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country singer

Jimmie Rodgers (country singer)

Jimmie Rodgers (September 8, 1897May 26, 1933), an early purveyor of Delta blues, known as "The Singing Brakeman" and "America's Blue Yodeler", was probably the first country music superstar and pioneer, a status that resulted in another commonly used nickname, "The Father of Country Music".

Early years

James Charles Rodgers' traditional birthplace is usually given as Meridian, Mississippi. However, in documents signed by Rodgers' later in life, he gave his birthplace as "Geiger, Alabama," the home of his paternal grandparents. The youngest of three sons, his mother died when he was very young, and Rodgers spent the next few years living with various relatives in southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama, near the town of Geiger. He eventually returned home to live with his father, Aaron Rodgers, a foreman on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, who had settled with a new wife in Meridian.

Performing career

Jimmie's affinity for entertaining came at an early age, and the lure of the road was irresistible to him. By age 13, he had twice organized and begun traveling shows, only to be brought home by his father. Mr. Rodgers found Jimmie his first job working on the railroad, as a waterboy. This is where he learned the cries and moans of the blues and was taught to pick and strum by the rail workers and the hoboes. A few years later, he became brakeman on the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, a position secured by his oldest brother, Walter, a conductor on the line running between Meridian and New Orleans.

In 1924 at the age of 27, Jimmie contracted tuberculosis. The disease temporarily ended his railroad career, but, at the same time, gave him the chance to get back to his first love, entertainment. He organized a traveling road show and performed across the southeast until, once again, he was forced home after a cyclone destroyed his tent. He returned to railroad work as a brakeman on the east coast of Florida at Miami, but eventually his illness cost him his job. He relocated to Tucson, Arizona and was employed as a switchman by the Southern Pacific. The job lasted less than a year, and the Rodgers family (which by then included wife Carrie and daughter Anita) had settled back in Meridian by early 1927.

Success

Rodgers decided to travel to Asheville, North Carolina, later that same year. On April 18, at 9:30 p.m., Jimmie and Otis Kuykendall performed for the first time on WWNC, Asheville’s first radio station. A few months later Jimmie recruited a group from Tennessee called the Tenneva Ramblers and secured a weekly slot on the station as the Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers.

The Tenneva Ramblers originally hailed from Bristol, Tennessee, and in late July 1927, Rodgers’ bandmates got word that Ralph Peer, a representative of the Victor Talking Machine Company, was coming to Bristol to audition and record area musicians. Rodgers and the group arrived in Bristol on August 3, 1927. Later that same day, they auditioned for Peer in an empty warehouse. Peer agreed to record them the next day. That night, as the band discussed how they would be billed on the record, an argument ensued and the band broke up and Rodgers arrived at the recording session alone. On Wednesday, August 4, 1927, Jimmie Rodgers completed his first session for Victor. It lasted from 2:00 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. and yielded two songs: "The Soldier's Sweetheart" and "Sleep, Baby, Sleep". For the test recordings, Rodgers received $100.

The recordings were released on October 7, 1927, to modest success. In November; Rodgers, determined more than ever to make it in entertainment, headed to New York City in an effort to arrange another session with Peer. Peer agreed to record him again, and the two met in Philadelphia before traveling to Camden, New Jersey, to the Victor studios. Four songs made it out of this session, including "Blue Yodel", better known as "T for Texas". In the next two years, this recording sold nearly half a million copies, which was impressive enough to rocket Rodgers into stardom. After this, he got to determine when Peer and Victor would record him, and he sold out shows whenever and wherever he played.

In the next few years, Rodgers was very busy. He did a movie short for Columbia Pictures, The Singing Brakeman, and made various recordings across the country. He toured with humorist Will Rogers as part of a Red Cross tour across the Midwest. On July 16, 1930, he recorded "Blue Yodel No. 9" with jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, whose wife, Lillian, played piano on the recording.

Final years

Rodgers's next-to-last recordings were made in August 1932 in Camden and it was clear that tuberculosis was getting the better of him. He had given up touring by that time but did have a weekly radio show in San Antonio, Texas, where he had relocated when "T for Texas" became a hit. Earnings from his recordings enabled Rodgers to build a large house for his family in Kerrville, Texas, a location chosen partly for health reasons. But it was not in Rodgers' make-up to stay still, and his constant touring and recording schedule only hurt his chances of recovering from TB.

