R&B Music History 


Gospel male singerIt was Louis Jordan’s exuberance that lit the Rhythm & Blues fire, garnering him the title “Father of Rhythm & Blues” and prompting Billboard magazine to recognize this new black sound and finally change their “race” category to Rhythm & Blues in 1949.  Jordan, who had played sax and sang in Chick Webb’s big band, pared down the standard big band into his Tympany Five in 1938, with a rhythm section and sax and trumpet as melody instruments.  Pioneering a joyful shuffle-boogie rhythm, Jordan’s jumpin’ and shoutin’ style, with humor on top, had a big impact on the likes of Johnny Otis and Chuck Berry.  Berry said, “”If I had to listen through eternity to music, it would be Nat Cole, and if I had to work through eternity, it would be with Louis Jordan.” 


“Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” was perhaps Jordan’s most popular, but even today, most Americans could hum “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” or “Beans and Cornbread.”

R&B singers to follow would strive to capture the exultation and excitement of Gospel music, shouting with head thrown back and mouth open wide.  Guitar players would try to follow “T-Bone” Walker’s lead with electric guitar mastery, and sax players would practice honking like Battiste Illinois Jacquet, whose solo on Lionel Hampton’s disk of “Flying Home” (1941) caused a sensation among black musicians, using repetitive phrases and dissonant intervals, relying on repeated sounding of a deep, low, resonant note followed by high, squeaking, freak notes.

R&B wove together threads of all the American music, originated by African-Americans, that came before, building a bridge to all the American music yet to be, with amazing tenacity.

On the Shoulders of R&B Giants:

Joe Turner – “Chains of Love,” “Shake, Rattle and Roll” (1954)

Ruth Brown – “5-10-15 Hours,” “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean”

La Vern Baker – “Tweedle Dee,” “Jim Dandy”

Willie “Big Mama” Thorton – “You’re Nothing But a Hound Dog”

Fats Domino – “Goin’ Home,” “Ain’t It A Shame,” “Blueberry Hill,” “I’m Walkin'”

BB King – “Three O”Clock Blues,” “Every Day I Have the Blues,” “The Thrills is Gone”

Arthur Crudup – “Kind Lover Blues” “Mean Old Frisco Blues,” “That’s All Right Mama”

Muddy Waters – “Rolling Stone” “Stormy Monday” “Mannish Boy”

Howlin’ Wolf – “Killing Floor” “Evil is Goin’ On” “Smokestack Lightning”


Shaw, Arnold. Black Popular Music in America, 1986

Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans – A History, Third Edition, 1997


Eliyora Entertainment™LLC.  © Paradunai™LLC.  All international rights reserved.  All trademarks property of Paradunai™LLC.  All personas, concepts and original songs created and performed by Sherese Chrétien.