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Jimmie Rodgers (country singer)

For the singer of "Honeycomb", see Jimmie Rodgers (pop singer).

Jimmie Rodgers (September 8, 1897 - May 26, 1933) -- James Charles "Jimmie" Rodgers was the first country music superstar. Rodgers, known as The Singing Brakeman and The Blue Yodeler, was born in Pine Springs, Mississippi but considered his hometown to be Meridian, Mississippi, and spent most of his early life from boyhood accompanying his father on railroad jobs. He eventually became a railroad brakeman, an extremely dangerous and highly skilled job. In the days before air brakes the brakeman had to stop the train by running on top of the moving train from car to car setting mechanical brakes on each.

Tuberculosis forced him to leave the railroad and he undertook all sorts of work, ranging from police detective to blackface performer before answering an advertisement from Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company to audition as a performing artist. This audition in Bristol, Tennessee, on August 4, 1927 (two days after the Carter Family answered the same ad and recorded in the same hall) led to Rodgers' phenomenally successful recording career.

His songs, most of which he wrote himself, were typically either sentimental songs about home, family and sweethearts, or tough takes on the lives of hoboes, "rounders", and his beloved railroads and railroaders, on his own hard life and happy marriage.

A round dozen of his songs bore the generic title "Blue Yodel" with a number. The first "Blue Yodel" is better known from its refrain, "T for Texas, T for Tennessee". Fundamentally, Rodgers was a white blues singer, singing traditional blues lyrics and accompanying himself on guitar and yodel, which was nothing like classic Swiss yodeling. His yodelling was really vocalized falsetto blues licks, providing obbligatos and choruses that in other blues performances would have been provided by a lead instrument.

Notable Rodgers titles include "Waiting for a Train", "In the Jailhouse Now", "Jimmie the Kid", "Miss the Mississippi and You", "Looking for a New Mama", Jimmie's Mean Mama Blues", and "Train Whistle Blues". The 113 songs he recorded have hardly ever been out of print. His musical career lasted only six years. He died from tuberculosis in 1933 in the Taft Hotel, New York at age 35.

His last recordings were made in Manhattan less than a week before his death. He had been bedridden for several years before this last session and had to rest on a cot between takes.

Quotations

T for Texas, T for Tennessee,
T for Texas, T for Tennessee,
T for Thelma, that gal made a wreck out of me.
Gonna buy me a pistol, long as I am tall,
Buy me a pistol, long as I am tall,
Gonna shoot po' Thelma, just to see her jump and fall.
"Blue Yodel"
I'll tell you a story 'bout Jimmie the Kid
He's a brakeman you all know
He was born in Mississippi way down south
And he flagged on the T&NO
He yodelled to fame on the Boston Maine, the Wabash and the TP
From the old Grand Trunk and the Cotton Belt, he yodelled on the Santa Fee
"Jimmie the Kid" (the lyrics name 16 railroads in all)

External Link

  • Jimmie Rodgers, the father of country music http://www.jimmierodgers.com/



Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55