On the twenty-fifth of July, 1927, Ralph S. Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company hauled off to Bristol, Tennessee, to commence a series of recording sessions of local Appalachian musicians in hopes of exploring a relatively untapped market for phonograph records. As the sessions were in progress, he received a telephone call from a radio performer in Asheville, North Carolina, who had read of the opportunity in the newspaper, and was interested bringing his string band, the Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers, to Bristol to cut a record. Peer obliged and arranged for the man to meet for an audition. Somewhere along the line, he had a disagreement with his band, and they parted ways before the audition. Accounts of the reason for the dispute varied depending upon which party was asked. Nevertheless, both entities carried on separately and auditioned before Peer, who saw potential for success in the lone guitarist and yodeler. Thus, on August 4, 1927, Jimmie Rodgers made his first recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company, cutting only two sides at the vacant Taylor-Christian Hat and Glove Company building. The first recording was his own composition, “The Soldier’s Sweetheart”; the second was the old yodel song, “Sleep, Baby, Sleep”. The record proved successful, and Rodgers soon elbowed his way to a follow-up session with Victor at their headquarters in Camden, New Jersey, only a few months later, resulting in the first of his famous Blue Yodel songs. With that, a star was born, and over the following six years he established himself as one of Victor’s top-selling stars, one of the best-selling record artists of the Great Depression, and, posthumously, as the Father of Country Music.
Victor 20864 was recorded between 2:00 and 4:20 P.M. on August 4, 1927, at 408-10 State Street in Bristol, Tennessee, the only two sides cut in Jimmie Rodgers Bristol session, and his first ever recordings. It was released in October of 1927.
Jimmie’s second song at the session, but issued as the “A” side of his debut disc was his haunting rendition of John J. Handley’s old time yodel song, “Sleep Baby Sleep”.
Issued as the “B” side, Rodgers own composition “The Soldier’s Sweetheart” marked the first time that the voice of America’s Blue Yodeler was ever preserved in shellac.