Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Throwback Thursdays: "The Singing Brakeman" Jimmie Rodgers of Geiger, Alabama -(That's the One We Like)

There are two different ideas about the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers. The most widely accepted belief is the Rodgers was born in 1897 in Meridian Mississippi. However, documents signed by Rodgers later in his life claim his birthplace as Geiger, Alabama. Just for fun that's the one we're sticking with.

Whether he was born in Mississippi or Alabama, Rodgers spent ample time in each. He was the poor child of a railroad man, spending several years after his mother's death moving from the house of one relative to another. 

Perhaps the traveling Rodgers experienced as a young boy, along with his proximity to the railways seeped into his blood, because by the age of 13, a born entertainer, he was roaming away from home organizing traveling shows.

His first regular job as a water boy for the railroad was arranged by his father, who continually tried to dissuade Rodgers from his rambling ways. So it's easy to see where some of his ideas came from. As a water boy, Rodgers would have been exposed to the work chants of the Black railroad workers and the guitar and banjo playing of hobos and other rail inhabitants.   

At the age of 27 Rodgers contracted tuberculosis, which would eventually claim his life by the age of 35. 

Tuberculosis effectively ended his position as brakeman for the railway. From this point on he would focus almost entirely on music, although working one more stint for the railroad, after the tent he used for traveling sows was destroyed by a tornado.

Like his early life, Rodgers' music career was tumultuous, a rocky start, involving several recordings achieving only lukewarm reception and moderate sales, along with financial difficulties and band break-ups. 

In late 1927, undaunted, just a month after his first songs were released, Rodgers traveled to Victor Studios in New Jersey, where he recorded 4 songs, including "Blue Yodel" (T for Texas), which went on to sell nearly a half a million copies.

From this point until his death in 1933 Rodgers was one of the most successful musicians and entertainers of his time, earning him the title "The Father of Country Music"  

He is also the guy whose songs my father and I used to drive around in the old Chevy pick-up truck singing together. The memory of belting out T for Texas with the dust flying up behind us is a great Throwback Thursday for me.    

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