Luke Jordan

by Bryan Sinclair, UNC Asheville

 


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Luke Jordan historical marker image

Full name: Luke Jordan

Born: Jan. 28, 1892, Appomattox County or Campbell County, VA
Died: June 25, 1952, Lynchburg, VA

Instrument: Guitar (and vocals)

Biographical Sketch

The blues of Luke Jordan "had a beautiful sweetness and a kind of wry wistfulness that made them unforgettable," according to Samuel Charters in Sweet as the Showers of Rain. Research by Bruce Bastin tells us that Luke Jordan was an important figure in and around Lynchburg, Virginia, highly regarded for his skillful, cleanly-picked guitar style. Although very few African American blues musicians from this region managed to record, Jordan was discovered by Victor Records around the age of 35. He traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, in August 1927, to record several sides for that label. His records sold well enough that Victor decided to bring him to New York for two further sessions in November of 1929. Luckily, 10 of the 12 tracks that he recorded during his brief career are available today on Document CDs DOCD 5045 and DOCD 5574. His most memorable recordings, "Church Bells Blues," "Pick Poor Robin Clean," and "Cocaine Blues," feature not only some nice guitar work indicative of the East Coast style but also Jordan's intriguing tenor voice marked by a certain ethereal, delicate quality. Most recently, the James River Blues Society has recognized Luke Jordan as a important figure in Virginia blues by erecting a historical marker in his honor in downtown Lynchburg.

Luke Jordan's known recordings as listed in Blues & Gospel Records, 1890-1943, 4th ed.

Recorded Tues., August 16, 1927, Charlotte, NC
39819-1. "Church Bells Blues." Vi unissued
39819-2. "Church Bells Blues." Vi 21076
39820-1. "Pick Poor Robin Clean." Vi unissued
39820-2. "Pick Poor Robin Clean." Vi 20957
39821-2. "Cocaine Blues." Vi 21076
39822-1. "Traveling Coon." Vi 20957

Recorded Mon., November 18, 1929, New York City
57703-1. "My Gal's Done Quit Me." Vi V38564
57704-3. "Won't You Be Kind?" Vi V38564

Recorded Tues., November 19, 1929, New York City
57705- . "If I Call You Mama." Vi 23400
57706-2. "Look Up, Look Down." Vi unissued
57707- . "Tom Brown Sits in His Prison Cell." Vi 23400
57708-2. "That's A Plenty." Vi unissued

(Note: Two of the above titles remain undiscovered: "If I Call You Mama" and "Tom Brown Sits in His Prison Cell")

Books

Bastin, Bruce. Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986.

Charters, Samuel Barclay. Sweet as the Showers of Rain. Oak Publications, 1977. Contained in the reprint The Blues Makers. New York: Da Capo Press, 1991.

Kimball, Gregg D. Old Dominion Songsters: Traditional Blues in Virginia. Lynchburg, VA: James River Blues Society, 2002. (Brochure available from the James Rivers Blues Society)

Lornell, Kip. Virginia's Blues, Country & Gospel Records, 1902-1943: An Annotated Discography. Lexington : University Press of Kentucky, 1989.

Oliver, Paul, ed. The Blackwell Guide to Blues Records. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Reference, 1989. (brief mention)

Articles

Kent, Don. "On the Trail of Luke Jordan." Blues Unlimited 66 (October 1969): 4-6

Recordings on CD

Various Artists. The Songster Tradition: Complete Works, 1927-1935. Document 5045

Various Artists. "Too Late, Too Late": Newly Discovered Titles, Alternate Takes & Supplements, Vol. 8. Document 5574

Various Artists. East Coast Blues. Catfish 178

Various Artists. Raggin' the Blues: Essential East Coast Blues. Indigo 2044

Various Artists. Virginia Traditions: Western Piedmont Blues. Global Village 1003

Web Sites

Dead Blues Guys. Accessed 15 Sept. 2003 <http://www.deadbluesguys.com/>

James River Blues Society. Accessed 15 Sept. 2003 <http://www.jamesriverblues.org/>

Virginia Roots Music: Creating and Conserving Tradition. The Library of Virginia. Accessed 15 Sept. 2003 <http://www.lva.lib.va.us/whoweare/exhibits/rootsmusic/>



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Last updated 22 March 2004.