Known as ‘The Father of Country Music’, Jimmie Rodgers was to become a legend as country moved from the early mountain/folk music to a more recognisable country sound.
James Charles Rodgers (1897-1933), known to all as ‘Jimmie’ Rodgers was among the first country music ‘superstars’ and was known mostly for his rhythmic yodelling. It was because of his particular style of singing, and the fact that he began his working life on the railroad, that Jimmie was also known as ‘The Blue Yodeller’ and ‘The Singing Brakeman’.In 1924 Rodger’s career on the railroad stopped when he contracted TB, but he carried on touring and singing. He returned to the railroad for a while but had to quit in 1927 as his illness got worse.
The same year saw the ‘Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers’ form and they secured a weekly slot on WWNC, a radio station in Asheville, N Carolina. Following a row with his fellow band members over a recording contract in July 1927, Jimmie went on to record songs on his own, culminating in the release of ‘Blue Yodel’ or ‘T for Texas’, which catapulted him to stardom.
Following extensive touring Jimmie Rodgers also found time to do a short movie for Columbia Pictures called ‘The Singing Brakeman’ as well as numerous recordings for the Victor label. On July 16, 1930, he recorded “Blue Yodel No. 9“ with jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, whose wife, Lillian, played piano on the recording.
Jimmie Rodgers’ last recording session was in New York in May, 1933. Suffering badly with TB he had to rest on a cot between each song. Two days after finishing the session he died of lung complications while staying at the Taft Hotel.
During his short 6 year career, Jimmie Rodgers recorded over 100 songs and cemented himself into country music history.
When the Country Music Hall of Fame was founded in 1961, Rodgers was one of the first three (the others were Fred Rose and Hank Williams) to be inducted.
Jimmie Rodgers was also elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and, as an early influence, he was also elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. His recording of “Blue Yodel No. 9“ was selected as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s ‘500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll’.
The early ‘blues’ sound that Jimmie Rodgers used has been cited as a major influence on many later artists such as Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley, Jerry LeeLewis and Tommy Duncan. Early material recorded by Gene Autry was heavily influenced by Rodgers’ blues records.
The 1982 film Honkytonk Man, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood was very loosely based on Rodgers’ life.