With the country in the grip of the Depression, the practice of making field recordings was quickly fading, so in May 1933, Rodgers traveled again to New York City for a group of sessions beginning May 17, 1933. He started these sessions recording alone and completed four songs on the first day. When he returned to the studio after a day’s rest, he had to record sitting down and soon retreated to his hotel in hopes of regaining enough energy to finish the songs he had been rehearsing. The recording engineer hired two session musicians to help Rodgers when he came back to the studio a few days later. Together they recorded a few songs, including "Mississippi Delta Blues". For his last song of the session, however, Jimmie chose to perform alone, and as a matching bookend to his career, recorded "Years Ago" by himself.

Jimmie Rodgers died two days later on May 26, 1933 from a lung hemorrhage. He was 35 years old.

Legacy

When the Country Music Hall of Fame was established in 1961, Rodgers was one of the first three (with Fred Rose and Hank Williams) to be inducted. Rogers was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and, as an early influence, to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. "Blue Yodel No. 9" was selected as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Rodgers was ranked #33 on CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music in 2003.

Since 1953, Meridian's Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival has been held annually during May to honor the anniversary of Rodgers' death. The first festival was on May 26, 1953.

In 1969, country singer Merle Haggard released Same Train, A Different Time: Merle Haggard Sings The Great Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers. Haggard also covered "No Hard Times" and "T.B. Blues" on his best-selling live albums "Okie From Muskogee" (1969) and "Fightin' Side of Me" (1970). "Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas)" was covered by Lynyrd Skynyrd on their live One More from the Road album.

On May 24, 1978, the United States Postal Service issued a 13-cent commemorative stamp honoring Rodgers, the first in its long-running Performing Arts Series. The stamp was designed by Jim Sharpe (who did several others in this series), who depicted him with brakeman's outfit and guitar, giving his "two thumbs up", along with a locomotive in silhouette in the background.

Rodgers' legacy and influence is not limited to country music. He was influential to Ozark poet Frank Stanford, who composed a series of "blue yodel" poems, and a number of blues artists, among them Chester Arthur Burnett, better known as Howlin' Wolf.

Historic marker

Meridian, Mississippi, as the birthplace of Jimmy Rodgers, was the first site outside the Mississippi Delta to receive a Mississippi Blues Trail designation. The ceremony was held at the Singing Brakeman Park located on Front Street and emphasized the importance of Rodgers to the development of the blues in Mississippi. Rodgers was known as the "Singing Brakeman" and the train was influential in the development of the blues both in the Mississippi Delta and throughout the state.

