By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Grafton – Singer, songwriter and guitarist Bob Jordan developed a lifetime of musical expertise performing in the Grafton and Worcester areas. His accomplishments are acknowledged in “A Grafton Chronicle” co-authored by Jayne Carroll Wilson and Joe Kuras, and “The Jazz Worcester Real Book” by Chet Williamson.
After frequent visits in recent years to Rochester, N.Y., Jordan relocated to continue his musical and personal journeys.
“I lived in Grafton for the first 65 years of my life,” he noted. “I decided to move to Rochester because I really like the cultural life and wanted a new chapter in my life.”
Jordan’s new life chapter includes his marriage with Lisa Kleman. They returned to his hometown to get married July 9 at the Grafton American Legion Delisle-Goulet Post 92.
“It was a big musical party,” he said of the wedding celebration. “We had over 100 people and about 35 musicians.”
His self-taught music education began at age 3 with a ukulele. At age 6, he figured how to play a Magnus Chord Organ. He fiddled with a toy guitar for several years. Then at 14, he received a Silvertone guitar from the Sears, Roebuck & Company catalog as a Christmas gift.
“By the time I got a real guitar, it took me about a day and a half to learn how to play it,” he recalled. “I got a Chuck Berry record and tried to imitate it.”
Soon afterward, Jordan partnered with his musician friends Joe Baskowski and Jeff Barnard, who passed away in 2010. They formed a band called the Unknowns and performed Saturday afternoons at a youth canteen downstairs at the Baptist Church of Grafton.
Next, Jordan joined the band Jimmy & the Pigs. Their first gig was Halloween 1967 at the town’s junior high school. The band began recording in 1968. Shortly after, they got chance to meet their rock music idol.
“We started recording the first time we got our hands on a real tape recorder,” Jordan explained. “The bandmates who started the group, Michael Ustin and Greg Ryerson, sent a reel-to-reel tape of our first practice via mail to Frank Zappa.”
Zappa personally made a couple phone calls until he reached a band member, Jordan noted. The teenage bandmates accepted Zappa’s invitation to attend his show at a Boston nightclub known as the Psychedelic Supermarket. There, Jordan and his friends got advice from Zappa to pursue their musical dream.
“He shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said, ‘Never stop doing it,’” Jordan relayed. “This guy was not the Frank Zappa that everybody saw onstage – a mean-spirited, almost devilish character. He was so supportive of us kids. It really moved him that he had inspired us to start a band in his image.”
Jordan continued performing with bands throughout his teen years. Beginning in 1974, he was one of a seven-piece band called Last Chance Oasis. They rehearsed three times weekly, recorded their original songs, and regularly performed gigs.
After Last Chance Oasis disbanded in 1976, Jordan became a deejay for 16 years at WCUW 91.3 FM in Worcester. Meeting recording artists led to work as a booking agent. He began booking legendary experimentalist musician Eugene Chadbourne in 1980, and periodically performed alongside him from 1989 to 1992. Jordan started releasing his own music in 1993.
“From ‘93 to ‘99, I put out cassette albums and played primarily solo, although I’d always hook up with other musicians if I could,” he said. “Since moving to Rochester, I’ve been thrown back into the solo route because I don’t know that many musicians here yet.”
Throughout this summer, Jordan is performing 15 farmers’ markets gigs. He has compiled a repertoire of 138 tunes. Grateful for guidance he received several decades ago, Jordan offers advice to budding musicians.
“The idea of celebrity that seduces a lot of people into playing music is an unhealthy aspiration,” he said. “If you’re doing it to try to get famous, rich or adulation, then you’re going to be disappointed. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve gotten a certain amount of recognition – but that’s not the reason you want to do it. Playing music is its own reward.”
For more information about Jordan, visit bobjordanmusic.com.