Last night I was at a bar in Austin, flipping through the jukebox when a particular song title caught my eye. It was "Salt Pork, West Virginia" by Louis Jordan. As my knowledge of jazz doesn't venture far beyond Miles, Coltrane and Monk, I was not familiar with Louis Jordan, the song or Salt Pork, West Virginia.
Very quickly: Louis Jordan, born in Arkansas, was a pioneering jazz and blues musician popular from the '30s through early '50s. "Salt Pork, West Virginia," was recorded around 1951 just before the decline of Jordan's popularity. The song is about the narrator first avoiding the town of Salt Pork because that's where his baby lives, but quickly changing his mind. As it turns out, there is no Salt Pork, West Virginia, but in the last line of the song, Jordan calling out the names of cities like a train conductor hoots "Bluefield!" which was a hotbed for African-American jazz musicians at the time. Nevertheless, it was a fun discovery of a good song that reflects the state's role in black music throughout the first half of the century.