Jimmie Rodgers (September 8, 1897 – May 26, 1933) was an American country music and country blues singer-songwriter and guitarist. He was the first musician to become a country star. His influence on music with American roots is incalculable, since he has influenced practically all the musicians who have developed country in the 20th century, including the also influential Hank Williams.
by Jimmie Rodgers
Although he was born in Geiger, Alabama, at the home of his paternal grandparents, he always considered himself from Meridian, Mississippi. He spent most of his childhood accompanying his father in his jobs for the railroad, where Jimmie also occasionally worked as brakemen, who were in charge of applying the brakes to stop the trains when they arrived at the stations. This work was done by running from car to car when the train was still running. For this reason he was known as “the singing brakeman” (The Singing Brakeman).
Because he suffered from tuberculosis, he had to leave the railroad, working from detective to busker (he learned to play at a medicine show) until he responded to an ad for the Victor Talking Machine Company (which was just beginning its career as a record company) in which they were looking for artists. The audition was held in Bristol, Tennessee on August 4, 1927, two days after The Carter Family responded to the same advertisement (and recorded in the same location), allowing Rodgers to begin his successful musical career.
Some of his most notable titles are “In the Jailhouse Now” (1928), “Waiting for a Train” (1929, rerecorded in 1930), “Train Whistle Blues” (1930), “Jimmie the Kid”, “Looking for a New Mama “,” Jimmie’s Mean Mama Blues “and” Mule Skinner Blues “(his most famous song, all from 1931) and” Miss the Mississippi and You “(1932). He recorded a total of 113 songs during the six years that his musical career lasted. His last sessions were in Manhattan (New York) just a week before his death. He was so ill that he had to rest on a stretcher between feedings. He died of tuberculosis at the Taft Hotel (New York) in 1933. He was 35 years old.
When the Country Hall of Fame was created in 1961, Jimmie Rodgers was one of the first three to be inducted. He has also been inducted into the Singer-Songwriters Hall of Fame and his song “Blue Yodel No. 9” is ranked 23rd on the list of Songwriters. 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll of the Rock Hall of Fame.
He was one of the first to use Appalachian ballads, the hillbilly style, with his high-pitched voice, to bring a folkloric approach to the blues, creating a hybrid that he called blue yodels and that, ultimately, led to the emergence of a whole genre, country blues that notably influenced a good number of blues musicians, such as Big Joe Williams, Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Tampa Red and even , Howlin ‘Wolf, who developed variants of it. Among the musicians who recorded with him, there are also jazz musicians, such as Louis Armstrong.
The country blues that he developed, he left a fruitful school in the country field, with musicians such as the Allen Brothers, Darby & Tarlton, Jimmie Davis, Gene Autry or Cliff Carlisle. He was known as Father of the Country Field, which is indicative enough.
In 2010, artists Elton John and Leon Russell paid tribute to him, including on their new album “The Union” a song called “Jimmie Rodgers’ Dream”.
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