Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: Jimmie Rodgers


Jimmie Rodgers

Major Works

Songs

  • Train Whistle Blues
  • Blue Yodel Number One (T is for Texas)
  • TB Blues
  • In The Jailhouse Now
  • Frankie and Johnny
  • Blue Yodel Number Eight (Mule Skinner Blues)
  • The Brakeman’s Blues (Yodeling the Blues Away)
  • Why there’s a Tear in My Eye
  • Mississippi River Blues
  • Mystery of Number Five
  • Waiting for a Train
  • Travelin’ Blues
  • My Blue Eyed Jane
  • Blue Yodel Number Nine (Standing on the Corner)
  • Pistol Packin’ Papa
  • Miss the Mississippi and You
  • Somewhere Down Below the Dixon Line
  • The Soldier’s Sweetheart
  • Hobo Bill’s Last Ride
  • Peach Picking Time Down in Georgia
  • Sailor’s Plea
  • I’m Lonely and Blue
  • Mississippi Moon
  • My Little Lady
  • Yodeling Cowboy
  • Hobo’s Meditation
  • Whippin’ That Old TB
  • Daddy and Home
  • I Want to Know Where Jesus Is (with the Carters)

Albums

  • All About Trains
  • The Best of the Legendary Jimmie Rodgers
  • Country Music
  • Country Music Hall of Fame
  • Jimmie the Kid
  • My Rough and Rowdy Ways
  • My Time Ain’t Long
  • Never No Mo’ Blues
  • The Short But Brilliant Life of Jimmie Rodgers
  • Train Whistle Blues

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Jimmie Rodgers: A Biography
By Lauren Reeves (SHS)

James Charles Rodgers was born September 8, 1897, in Meridian, Mississippi.  When Jimmie was four years of age, his mother Eliza Bozeman Rodgers died of tuberculosis (Johnson).  Jimmie’s father, Aaron Rodgers, worked with the railroad as a section foreman.  Jimmie spent most of his childhood traveling from place to place with his dad on the railroad.  His friends were the engineers and the brakemen on the train.  The most influential people in his life at this time were the blacks who worked on the railroad construction gangs.  As he sat while they played their traditional songs, he listened to the sound of the blues and the crooning.  Later in life Jimmie would use what he heard in developing his own style-- “a sort of white man’s blues” (Krishef).

When Jimmie was fourteen, he quit school to work on the railroad with his father.  As a railroad water boy,Lauren Reeves, SHS he brought water to the workers.  During lunch breaks, the black workers taught Jimmie how to play the banjo and the guitar.  He began to dream of  being a performer (Johnson, 193).   However, Jimmie did work on the railroad for fourteen years.  He missed so much work due to ill health  that he finally lost his job.  At this time World War I had just ended, and it was hard for Jimmie to find work.  He married his second wife, Carrie Williams, on April 7, 1920.  They learned to go without many things.  In 1921 a daughter  Carrie Anita was born, and in 1923 June Rebecca was born.  June died in December of that year.  At this time Jimmie was in New Orleans looking for work.  He had to pawn his banjo just to have money to get home for his daughter’s funeral (Krishef).

In 1924 Jimmie himself was diagnosed with tuberculosis.  He almost died when a lung hemorrhaged.  The doctors did not think that he would make it, but Jimmie pulled through.  Three months later he left the hospital  but permanently retired from railroading (Krishef).  In order to support his family, Jimmie became a “blackface” in a minstrel show, which  became tiresome so he joined a dance combo with his sister-in-law, Elsie McWilliams, and a violinist named Slim Rozell (Johnson, 193).

In 1927 an executive for Victor Records named  Ralph Peer came to Bristol, Virginia, to audition local talent.  Jimmie went, but at the last minute his band, the Entertainers, deserted him.  Jimmie performed solo and sang  “The Soldier’s Sweetheart” and “Sleep Baby Sleep.”  Jimmie was signed to a contract (The Beginnings of…).  His first record was released in October, 1927.  When “Blue Yodel Number One (T is for Texas)” was released in 1928, Jimmie’s income went from almost zero to over $2000 per month in six months.  Some called Jimmie “America’s Blue Yodeler.”  This “blue yodel” has been imitated by musicians of both bluegrass and country music.  In 1929 Jimmie was in a short film, “The Singing Brakeman” (Johnson, 193).  As Jimmie became more famous, he and his family moved to Kerrville, Texas.  Their home was later named “Blue Yodeler’s Paradise.”  During the Great Depression, they moved to San Antonio, Texas.  His daughter, Anita, remained there until her recent death (The Father of…).

Again in 1933 Jimmie was hospitalized  for TB, with little hope of surviving.  In April of that year he gathered up enough strength to go to New York to  record one last album.  He rested between songs and a private nurse attended him (Johnson, 194).  By May 24 he had recorded twelve of the twenty-four songs.  James Charles Rodgers died May 26, 1933, at the age of thirty-five, leaving his loved ones with their memories and his audience with his music (Krishef).

Jimmie Rodgers was the first person inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and today he is know as the “Father of Country Music."  The Jimmie Rodgers Memorial and Museum is open to the public in Meridian, Mississippi, and an annual Jimmie Rodgers Festival is held in Kerrville, Texas. 

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Timeline

1897 - Sept.8:   Jimmie was born in Meridian, Mississippi.
1911 - Left school to work on the railroads
1920 - April 7:  married Carrie Williamson
1921 - Daughter born (Carrie Anita)
1923 - Daughter born (June Rebecca)
1923 - December, daughter June died
1924 - Retired from railroad due to ill health
1925 - Began music career
1926 - Radio debut
1927 - Signed with Victor Records
1928 - First hit, “Blue Yodel  Number One (T is for Texas)”
1929 - Appeared in a short film called The Singing Brakeman
1933 - May 24 -12 of the 24 songs for his last album were recorded
1933 - May 26,  Jimmie Rodgers died
1961 - Rodgers becomes the first person elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame 

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Related Websites

This web site allows you to  purchase the book, The Country Music Message, Revisited

Picture of Jimmie Rodgers

How to purchase the book, My Husband Jimmie Rogers[sic] by Carrie Rodgers

Bob Dylan’s tribute to Jimmie Rodgers

How Jimmie Rodgers paved the road for future musicians

Pictures and biography of  Jimmie Rodgers

The complete first chapter of NICHOLAS DAWIDOFF's book In the Country of Country:People and Places in American Music entitled The Spirit of Jimmie Rodgers. 


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Bibliography

“The Beginnings of Country Music.”  Online. World Wide Web.  April 22, 1998.  Available http:www.roughstock.com/history/begin.html.

“Jimmie Rodgers - The Father of Country Music.”  Online. World Wide Web.  April 21, 1998.  Available http://www.discover-texas.com/jimmie/.

Johnson, Anne Janette.  “Jimmie Rodgers.”  Contemporary Musicians.  Michael L. LaBlanc ed.  Detroit:  Gale Research Inc.  Vol. 3.  1990.

Krishef, Robert K. Jimmie Rodgers.  Canada: J. M. Dent and Sons.  1978. 

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Last updated in 1999
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