Jordanmania! — Jordan Brothers exhibit opens Nov. 22

By on November 18, 2015

 

They entertained fans from all over the world, and now they will have an exhibit space dedicated to them in a Pennsylvania museum.

They are the Jordan Brothers from Frackville, and no doubt, many remember their hit singles and high-energy live act.

The Jordan Brothers Legacy Room, which opens Sunday, Nov. 22, in the Frackville Borough Complex, traces the history of the band and features memorabilia from their years of performing.

A year and a half in the making, the exhibit was coordinated by Eddie Collins, Schuylkill County’s own veteran entertainer, radio personality, and vice president of Keystone Record Collector’s in

Lancaster, who oversaw all aspects with the brothers. For nearly 40 years, Collins has also been the band’s historian and chief spokesman, documenting the group’s history as well as organizing and producing many events honoring them. He still remembers the first time he heard their music.

“It was November 1966, I was eight years old, and my Uncle Jim Drucker, a disc jockey at the time at WYNS in Lehighton placed a 45 rpm record on his Magnavox stereo and said ‘Listen to this record produced by my buddy Billy Carlucci.’ The tune was “Gimme Some Lovin” by The Jordan Brothers. My young ears heard the intensity of that song, and from that very day, I became a disciple of those four guys from Frackville.”

First beginning as a Halloween spoof in 1954 and billed as The Four Jordans — brothers Frank (vocals/sax), Joe (vocals/accordion), Bob (drums) and father Angelo (upright bass) — found themselves on Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour two years later.

By 1958, they released their first 45 single “Send Me Your Picture,” on their own Jordan label.

 

LR20151119_JordanBros2

 

Seeing potential in the young stars, Pottsville disc jockey Len Graham shopped the single to major labels, where it was picked up by Jamie Records. This resulted in a four-year contract and five singles under this label.

By 1963, 15-year-old brother Lewie joined the band on guitar and vocals, with their recordings continuing on many major and indie labels. They also had releases internationally in England, Canada, and Mexico on the London, Phillips, and Reo labels.

As Schuylkill County’s first regional act to gain national fame, the boys appeared on Dick Clark’s “Caravan Of Stars” in 1959 and on “Alan Freed’s Rock & Roll Show” two years later. Television stints included three “American Bandstand” appearances and Jerry Blavat’s “Discophonic Scene,” among countless others.

Here in Lancaster County, the group played in venues all across the area in the 1960s and 70s, including numerous gigs at the old Lititz Rec Center, the Brickerville Fire Hall, and the Paul E. Beck band shell in Lititz Springs Park; with “Smoke on the Water” being one of the more popular tunes in this area. Other hits by the siblings included “Things I Didn’t Say,” We’ll Make It,” “Beach Party” and many others.

But it was their version of “Gimme Some Lovin’” that carries an especially interesting back story.

At the height of “Jordanmania” in 1966, the band was signed to Phillips Records. Producers Billy Carl and Joe Venneri, while on a trip to the United Kingdom, found the song “Gimme Some Lovin’” in a stack of records which were given to them. Recorded by the then unknown Spencer Davis Group, and released in April 1966 in the United Kingdom, it was this version that The Jordan Brothers used as a model for their release in October 1966, receiving immediate airplay in major markets including Chicago, Pittsburgh, and New York.

Meanwhile, the Spencer Davis Group attempted to capture an American audience by reworking their initial release; and in November 1966, their new version of “Gimme Some Lovin’” was riding the top 40 charts alongside the single released by the boys from Frackville.

Unforeseen all the while was a competition of radio programmers spinning both records, with the label execs at Phillips guaranteeing to back the Jordan’s version. As fate would have it, the band would have to drop their six-night-a-week schedule of local gigs in support of this record. With a loyal fan base at stake and families at home, they decided to not tour nationally in support of this single.

Phillips, in return, backed off the hit which charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 126 on Jan. 28, 1967, while the Spencer Davis Group’s version climbed to No. 7 in February of that same year.

Despite this setback, the brothers continued to record singles and play live shows regionally.

For Lititz native and 1977 Warwick High School grad Gary Miles, recalling these shows brings back happy memories.

“It was probably around 1976 or 1977. At that time, the Jordan Brothers had a regular gig at OMPH (Our Mother of Perpetual Help) in Ephrata,” Miles said. “I went to all of their shows because there was a girl from Ephrata I was trying to impress; but what impressed me about the Jordan Brothers was their cover of John Lennon’s ‘Cold Turkey.’”

They played it like a power anthem. Fists were fully extended toward the ceiling for the chorus. To this day, I associate that song with the Jordans more than the Plastic Ono Band.”

Band member Frank Jordan, 73, now of Bethel Township, Berks County, also has fond memories of playing in the Lititz area.

“It was a brand new breath of air playing in the Lititz area,” Frank recalls. “By that time, we were including classic rock into our act. The changes we made over the span of 35-plus years wasn’t normal. Most bands just fade out, but we adapted to the changing trends in music. Jerry Kiralfy was managing the Lititz Rec Center at that time. What a nice man he was; we had a great rapport with him.”

 

The Jordan Brothers, who hailed from Frackville, were pretty clean cut in the 1950s, but when the 1960s rolled around, they let their hair down a bit. (Photos courtesy of Eddie Collins)

The Jordan Brothers, who hailed from Frackville, were pretty clean cut in the 1950s, but when the
1960s rolled around, they let their hair down a bit. (Photos courtesy of Eddie Collins)

 

When asked what special piece from the exhibit’s collection means the most to him, Frank’s memories turn to his late brother and band mate.

“There’s a pair of drum sticks owned by my late brother Bob,” he noted. “These were used back in the 1980s when we were playing night clubs. The sticks are well worn from the many concerts we played.”

As the exhibit readies for its opening to the public this month, Collins reflects on why this historical space is so important to rock and roll fans both near and far.

“The room tells its own story — the story of four kids from the Coal Region who were there at the onset of rock ‘n’ roll’s infancy, transcending through almost four decades of music, changes in social culture, riding the wave of stardom, and through it all remained humble human beings,” Collins said. “Wherever they traveled regionally or across the country, when people or the press asked them where they hailed from, they always said ever proudly Frackville, PA. Their trait was always being approachable, and ever loyal to their fans. This was their formula for success, and indeed quite admirable.”

Cory Van Brookhoven is a correspondent for the Record Express. He welcomes your comments and questions at coryvb@hotmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *