From the liner notes of Bob Dylan's
THE SONGS OF JIMMIE RODGERS: A Tribute
"Jimmie Rodgers of course is one of the guiding lights of the Twentieth Century whose way with song has always been an inspiration to those of us who have followed the path. A blazing star whose sound was and remains the raw essence of individuality in a sea of conformity, par excellence with no equal. Though he is claimed as The Father of Country Music, the title is limiting and deceiving in light of today's country music and he wouldn't have understood it. In his time, he was better known as "The Singing Brakeman" or "Blue Yodeler" and hence in some circles, he has come to be known as the "Man Who Started It All" which is more to the truth for he was a performer of force without precedent with a sound as lonesome and mystical as it was dynamic. He gives hope to the vanquished and humility to the mighty. Indeed, he sings not only among his bawdy, upbeat blues and railroading songs, but also Tin Pan Alley trash and crooner lullabies as well. He makes everything unmistakably his own and does it with piercing charm. Jerry Lee Lewis once said that there are only four stylists - Jimmie, Al Jolsen, Hank Williams and himself. Jerry Lee doesn't give out compliments lightly. If we look back far enough, Jimmie may very well be the "man who started it all" for we have no antecedent to compare him. His refined style, an amalgamation of sources unknown, is too cryptic to pin down. His is a thousand and one voices yet singularly his own." Bob Dylan 1997
Stephen Sholes, RCA-Victor executive and board chairman of the Country Music Association described Jimmie this way,
"What Jimmie Rodgers did for Country Music, particularly in view of today's market, I think could be best covered by
the fact that Jimmie was the first Country artist to focus national attention on himself and his music via phonograph
records. In fact, no one prior to Jimmie Rodgers was able to accomplish this feat with or without phonograph records."
Jimmie, listed his place of birth as Geiger, Alabama on his Petition for the Mysteries of Freemasonry on December 3,
1930. Though there is some argument on Meridian, Mississippi and/or Pine Springs, Mississippi, the Jimmie Rodgers
family believe that Geiger was in fact where Jimmie was born on September 8th, 1897. Due to his tuberculosis Jimmie
only lived 36 years, dying on May 26, 1933, while in New York, recording what would become his last recording session.
He went to New York to record 24 songs and managed to record 12, before becoming to weak to continue. He was buried
in Meridian, Mississippi, where he was raised, but seemed to not spend much of his adult years there.
His mother died when he was a young boy and between living with family in Mississippi and Alabama, then later with
his father Aaron Rogers, who was railroad foreman for Mobile & Ohio Railroad and living in Meridian. So at a early
age Jimmie began his life of ramblin'...as a boy growing up not only did he get in trouble for taking a bunch of sheets
from his aunt and building a tent show to perform, he started running off with medicine shows in his early teens. He charged a tent on his dad's store account and took off with his 'Tent show' only to have a twister destroy it, being some 100 miles away it took some time for his dad to retrieve a 15 year old Jimmie, where he worked for a clothier running errands and making deliveries for his room and board. At this point when his dad came and got him , he said, Jimmie, you have got to go to school or go to work for the railroad. Jimmie never had taken a liking to school so he opted for the railroad, which started his years of travelin' the rail, and later was given the name "The Singing Brakeman."
Jimmie had taught himself to play guitar, banjo and ukelele, and was learning blues tunes from the blacks, hobos,
gandy dancers and other men riding the rail. It was in fact knowing how to hop a train and hobo himself that he
was able to travel the country learning different music styles and able to reach these other towns were he could busk
and make some money from his first love of music.
TO BE CONTINUED
Jimmie Rodgers Legacy™
Merle Haggard was asked what he like to be remembered as?
"A writer, I guess. Somebody who did some living and wrote songs about what they knew. Just like Jimmie Rodgers and Hank did. That's all."
In 1930, Columbia Pictures teamed up with Victor Talking Machines and filmed Rodgers in one
of the early music videos with this 3 song short called The Singing Brakeman.
1927 was a big year in the life of Jimmie Rodgers, and a big year in the life of the Carter Family and music history itself, said to be the year Country Music was born. Also that year the first "talkie" was released with Al Jolson coming out of the great era of vaudeville in the new era of feature-length films. Movietone is offering newsreels,
the company Technicolor comes to the world and the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is founded, with the
Oscars being their annual awards show, and while electric jukeboxes are being introduced that year, the famous Roxy Theater in New York City Opens...and Ford unveils the Model A.
In August of that year, Ralph Peer, working with Victor Talking Machines, and at a time we are just seeing the
invent of portable recording equipment, heads down to Bristol, Tennessee on the border of Virginia, sets up
this new equipment in a warehouse on the quest to record some of the new music from the South then known
as "race music."
Thereby recording not only the Carter Family, who now we know as the First Family of Country Music, but also
Jimmie Rodgers, now the Father of Country Music, while he was on endless train ride to his destiny he showed
up at the warehouse where Mr. Peer recorded him singing "The Soldier's Sweatheart" and "Sleep, Baby, Sleep".
For the next six years, until his death in 1933, he laid the tracks of a legacy that would find him in the Blues,
Country, Rock, Grammy and Songwriter Halls of Fame, plus receive the coveted W.C. Handy Blues Award, become
the first entertainer on a postage stamp, and have engraved on his plaque at the Country Music Hall of Fame
"The Man That Started it All."