Released in 1945, the 18-minute short film Caldonia showcased the talents of singer, saxophonist, and bandleader Louis Jordan (1908-1975). In the film, Jordan, playing himself, is lured to New York by Felix Paradise, who promises him a film career. In the process, Jordan loses a promising Hollywood contract and Caldonia, his girlfriend. The short film features four songs by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five: “Buzz Me,” “Caldonia,” “Honey Chile,” and “Tillie.”
Known as “King of the Jukeboxes” or “King of the Bobby Sox Brigade,” Jordan began his career playing big band swing jazz during the 1930s but later became one of the leading players of “jump blues,” a hybrid of jazz, blues, and other elements that included a smaller band, humorous lyrics, and a strong rhythm section. A celebrity who appeared in numerous movies, Jordan was one of the top American recording artists of the 1940s and 1950s. He was known as “the father of rhythm and blues.” He is also remembered as one of the first black recording artists to achieve “crossover” appeal with white audiences.
Although first shown together, the musical performances in Caldonia were also separated into individual “soundies.” Soundies were short films that were played on video jukeboxes in nightclubs and restaurants during the 1940s. Today they are especially remembered for featuring performances by African American artists, and Louis Jordan is often cited for his prominent role in these precursors to today’s music videos.
Intended to evoke a strip of film with perforations, or sprocket holes, running down the left and right edges, the 2008 Vintage Black Cinema souvenir sheet includes twenty stamps: four rows of five different commemorative stamps featuring posters advertising movies produced for African American audiences prior to 1950.
Although the stamps are no longer available, you can still add the Vintage Black Cinema Cultural Diary page to your collection. It features a sheet of 20 stamps plus a page insert for the African American Cultural Diary that includes informative background information about the films, a timeline, and images. What a beautiful way to introduce kids to the history of African Americans in the movies!
Duke Ellington licensed by CMG Worldwide, Indianapolis, IN.
Louis Jordan name and likeness reprinted with permission.
Hallelujah art © Al Hirschfeld, licensed by the Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd., New York.
Josephine Baker licensed by CMG Worldwide, Indianapolis, IN.