On this day, September eighth, in the year of our Lord 1897, the Father of Country Music, America’s Blue Yodeler, the great Jimmie Rodgers was born. Rodgers began recording at Victor’s legendary Bristol sessions, and became one of America’s most popular singing stars throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s, until his tragic demise from tuberculosis at the age of thirty-five.
James Charles Rodgers was born in Meridian, Mississippi or Geiger, Alabama; after his mother died when he was a child, the young Jimmie spent much of his youth with various relatives before returning to live with his father, a railroad man. Following in his father’s footsteps, Jimmie began working as a water boy, and later a brakeman for the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, though his first love was entertainment. Working on the railroad, Jimmie Rodgers learned the ways of music from the likes of gandy dancers and hobos. After tuberculosis put his railroad work on hiatus, Rodgers turned to entertaining, and organized various groups and shows on vaudeville and radio.
In 1927, Ralph Peer headed a recording field trip for Victor records in Bristol, Tennessee, and on August 4 of that year, from 2:00 to 4:30 in the afternoon, Rodgers recorded his first sides, Sleep, Baby, Sleep and The Soldier’s Sweetheart. After his first record’s moderate success, Jimmie Rodgers traveled north to record further sides and held his second session in Camden, New Jersey. Achieving great success with his records over the next few years, Rodgers became one of the nations most popular artists, earning nicknames such as “America’s Blue Yodeler” and “The Singing Brakeman”, and later “The Father of Country Music.” He was also one of the first artists to popularize country music, after Vernon Dalhart. Ultimately, his tuberculosis caught up with him, and a mere two days after his final recording session, Jimmie Rodgers died in the Taft Hotel in New York City.
Victor 21142, from Jimmie Rodgers’ second recording session, was recorded November 30, 1927 at Victor’s Camden, New Jersey studio and issued in May of 1928. The record was a hit, and remained in Victor’s catalog for many years, well into the 45 RPM era.
On the first side, Jimmie sings his first of thirteen “Blue Yodels”, this one simply titled “Blue Yodel” here, but also frequently known by the title “T for Texas”.
On the flip, Rodgers sings Kelly Harrell’s “Away Out on the Mountain”, which features some of his more elaborate yodeling.
Updated with improved audio on November 30, 2018.