Recordings

Title Record # Recording date Recording location
“The Soldier’s Sweetheart” Victor 20864 August 4, 1927 Bristol, Tennessee
“Sleep, Baby, Sleep” Victor 20864 August 4, 1927 Bristol, Tennessee
“Ben Dewberry’s Final Run” Victor 21245 November 30, 1927 Camden, New Jersey
“Mother Was a Lady (If Brother Jack Were Here) ” Victor 21433 November 30, 1927 Camden, New Jersey
Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas) Victor 21142 November 30, 1927 Camden, New Jersey
“Away Out on the Mountain” Victor 21142 November 30, 1927 Camden, New Jersey
“Dear Old Sunny South by the Sea” Victor 21574 February 14, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“Treasures Untold” Victor 21433 February 14, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“The Brakeman’s Blues” Victor 21291 February 14, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“The Sailor’s Plea” Victor 40054 February 14, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
In the Jailhouse Now Victor 21245 February 15, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“Blue Yodel No. 2 (My Lovin’ Gal, Lucille) ” Victor 21291 February 15, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“Memphis Yodel” Victor 21636 February 15, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“Blue Yodel No. 3” Victor 21531 February 15, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“My Old Pal” Victor 21757 June 12, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“My Little Old Home Down in New Orleans” Victor 21574 June 12, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“You and My Old Guitar” Victor 40072 June 12, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“Daddy and Home” Victor 21757 June 12, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“My Little Lady” Victor 40072 June 12, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“Lullaby Yodel” Victor 21636 June 12, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“Never No Mo’ Blues” Victor 21531 June 12, 1928 Camden, New Jersey
“My Carolina Sunshine Girl” Victor 40096 October 20, 1928 Atlanta, Georgia
“Blue Yodel No. 4 (California Blues) ” Victor 40014 October 20, 1928 Atlanta, Georgia
“Waiting for a Train” Victor 40014 October 22, 1928 Atlanta, Georgia
“I’m Lonely and Blue” Victor 40054 October 22, 1928 Atlanta, Georgia
“Desert Blues” Victor 40096 February 21, 1929 New York, New York
“Any Old Time” Victor 22488 February 21, 1929 New York, New York
“Blue Yodel No. 5” Victor 22072 February 23, 1929 New York, New York
“High Powered Mama” Victor 22523 February 23, 1929 New York, New York
“I’m Sorry We Met” Victor 22072 February 23, 1929 New York, New York
“Everybody Does It in Hawaii” Victor 22143 August 8, 1929 Dallas, Texas
“Tuck Away My Lonesome Blues” Victor 22220 August 8, 1929 Dallas, Texas
“Train Whistle Blues” Victor 22379 August 8, 1929 Dallas, Texas
“Jimmie’s Texas Blues” Victor 22379 August 10, 1929 Dallas, Texas
“Frankie and Johnnie” Victor 22143 August 10, 1929 Dallas, Texas
“Whisper Your Mother’s Name” Victor 22319 October 22, 1929 Dallas, Texas
“The Land of My Boyhood Dreams” Victor 22811 October 22, 1929 Dallas, Texas
“Blue Yodel No. 6” Victor 22271 October 22, 1929 Dallas, Texas
“Yodelling Cowboy” Victor 22271 October 22, 1929 Dallas, Texas
“My Rough and Rowdy Ways” Victor 22220 October 22, 1929 Dallas, Texas
“I’ve Ranged, I’ve Roamed and I’ve Travelled” Bluebird 5892 October 22, 1929 Dallas, Texas
“Hobo Bill’s Last Ride” Victor 22241 November 13, 1929 New Orleans, Louisiana
“Mississippi River Blues” Victor 23535 November 25, 1929 Atlanta, Georgia
“Nobody Knows But Me” Victor 23518 November 25, 1929 Atlanta, Georgia
“Anniversary Blue Yodel (Blue Yodel No. 7) ” Victor 22488 November 26, 1929 Atlanta, Georgia
“She Was Happy Till She Met You” Victor 23681 November 26, 1929 Atlanta, Georgia
“Blue Yodel No.11” Victor 23796 November 27, 1929 Atlanta, Georgia
“A Drunkard’s Child” Victor 22319 November 28, 1929 Atlanta, Georgia
“That’s Why I’m Blue” Victor 22421 November 28, 1929 Atlanta, Georgia
“Why Did You Give Me Your Love?” Bluebird 5892 November 28, 1929 Atlanta, Georgia
“My Blue-Eyed Jane” Victor 23549 June 30, 1930 Los Angeles, California
“Why Should I Be Lonely?” Victor 23609 June 30, 1930 Los Angeles, California
“Moonlight and Skies” Victor 23574 June 30, 1930 Los Angeles, California
“Pistol Packin’ Papa” Victor 22554 July 1, 1930 Los Angeles, California
“Take Me Back Again” Bluebird 7600 July 2, 1930 Los Angeles, California
