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Making Music by Mail-Order

April 16, 1993|JEFF PRUGH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He's a modern-day "Music Man," a purveyor of songs that in many cases are thoroughly unmodern.

Step to the rear of the class, Prof. Harold Hill, and pack up those 76 trombones. The baton has been passed to a thirtysomething fellow named Dan Jordan.

His stock-in-trade is recorded a cappella music that he peddles around the world from his Glendale residence. He also sings lead in barbershop and doo-wop quartets, has even coached a heavy-metal band that plays Christian music and has sung on TV ("The Simpsons," "Cheers," "Night Court" and Neil Diamond's Christmas special, among others) when he's not performing in or judging competitive events.

"Dan is Mr. Vocal Music when it comes to bridging its various subcultures and the many people who belong to them," says Roger Clark of San Francisco, marketing director of the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival, whose Southern California regional competition took place April 3 in Hermosa Beach. "He's not stuck only in old barbershop or doo-wop songs. He's very forward-thinking about educating the public that a cappella bridges all forms of music."

As Jordan himself says simply: "Music is something that gives you back tenfold what you put into it."

His mail-order dealership called the Hall of Records distributes recordings of a cappella music from barbershop to doo-wop, from pop to gospel, from New Wave to old R & B. His catalogues list selections by familiar groups such as Manhattan Transfer, Britain's The King's Singers and Mannheim Steamroller.

But the pages also brim with more obscure and down-home samplings of barbershop titles and groups:

* "Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long" by the Classic Collection.

* "Oh, You Beautiful Doll" by the Mixed Metafour (two men, two women).

* "Where the Black-Eyed Susans Grow" by the Cracker Jills.

* "You'll Have to Put a Nightie on Aphrodite" by the Cincinnati Kids.

* "I Didn't Mean to Make You Die" by the Chordiac Arrest.

Now meet Dan Jordan, the vocalist.

On Fridays through Tuesdays, he drives to work at Disneyland to sing lead in a professional barbershop quartet best known as the Dapper Dans but renamed the Toon Tones after the park's newest attraction, Toon Town.

Another of his groups, the 139th Street Quartet, has added words and vocal harmony to the mostly instrumental "Maple Leaf Rag," a 1920s Scott Joplin hit whose lyrics included:

"Go away, man; I'll hypnotize the nation, shake the Earth's foundation with the Maple Leaf Rag."

Or you might hear him in Danny and the Doo-Wops, singing vintage songs such as "Blue Moon" by the Marcels (1961), "Since I Don't Have You" by the Skyliners (1959) and "I Wonder Why" by Dion and the Belmonts (1958).

As if that weren't enough, Jordan met his wife, Barbara, through barbershopping. She now sings in the 130-member Verdugo Hills Showtime Chorus, which will compete in a Sweet Adelines International regional event this weekend in Bakersfield.

Like her husband, Barbara Jordan grew up a "barbershop brat" and appreciates all forms of music, but prefers "music where you can hear the words" to the hard rock she heard at concerts as a youngster.

"I don't think a wailing guitar gives you stress relief," she says. "It adds to stress."

Music has enriched his life, Dan Jordan says, since he was 14 and attended Burbank High School. He says his collection of nearly 1,000 recordings ranges from Homer and Jethro to Hammer.

He got hooked on barbershopping, he says, when a teacher played a reel-to-reel tape of a radio performance by a quartet called the Confederates.

"When they sang 'The 12th Street Rag,' " he recalls, "I said, 'Man, that's cool!' "

A cappella choral singers, Jordan says, often aspire to perform in a quartet because it's what he calls "the ultimate expression of our art."

In a large group, he says, "somebody might sing flat and ruin it for everyone else. But in a quartet, you're the only one who sings your part. Now it's up to you. And when the four of you hear your own harmony, it takes away your cares of the day. You don't think of the car payment that's late or that you forgot to pick up a gallon of milk on the way home."

Jordan concedes, too, that music might not have been his calling had it not been for yet another barbershop quartet that etched a lasting impression during his childhood.

That quartet, he says, was the Buffalo Bills, appearing in a 1962 motion picture called (naturally) "The Music Man."

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