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Title: Caldonia  
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Subject: Tympany Five, Bulbs (song), Maurie Orodenker, Did Ye Get Healed?, Hey America
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Single by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five
Released 1945
Recorded January 19, 1945
Genre Jump blues
Length 2:40
Label Decca Records
Writer(s) Fleecie Moore
Producer(s) Milt Gabler

"Caldonia" is a jump blues song, first recorded in 1945 by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five. A version by Erskine Hawkins, also in 1945, was described by Billboard magazine as "rock and roll", the first time that phrase was used in print to describe any style of music.

Louis Jordan recording

In 1942, Jordan had started on an unparalleled run of success on the Billboard Harlem Hit Parade (forerunner of the R&B chart), which by 1945 had included four number-one hits, and eventually made Jordan by far the most successful R&B chart act of the 1940s. "Caldonia" became his fifth number one on what was at that point called the "Race Records" chart. It debuted on the chart in May 1945 and reached number one in June, where it stayed for seven weeks. On the pop chart, the song peaked at number six under the title "Caldonia Boogie".

The writing of the song is credited to Jordan's wife of the time, Fleecie Moore. However, in all probability it was actually written by Jordan, who used his wife's name to enable him to work with an additional music publisher. Jordan later said :- "Fleecie Moore's name is on it, but she didn't have anything to do with it. That was my wife at the time, and we put it in her name. She didn't know nothin' about no music at all. Her name is on this song and that song, and she's still getting money."[1] However, by the time of that quote, Jordan and Moore had divorced after a number of arguments in which she had stabbed him with a knife.

The song is best remembered for its punchline, "Caldonia! Caldonia! What makes your big head so hard?"

Walkin' with my baby she's got great big feet / She's long, lean, and lanky and ain't had nothing to eat / She's my baby and I love her just the same / Crazy 'bout that woman 'cause Caldonia is her name.
Caldonia ! Caldonia ! / What makes your big head so hard? / I love her, I love her just the same / Crazy 'bout that woman 'cause Caldonia is her name.

Jordan re-recorded the song in 1956, arranged by Quincy Jones and featuring torrid guitar work by Mickey Baker.[2]

Jordan also filmed a "soundie" of the song, shown in movie theatres at the time.

Other versions

Single by James Brown
from the album Showtime
B-side "Evil"
Released 1964 (1964)
Format 7"
Genre Rhythm and blues
Length 2:44
Label Smash
Writer(s) Fleecie Moore
Producer(s) Fair Deal Record Corp.
James Brown charting singles chronology
"Please, Please, Please"
"The Things That I Used to Do"
Single by Van Morrison
B-side "What's Up Crazy Pup?"
Released 1974
Recorded April 9, 1974
Genre Folk-Rock
Length 2:50
Label Warner Bros.
Producer(s) Van Morrison
Van Morrison singles chronology

At the same time as Jordan's success, the song was also recorded both by Erskine Hawkins and Woody Herman. The issue of Billboard magazine for April 21, 1945, described Hawkins' version as "right rhythmic rock and roll music", possibly the first use of the term to describe a musical style, and pre-dating by 14 months a more often cited use of the words in a June 1946 description of "Sugar Lump" by Joe Liggins.[3][4] Hawkins' version of "Caldonia", featuring piano and vocals by Ace Harris, reached # 2 on the Billboard R&B chart and # 12 on the pop chart.[5] Herman's version, arranged by the young Neal Hefti, reached # 2 on the pop chart.[6][7]

In later years "Caldonia" was covered by Sugar Chile Robinson, B. B. King, Muddy Waters, Bill Haley, Carl Perkins, The Band, Van Morrison, Tito Jackson, Bad Manners, Willie Nelson, Memphis Slim, Matt Minglewood, Downchild Blues Band, and Slapback Johnny among others. James Brown recorded it in 1964 as his first release for Smash Records. His version, featuring an arrangement by Sammy Lowe, charted #95 Pop.[8] In 1967 Mickey Baker again recorded the song, this time backing up Champion Jack Dupree.

Dutch and Italian pressings of Van Morrison's version of the song incorrectly showed the title as "Caledonia" (understandable since Morrison chose to credit his backing musicians as the 'Caledonia Soul Express'), but the error was that of the record company, not Morrison.

The song was also referenced in the Mel Brooks' comedy film History of the World, Part I (1982).

American R&B and boogie-woogie pianist and singer Little Willie Littlefield recorded a version for his 1997 album The Red One.


  1. ^ Claude Demetrius
  2. ^ Jordan. Louis, ‘’The Greatest Hits: No Moe!’’, Mercury Records, 1992 liner notes
  3. ^ Billboard magazine, 21 April 1945, p.66
  4. ^ , 17 December 2010Right Rhythmic Rock and Roll Music – Part IIJ. J. Hayes,
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Obituary of Neal Hefti, The Guardian, 21 October 2008
  7. ^ Chart placings, Woody Herman
  8. ^ White, Cliff (1991). "Discography". In Star Time (pp. 54–59) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.

External links

  • Library of Congress essay on Jordan's version.
Preceded by
"Mop! Mop!" by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five
Billboard Race Records number-one single
June 2, 1945 – July 7, 1945
Succeeded by
"Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well" by Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra

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