“Those Gambler’s Blues” Victor 22554 July 5, 1930 Los Angeles, California
“I’m Lonesome Too” Victor 23564 July 7, 1930 Los Angeles, California
“The One Rose (That’s Left in My Heart) ” Bluebird 7280 July 7, 1930 Los Angeles, California
“For the Sake of Days Gone By” Victor 23651 July 9, 1930 Los Angeles, California
“Jimmie’s Mean Mama Blues” Victor 23503 July 10, 1930 Los Angeles, California
“The Mystery of Number Five” Victor 23518 July 11, 1930 Los Angeles, California
Blue Yodel No. 8 (Mule Skinner Blues) Victor 23503 July 11, 1930 Los Angeles, California
“In the Jailhouse Now, No. 2” Victor 22523 July 12, 1930 Los Angeles, California
Standing on the Corner (Blue Yodel no. 9) Victor 23580 July 16, 1930 Los Angeles, California
“T.B. Blues” Victor 23535 January 31, 1931 San Antonio, Texas
“Travellin’ Blues” Victor 23564 January 31, 1931 San Antonio, Texas
“Jimmie the Kid” Victor 23549 January 31, 1931 San Antonio, Texas
“Why There’s a Tear in My Eye” Bluebird 6698 June 10, 1931 Louisville, Kentucky
“The Wonderful City” Bluebird 6810 June 10, 1931 Louisville, Kentucky
“Let Me Be Your Sidetrack” Victor 23621 June 11, 1931 Louisville, Kentucky
“Jimmie Rodgers Visits the Carter Family” Victor 23574 June 12, 1931 Louisville, Kentucky
“The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers in Texas” Bluebird 6762 June 12, 1931 Louisville, Kentucky
“When the Cactus Is in Bloom” Victor 23636 June 13, 1931 Louisville, Kentucky
“Gambling Polka Dot Blues” Victor 23636 June 15, 1931 Louisville, Kentucky
“Looking for a New Mama” Victor 23580 June 15, 1931 Louisville, Kentucky
“What’s It?” Victor 23609 June 16, 1931 Louisville, Kentucky
“My Good Gal’s Gone - Blues” Bluebird 5942 June 16, 1931 Louisville, Kentucky
“Southern Cannon-Ball” Victor 23811 June 17, 1931 Louisville, Kentucky
“Roll Along, Kentucky Moon” Victor 23651 February 2, 1932 Dallas, Texas
“Hobo’s Meditation” Victor 23711 February 3, 1932 Dallas, Texas
“My Time Ain’t Long” Victor 23669 February 4, 1932 Dallas, Texas
“Ninety-Nine Years Blues” Victor 23669 February 4, 1932 Dallas, Texas
“Mississippi Moon” Victor 23696 February 4, 1932 Dallas, Texas
“Down the Old Road to Home” Victor 23711 February 5, 1932 Dallas, Texas
“Blue Yodel No. 10” Victor 23696 February 6, 1932 Dallas, Texas
“Home Call” Victor 23681 February 6, 1932 Dallas, Texas
“Mother, the Queen of My Heart” Victor 23721 August 11, 1932 Camden, New Jersey
“Rock All Our Babies to Sleep” Victor 23721 August 11, 1932 Camden, New Jersey
“Whippin’ That Old T.B.” Victor 23751 August 11, 1932 Camden, New Jersey
“No Hard Times” Victor 23751 August 15, 1932 Camden, New Jersey
“Long Tall Mama Blues” Victor 23766 August 15, 1932 Camden, New Jersey
“Peach-Pickin’ Time Down in Georgia” Victor 23781 August 15, 1932 Camden, New Jersey
“Gambling Barroom Blues” Victor 23766 August 15, 1932 Camden, New Jersey
“I’ve Only Loved Three Women” Bluebird 6810 August 15, 1932 Camden, New Jersey
“In the Hills of Tennessee” Victor 23736 August 29, 1932 New York, New York
“Prairie Lullaby” Victor 23781 August 29, 1932 New York, New York
“Miss the Mississippi and You” Victor 23736 August 29, 1932 New York, New York
“Sweet Mama Hurry Home (or I’ll Be Gone) ” Victor 23796 August 29, 1932 New York, New York
“Blue Yodel No. 12” Victor 24456 May 17, 1933 New York, New York
“The Cowhand’s Last Ride” Victor 24456 May 17, 1933 New York, New York
“I’m Free (From the Chain Gang Now) ” Victor 23830 May 17, 1933 New York, New York
“Dreaming With Tears in My Eyes” Bluebird 7600 May 18, 1933 New York, New York
“Yodeling My Way Back Home” Bluebird 7280 May 18, 1933 New York, New York
“Jimmie Rodger’s Last Blue Yodel” Bluebird 5281 May 18, 1933 New York, New York
“The Yodelling Ranger” Victor 23830 May 20, 1933 New York, New York
“Old Pal of My Heart” Victor 23816 May 20, 1933 New York, New York
“Old Love Letters (Bring Memories of You) ” Victor 23840 May 24, 1933 New York, New York
“Mississippi Delta Blues” Victor 23816 May 24, 1933 New York, New York
“Somewhere Down Below the Dixon Line” Victor 23840 May 24, 1933 New York, New York
“Years Ago” Bluebird 5281 May 24, 1933 New York, New York

Footnotes

References

  • Porterfield, Nolan. (1998). "Jimmie Rodgers". The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kinsgbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 453-5. ISBN 0195116712 ISBN 0195176081

External links

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