Long before YOLO was a thing, Louis Jordan declared:
Hey, everybody, let's have some fun
You only live but once and when you're dead you're done
So let the good times roll
Jordan specialized in party tunes, and this one caught on when he released it with his group the Tympany Five in 1946, a year after World War II ended.
A New Orleans singer named Sam Theard wrote this song with Jordan. It's the only hit song to his credit, although he wrote a song called "Spo-De-o-Dee" that was a precursor to the Stick McGhee hit "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee
," and he also wrote a song called "Rock Around the Clock" years before Bill Haley recorded his song with that title
Louis Jordan is not listed on the official credits of "Let The Good Times Roll" - his wife Fleecie Moore is. Jordan put her name on it to get better publishing terms, something he also did with "Caldonia."
Jordan was known as a saxophone player, but this song is driven by his singing - he didn't take a solo on the track.
In 1956, Shirley & Lee (Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee) had a hit with a song of the same title
. Their song uses some of the same elements, but is a duet where they are looking forward to some time together.
Jordan would often improvise bits during this song, encouraging the audience to imbibe. He would sometimes pick out an audience member and use one of his favorite lines: "Have some vodka and do what you ought not ta."
Everyone was invited to this party: The song was an R&B hit, but also crossed over to white audiences. Promoted as "good time" music, his shows did very well with white crowds.
B.B. King often opened his concerts with the song, and recorded versions with Bobby Bland (in 1976) and Zucchero (in 1997). In 1999, he released a tribute album called Let The Good Times Roll The Music Of Louis Jordan.
Ray Charles, also a big fan of Jordan's, released it in 1959, taking it to #78 on the Hot 100. Other artists to record it include Rufus Thomas, Muddy Waters, Jerry Lee Lewis, Koko Taylor, Buckwheat Zydeco, Fishbone and Lynda Carter.
The zydeco musician Clarence Garlow released a song called "Bon Ton Roula" in 1950, the title a Cajun French translation of "Let The Good Times Roll."
Brad Paisley recorded this song in Las Vegas with B.B. King. He told AOL about the recording session with the blues legend: "We'd already cut the track, but B.B. shows up with (his guitar) Lucille and holds court. He just walks in the room and starts telling jokes. It reminded me so much of Jimmy Dickens. He was just such a charming man and he kind of started off a little less blue than he ended up, you know. He was abbreviating words and things and I said, 'You don't have to abbreviate with us. We can take it.' And then he went into the full blown jokes and he was so charming and it was an experience."
This was used in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers; the Fishbone version appears in the 1994 movie The Mask.