Knoxville's blues community lost its queen, sadly and unexpectedly, on Tuesday, May 22, when singer Sara Jordan died of cardiac arrest resulting from an asthma attack. She was only 45.
Well-known hereabouts for her resonant, powerful voice, Jordan sang blues, gospel and R&B in Knoxville-area clubs for the better part of 10 years. She performed and recorded with any number of well-traveled local musicians as well as fronting her own bands, including the Jordan Project and, more recently, Sara Jordan and the Leftovers.
"She didn't have some sweet, pretty little voice," says Leftovers' guitarist Labron Lazenby, the first musician to perform with Jordan when she began singing with instrumental accompaniment. "It moved you. It was like thunder."
Lazenby met Jordan more than eight years ago at what is now the blues club Sassy Ann's. The two became fast friends; they talked music until the wee hours of the morning, then went on a post-bar jaunt that took them to Denny's for breakfast and nearly ended in disaster when a policeman pulled them over.
"She was pretty mad about that," says Lazenby, chuckling a little despite being palpably shaken Tuesday afternoon. "She was a fireball of fun, a great person and a hell of a singer..."
"She was larger than life, too large for this town," says Sassy Ann's owner Vicki Vinson, who describes Jordan as her "best friend."
"I always measured the bands that played our club by Sara Jordan and the Leftovers."
A chronic asthma sufferer, Jordan had endured several hospitalizations related to previous attacks. Boyfriend Brett Spaulding called an ambulance at the onset of the Tuesday attack, but Jordan's heart failed on the way to St. Mary's Hospital. Paramedics were unable to resuscitate her.
"She was a woman full of love, wisdom and compassion," says Spaulding. "And she had no greater passion than sharing her music."
Truly, now, will Knoxville know the Blues.