Feature Column
Exclusive to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame






Column #12 - published July 5, 1998

THE JORDANAIRES:
BIG SUCCESS IN LAS VEGAS



It was 1957 when I bought a 78 rpm record of "All Shook Up" by Elvis Presley: it was the coolest sound I had ever heard; I would have never dreamed that 41 years later I would be sitting in the Monterey Room Coffee Shop of the Gold Coast Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, interviewing the Jordanaires' Gordon Stoker who sang duet with Elvis on that coolest of all tunes: "All Shook Up"!

In 1958 I bought my first EP of Elvis. It had a tune which was as smooth and sensual as "All Shook Up"; that tune was "Paralized". On that EP a credit was given to a group named "The Jordanaires", man, what a strange name I thought to myself. About 30 years later I found out that the name is derived from the Hebrew word "yordim" which means "river", I guess the Jordan River in this case.

Not only have the Jordanaires backed the King, but they also sang on records by Gene Vincent, Ricky Nelson, Patsy Cline, Marty Robbins, Johnny Horton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Tennessee Ernie Ford and many hundreds more.




So here we are on June 24, 1998 interviewing Gordon Stoker:



RONNY: Let's start from the beginning, before the Jordanaires...
GORDON: I played with various groups, as a matter of fact I played piano in church when I was about 8 years old, I won an amateur contest singing "Have You Ever Been Lonely Have You Ever Been Boo", I couldn't say "Blue", and I think that maybe the reason I won the contest 'coz I couldn't talk right, and the judges thought that was great!
Then I started playing piano for an organized gospel quartet on WSM radio in Nashville in 1942; then I was inducted into the service, was in the Air Force three years, I came out, went to college for three and a half years and started with the Jordanaires in 1950. The Jordanaires had been organized since 1948. But I joined The Jordanaires as a piano accompanist, and then in the latter part of 1951 the first tenor singer had a nervous breakdown and I took his place and have been singing fist tenor ever since.

RONNY: Now we are in the early 1950s, so what's happening?
GORDON: We're working on WSM radio, we're on the Grand Olde Opry, we're doing dates, not too much background, a little background with Red Foley, Hank Snow, Elton Britt, Jimmy Wakely, but not too much.



RONNY: How did Elvis found out about you guys?
GORDON: He listened to us sing on the Grand Olde Opry; we were on the Grand Olde Opry for twelve years, and most of the time we'd sing Spirituals, not all the time, a lotta time we'd sing a Country song, and Elvis heard us singing those Spirituals. In 1955 we went to Memphis to do a show with Eddy Arnold, at the Ellis Auditorium, and Elvis came behind stage to meet us, not to meet Eddy! And he told one of the guys in the group that if I ever get a major recording contract I want The Jordanaires to work with me. We didnt think anything about it, but January 1956 when RCA signed him, he asked for us!

RONNY: So many of Elvis' songs have amazing unique arrangements, strange percussions, just very different from anything else, who came up with all those ideas?
GORDON: Elvis did. He was his own producer. He produced all of his records and came up with those ideas, like slapping the back of his guitar to get that thud in "All Shook Up".

RONNY: You guys also sang behind Gene Vincent?
GORDON: Yes, we did albums with him. We did things with him on Capitol Records, see, we were on Capitol, and Ken Nelson had us do things with him, we did Tommy Sands' first hits, and a lot of other Capitol artists, like Ferlin Husky, Sonny James, Wanda Jackson. "Young Love" was the first thing we did with Sonny James. We did "Gone" with Ferlin Husky, that's the first time that we used a woman's voice with us, Millie Kirkham.

RONNY: Wanda Jackson?
GORDON: We did lotta things with Wanda Jackson. Ken Nelson produced her. Of course we did all of Patsy Cline's hits too.

RONNY: Elvis...
GORDON: He'd still be with us if the Colonel had taken care of him. He was the nicest guy in the world. He was too nice a guy for his own good. Very friendly, he allowed people to push him, which he never should have done. It's just sad the way people did him. This guy died basically broke, and there was no reason for that at all. He was the friendliest guy in the world; don't believe all the lies they're printing in those books!!! We knew him real well!

RONNY: Tell me about Marty Robbins...
GORDON: Marty Robbins was a character, he'd joke and laugh and carry on and pick at ya and stick his finger in your mouth, in your butt, or just anything else.....when you're RECORDING!!!!! He, he !!
The last session we did with him, he danced all around the studio on the instrumental, and came around to us, and stuck his finger in our butt, and he goosed you, or pick at ya, just any way he could to break you up!!! Marty was a funny guy in that he would do anything in this world to break you up, and then if you laughed, while the red light was on, he'd get mad at ya!!! He was funny. He was a character!!!! We loved him.

RONNY: What about Johnny Horton?
GORDON: Oh Johnny was a card. He was a nice guy, really a nice guy, real humble, extremely humble, he was very grateful for anything you did.

RONNY: Conway Twitty?
GORDON: We did his first big hit, "It's Only Make Believe". Conway was a dear person. Conway was a dear friend. Conway had fifty number one records and never acted like a star, never played the star part at all. Just a short time before he died I'd go out to the airport to pick up my wife, and Conway was down there getting his baggage, of course I went and spoke to him, he was glad to see me, "Hey Gordon, how you doin'?", always friendly. What other star that had fifty number one records could go and pick up their own baggage?? He just didn't play the star part! And he'd wear a cap and nobody recognized him, aint that funny? He was great, he was a sweet guy, a dear person, and I really hate that we lost him. He was a jewel.

RONNY: Before I forget, I wanna thank the people who set up this interview, Kittra and Bob Moore...
GORDON: Bob and I we have a business together in Nashville, we own some property in Nashville, Bob worked on those two to four sessions a day 25 years just like we did. They call it the "A Team", that was the people who was there, who made all the big hits for 25 years.

RONNY: One final, general question, Rock'n'Roll and Rockabilly Music has been around for 44 years now, and, as we approach the year 2000 it's comin' on stronger than ever, would you have thought back then, that this music would be coming back so strong, over 40 years later?
GORDON: I guess I wouldn't have, but I am not surprised, because it's a happy music, it makes everybody happy to listen to it, and I think that's the reason that it's lasted so long, don't you?

RONNY: Well, I have three kids, 8, 10 and 12 years old, and all they listen to is Rock'n'Roll music: Elvis, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Johnny Horton, Fats Domino, Ray Campi...


This concludes the interview part, and, again, I wanna thank Kittra and Bob Moore for setting up this interview, and thank Gordon Stoker for being so gracious and down to earth, this from a man whose voice can be heard on many hundreds of millions of records by the biggest legends who ever lived !!!! I guess Gordon "never played the star part" !! :-) :-) Gordon also comped us two tickets for the fabulous show: "The Original Tribute To Patsy Cline" featuring The Jordanaires and Sharon Haynes as Patsy Cline, now playing at the Gold Coast here in Las Vegas. The Jordanaires are: Gordon Stoker, Neil Matthews, Ray Walker and Duane West. I don't have to tell you that this is a show you DON'T wanna miss!!! The Jordanaires sing many of the hits they were on, and their voices have not lost any of the magic. Sharon Haynes not only looks like Patsy Cline, but also sounds very much like Patsy. An exciting moving experience this was!! When in Las Vegas be sure to include this in your schedule!


Always Rollin' The Rock,
Rockin' Ronny Weiser,
The Rockabilly Rebel Westerner from Las Vegas, Nevada,
The Wild Wild West
E-Mail Ronny at Rollin' Rock




ROCKIN' RONNY WEISER - See his on-site Rockabilly HOF web page