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Saturday Night Fish Fry

"Saturday Night Fish Fry (Part 1)"
Single by Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
B-side"Saturday Night Fish Fry" (Concluded)
Released1949 (1949)
RecordedAugust 9, 1949
GenreJump blues[1]
Length
  • 3:12 (Part 1)
  • 2:48 (Part 2/concluded)
  • 5:21 (full version)
LabelDecca
Songwriter(s)Louis Jordan, Ellis Walsh
Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five singles chronology
"Beans and Corn Bread"
(1949)
"Saturday Night Fish Fry (Part 1)"
(1949)
"School Days"
(1950)

"Saturday Night Fish Fry" is a jump blues song written by Louis Jordan and Ellis Lawrence Walsh,[2] best known through the version recorded by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five.[3] The recording is considered to be one of the "excellent and commercially successful" examples of the jump blues genre.[4]

While the origins of rock and roll are disputed, some have also suggested that the song may be the first rock 'n' roll record.[5] The song contains elements later common in rock 'n' roll such as electric guitar, a brisk tempo and "a mix of the bass," and the singer begins each chorus with the catchphrase, "It was rockin'," repeating it several times.[1][6]

National hit

Old fish fry sign, New Orleans

The single was a big hit,[3] topping the R&B chart for twelve non-consecutive weeks in late 1949. It also reached number 21 on the national chart,[7] a rare accomplishment for a "race record" at that time (although Jordan had already had earlier crossover hits). Jordan's jump blues combo was one of the most successful acts of its time, and its loose and streamlined style of play was highly influential.

First recordings

"Saturday Night Fish Fry" was first recorded by Eddie Williams and His Brown Buddies with spoken vocals by the song's composer, Ellis Walsh. Williams had a number 2 R&B hit with the song "Broken Hearted". "Saturday Night Fish Fry" was intended to be the band's next single, but the acetate found its way to Louis Jordan's agent instead. As Williams recalled, "They got theirs out there first."[8]

Jordan changed the song. One source provides this summary: he took "the song’s ‘hook’ and [sang] it twice after every other verse. The arrangement was also more propulsive, too; Williams’ shuffle was replaced by a raucous, rowdy jump Boogie-woogie".[8] The expression "it was rockin'" appears four times in the chorus, which is sung seven times.[6] His version was produced by Milt Gabler.[9]

At 5:21, the recording ran longer than a standard side of a 78 record, so it was broken into two halves, one on each side of the disc. The song's lyrics are in the first person and describe two itinerant musicians going to a fish fry on Rampart Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. The party turns wild and is raided by the police; the narrator subsequently spends the night in jail.[10]

Composition

Jordan's "Saturday Night Fish Fry" has been called an example of jump blues[1] because "it literally made its listeners jump to its pulsing beat", according to NPR, which points out the use of the word "rockin'" in the chorus.[11] The Acoustic Music organization states that the recording marked "the end of the jump blues dominance of the '40s".[12]

One reviewer offered this comment in 2016 on the Jordan version: "Jordan’s pithy, witty vocal style, bumping jump-blues rhythms, and taste for lyrics that both wag their tongue and bite are as plainly irresistible as pop music gets".[13]

Some sources also consider it as a precursor to rock and roll, or perhaps, one of the first rock and roll records. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame stated that the recording was "an early example of rap and possibly the first rock and roll recording".[5] Another source went a step further in 2013 with this comment: "Jordan’s rapid-fire, talky delivery presaged another musical style that in 1950 was barely on the horizon—rap".[14]

The song had a "lively jump rhythm, call-and response chorus and double-string electric guitar riffs that Chuck Berry would later admit to copying", according to one source.[15] In fact, Chuck Berry was quoted as saying, "To my recollection, Louis Jordan was the first [person] that I heard play rock and roll."[16]

The guitar work, brisk tempo, "and emphasis in the recording mix of punctuating each beat" certainly influenced later artists and the recording's style went on to "characterize 1950s rock and roll".[17] Jordan re-recorded the song in 1973 for an album titled I Believe in Music.[18]

References

  1. ^ a b c Perone, James E. (February 15, 2019). "Listen to the Blues! Exploring a Musical Genre". ABC-CLIO – via Google Books.
  2. ^ BMI entry for song, Repertoire.bmi.com
  3. ^ a b Gilliland, John. (197X). "Pop Chronicles 1940s Program #23 - All Tracks UNT Digital Library". Digital.library.unt.edu. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  4. ^ Perone, James E. (February 15, 2019). "Listen to the Blues! Exploring a Musical Genre". ABC-CLIO – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b "Louis Jordan | Rock & Roll Hall of Fame". Rockhall.com. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  6. ^ a b "Saturday Night Fish Fry Lyrics". Genius.com. 30 June 2010. Retrieved August 10, 2020. It was rockin', it was rockin' You never seen such scufflin'
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 310.
  8. ^ a b "Saturday Night Fish Fry". Songswithearlierhistories.com. December 17, 2014.
  9. ^ Pollock, Bruce (March 18, 2014). "Rock Song Index: The 7500 Most Important Songs for the Rock and Roll Era". Routledge – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Cottrell, Wayne (April 13, 2019). "Top Popular Music of the Early 20th Century: 1900 - 1949 -- Rankings, Artists & Links". p. 139 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ "Louis Jordan: 'Jukebox King'". Npr.org. Retrieved May 2, 2024.
  12. ^ "Timeline of Musical Styles & Guitar History | Acoustic Music". Acousticmusic.org.
  13. ^ "Louis Jordan and his Tympany Band: Films and Soundies". Seattle Weekly. October 9, 2006.
  14. ^ "King of the Jukebox: Louis Jordan". Legacy.com. 2013-07-08. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  15. ^ "5 Candidates for the First Rock 'n' Roll Song". Mentalfloss.com. March 23, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  16. ^ Hajdu, David (October 18, 2016). "Love for Sale: Pop Music in America". Farrar, Straus and Giroux – via Google Books.
  17. ^ Perone, James E. (February 15, 2019). "Listen to the Blues! Exploring a Musical Genre". ABC-CLIO – via Google Books.
  18. ^ "I Believe in Music - Louis Jordan | Album". AllMusic.
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Saturday Night Fish Fry
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