Genevieve Jordan

Active 1920s.

Genevieve Jordan is a name that inevitably comes up when dredging the mysterious netherworld of historic early classic female blues recording sessions. So do the names Gladys Jordan and Genevieve Gordon, unfortunately. Right from the beginning of this performer's career -- and these are all the same people -- it seems like somebody was trying to make sure the outcome would be some kind of long-lost soul. Initial press squibs concerning the signing of Genevieve Jordan circa 1923 identify her as Gladys Jordan. To be fair, these same press releases also misidentify Ludie Wells as Tudie Wells.

Pianist, arranger, and bandleader Fletcher Henderson often worked as an accompanist to blues singers in this period. Henderson biographer Walter C. Allen recalled the blooper-ridden press release, outlining the serious quality of Jordan's peers who were also signing contracts: "Josie Miles is well known to collectors, I presume 'Ludie Wells' is the same person as Tudie Wells on Pathe; and Ruth Coleman made two sides for Pathe...but I've never heard of Gladys Jordan." A gospel singer did come along decades later with this name but the singer who was supposed to be the focus of the hype was named Genevieve Jordan.

The mystery surrounding this performer and her small body of recordings -- three tracks, only one ever released -- was clarified somewhat in 1997 when Document put out a compilation of classic female blues singers including her version of "Baby's Got the Blues," a song also recorded by both the aforementioned Miles and Wells. A few years later the label revisited the track as part of The Edison Collection: Jazz and Blues on Edison, Vol. 1, yet in this case the song was mistakenly credited to "Genevieve Gordon."

Under any name this vocal can be judged sweet or sour, a decision fans of classic female blues will be happy to finally make for themselves. During the days when Jordan was actually in front of the microphones, producers and other label staff were making judgments of their own and apparently final ones at that. The Edison staff thought Jordan's renditions of "Gulf Coast Blues" and "Can't Understand a Word" displayed "poor voice," although in the case of the latter title the critic might have actually been trying to comment on the vocalist's diction. At any rate, neither of these recordings were ever made available. "Baby's Got the Blues," whose writers included early jazz great Sam Wooding, was done as a test in 1922 and also not issued at the time.

by Eugene Chadbourne