A' Knockin'", Jordan's  rise to the top of the music industry is the subject of "LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL". 

Driven from his youth to make a name for himself in the music business like his heros Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong, Jordan would later crave the king of crossover success that he envied in a friendly rivalry with Nat 'King' Cole. With Sammy Glick-like ambitions, Jordan proves a fickle lover and husband as he sought the brass ring of fame at all costs.

From the obscurity of apprenticing with the Rabbitfoot Minstrels to the anonymity of being a sideman in many thirties swing bands, Louis held fast to his ambition to become immortal by "making records for the people", just like his idols Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. He saw what he really wanted in the kind of worldwide success recordings gave Armstrong, and  ambition turned into a blind obsession that lead him through affairs, casual marriages, a controversial bigamy trial and betrayal of the two women who mattered most in his life.

It took an equally ambitious young white office boy, Berle Adams, to help establish Jordan as one of the most popular recording stars. Throughout the forties and into the fifties, Louis Jordan was the 'daddy-o' with both black and white audiences, selling over sixteen million records (dubbed "King of the Juke Boxes"), and appearing in seven feature films. His material went from rapid-fire jump and novelty numbers to ballads and very down-home blues, with an occasional calypso. The songs were often accompanied by his comic antics and repartee with the audience, engaging funny hats and props, with the odd magic trick thrown in.

It is clear on seeing Louis Jordan's performances on film the cats he inspired, from Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, and many other founding fathers of rock 'n' roll.

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