Jimmie Rodgers

5:45:06 PM

The new forms of music took many years to develop and did not arise overnight. The rhythm and blues and new country music sounds themselves took several years,while the new sounds of rock took even longer. This music would start in the hills and the open spaces of the country and blend with the current sounds of the time and the environments of its originators long before it would be classified as a new sound. Jimmie C. Rodgers Jimmie Rodgers was Born in Meridian, Mississippi, on September 8, 1897. and died in New York on May 26, 1933. He was the son of Aaron W. Rodgers, and Eliza Bozeman Rodgers. His mother died of tuberculosis when Jimmie was four years old: He grew up a sickly child. Jimmie Rodgers has often been called the father of modern country and western music, and in this case, he was also one of the fathers of rockabilly not a bad achievement for someone who lived a very brief life, in a relatively obscure area of the country. ::: He grew up surrounded by the sounds of country music, and the country Blues sounds of the Negro field workers singing of the pain and hardship of working in the fields. When he was a teenager he spent some time as a cowboy, but he quit to work on the railroad, his first real love. For nearly ten years, he was a brakeman on the railroad, spending both his free time and his work time entertaining his fellow railroad workers with his guitar and songs. His compositions reflected his environmental background, and stressed the hard times of work and the fun of play. ::: Jimmie was well known when he met Carrie Williams, whom he married on April 7, 1920. At the time of their marriage, he contracted pneumonia, from which he never really recovered. Somewhere along the line, he had also contracted tuberculosis, and by 1923, he was no longer fit for railroading. Since he and Carrie had a daughter by this time, they found it tough to survive. ::: Carrie worked in a store, while Jimmie tried entertaining as a black faced musician in a travelling medicine show. Later, he worked white face in a tent show, and managed to scrape together enough money to buy out the owners of the show. In 1925, the tent, and all the equipment was wiped out by a tornado. Jimmie turned, once again, to railroading. ::: With the help of a friend, he travelled to Asheville, North Carolina, to work as a city detective; his wife and daughter would join him later. He soon got bored, however, and formed a group with three instrumentalists Jack Pierce, on guitar; Jack Grant, on mandolin, and banjo; Claude Grant, on tenor banjo, and Jimmie, on tenor banjo. He called the group The Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers. He worked locally with the group, and soon convinced them to go north on a summer tour, to Baltimore. He later changed his mind when he found out that Ralph Peer, who was with the Victor Recording Company, was holding auditions in Virginia. ::: For some reason, the band decided to dessert him, and convinced Ralph Peer to record them separately as the Tenneva Ramblers. Peer was not that anxious to record Jimmie, but Jimmie convinced him to record two songs, for which Jimmie received twenty dollars. The recorded songs were "The Soldiers Sweetheart" and "Sleep Baby Sleep." After the recording, Jimmie moved on to Washington, D.C., where he worked odd jobs, basically forgetting about the recording business, for the time being.. ::: However, having heard word of the moderate success of his recordings, he decided to further his musical career. He went to New York, to convince Peer to let him record more songs. In November of 1927, Victor released "Away Out on the Mountain" and a song which was temporarily called "T For Texas" (complete with the Jimmie Rodgers yodel). This song was later released as "Blue Yodel No. 1." The concept of using the "Blue Yodel" titles would soon expand to include many tunes. Within six months, Jimmie was receiving upwards of $2000 a month in royalties. ::: In 1928, he recorded "Blue Yodel No. 2 (My Loving Girl Lucille)," "Blue Yodel No. 3 (The Evening Sun Yodel)," "Memphis Yodel," "My Little Home Town Down In New Orleans," and "Ben Dewberry's Final Ride." Almost every one of them sold a million copies within a short period of time, basically to the rural farmers of the day. Crowds began to follow Jimmie wherever he was playing, but it was the rural farmers and workers who purchased the records and made him successful. As he continued to tour the country, the crowds began to get larger and larger, and his songs became more and more successful. By 1933, he would sell close to 20 million records. ::: In 1928, the record company experimented with four songs and a corny backing of guitar, steel guitar, cornet, clarinet, and string bass. One of the songs to come out of this session was "Waiting For A Train," one of his most famous and most popular songs. ::: Jimmie began to appear on many radio programs, and in many movie shorts. With the money just pouring in, he moved his family to Kerrville, Texas. Unfortunately, he spent his money as quickly as he earned it, helping anyone along the way who showed any kind of need. ::: In 1929, Jimmie began to capture the Hawaiian-style music phase sweeping the country by including steel guitar, as well as the ukulele in many of his recordings, This certainly helped to sell more recordings. In September of that year, he made his only film, The Singing Brakeman, a Columbia-Victor short lasting about 10 minutes. ::: In the winter of 1932, with his health beginning to deteriorate, he sold his meagre holdings in Kerrville, and moved to San Antonio to receive the proper medical treatment for his ailment. Soon the bills began to pile up and he decided, that since he felt better, he would do an enormous amount of recordings, so he headed north. Unfortunately, his improved health was only temporary. In New York, his health soon deteriorated further, and he was constantly resting in his Cadillac, and being propped up in the recording studio. His original intention was to record 24 songs, but this number was soon changed to 12, the last of which was completed on May 24. He spent his last days in the Taft Hotel, in New York City. On May 25, he went to Coney Island with his private nurse, but he began to hemorrhage. He was put to bed in his room, where he went into a comma, from which he never regained consciousness . He died early on May 26, at the age of 35. ::: In all, he recorded a total of 113 songs, during a period of three years, all of which may still be available on RCA Records. He had a greater influence on future musicians, up to the advent of Elvis, than any other singer in history, and many of his songs are still recorded today. His unique method of playing the guitar using half tones, and picking the base notes was similar to the methods of the Carter Family. To this day every musician or music lover has somehow been touched by the hand of Jimmie Rodgers, his music, his songs, or his style of playing.



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