October 29, 1956: R&B Bandleader Louis Jordan Records "Salt Pork, West Virginia"

Oct 29, 2019

Portrait of Louis Jordan, New York, N.Y., ca. July 1946
Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / William P. Gottlieb

On October 29, 1956, the legendary R&B bandleader Louis Jordan recorded his third and final version of one of the most unusual songs about West Virginia. In “Salt Pork, West Virginia,” Jordan calls out a series of large cities as a railroad conductor would do. After reciting the names of cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Houston, Jordan concludes with, ‘‘I think I’ll go on home now; Bluefield, my Salt Pork, West Virginia.’’

The song was inspired by one of Jordan’s visits to southern West Virginia. Composed in 1945, it recalls a real-life encounter with a Bluefield justice of the peace, ‘‘Squire’’ McNeal. Jordan had been arrested in Bluefield for speeding and suspicion of drunk driving. During a hearing, Jordan’s sense of humor charmed McNeal, who released Jordan. After McNeal refused the offer of a meal as a “thank you,” Jordan and his bandmates immortalized the justice with this song.