Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, January 27, 2011


My contribution to Scott Parker's Forgotten Music series this month concerns two performers with just about the same name.  The music may not be considered forgotten, but I wonder how many people today listen to the original artists.

     James Charles "Jimmie" Rodgers was born in 1897, probably in Mississippi but perhaps in Alabama.  By the time he was thirteen, he had run away a couple of times with ideas of starting his own show; he was caught and sent home.  His father got him his first job as a waterboy on a railroad; within a few years Jimmie became a railroad brakeman.  Railroad men and hobos helped him refine his guitar skills.

     By the age of 27, he came down with tuberculosis, forcing him to leave the railroad while allowing him to persue a performing career.  He soon found some success on local radio and made his first recording in 1927.  A few months later, at a second session, Jimmie recording Blue Yodel (also known as T for Texas) which went on to sell half a million copies.  Jimmie Rodgers became a genuine star, the "Singing Brakeman".  He toured with Will Rogers and recorded with Louis Armstrong, all the while recording songs that would remain classics to this day.  In 1933, just two days after his last recording session, Jimmie Rodgers died of TB; he was just 35.

     Not only is Jimmie Rodgers considered one of (if not the) the founders of country music, but his influence on American blues is considerable.  It is hard to discuss American "roots" music without discussing Jimmie Rodgers.

     Less than four months after Jimmie's death, another Jimmy Rodgers -- James Frederick Rogers -- was born.  This Jimmy Rodgers was blessed with a sweet, golden voice that launched him to the number 1 spot on the record charts with Honeycomb in 1957.  This song was followed with other hits, including Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.  Many of his songs had a folk sensibility, Sloop John B and Waltzing Matilda among them.  He was able to blend Nashville, folk and pop effortlessly.  His popularity led to a variety show on NBC and a later summer replacement variety show on ABC, as well as some film roles.

     In 1967, he was physically beaten in an incident that remains shrouded in mystery.  Allegedly he was assaulted after being pulled over by an off-duty policeman.  The beating fractured his skull and left him little memory of the incident.  His rehabilitation took a year, during which his wife died suddenly of a blot clot.  He eventually returned to performing, recording as late as 1979, but essentially his career had begun a steep descent.  In 1999, he admitted that he had suffered from spastic disphonia "for a number of years", which impaired his ability to sing.

     So, here's to two Jimmies, each of whom made a positive contribution to the American music scene.

First, Jimmie with Blue Yodel Number 1, In the Jailhouse Now, and Miss the Missippi and You:

Then, Jimmy with Honeycomb, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, and It's Over:


For a guide to this month's forgotten music, visit Scott at

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