Biography of Father of Country Music Jimmy Rodgers Part 1

About the Father of Country Music Jimmy Rodgers, history and biography of the singer and songwriter.

GALLERY OF GREAT PERFORMING AND CREATIVE ARTISTS

JIMMY RODGERS (1897-1933)

Jimmy (James Charles) Rodgers, destined to become the father of country music, was born in Meridian, Miss., on Sept. 8, 1897. His mother died when he was four, leaving Jimmy's father, Aaron, a railroad-section foreman, to carry on both parental roles. Going wherever repair work was needed ruled out the possibility of a permanent home. Jimmy grew up in an endless chain of boarding houses, switch-shanties, and freight yards.

His black friends taught him his first songs and how to pick a few chords on the banjo. The evenings--when guitars and banjos came out of hiding and people shed their tensions in dance and song--were Jimmy's happiest times.

At 12 he won an amateur talent contest at a Meridian theater, but it did nothing for him, because there was no opportunity for a "hill-billy" singer in the early 1900s. He became assistant foreman to his dad a couple of years after the talent contest had been forgotten, and slowly progressed to being a "regular" brakeman on the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad. The railroad was his only schoolroom. During his teen years he sharpened his interpretation of songs into a distinctive style that would later endear him to his fans.

In 1920 he married Carrie Williamson, and the following year they had a daughter, Anita. He lost a second daughter in 1923, and the next year he was stricken with tuberculosis. When he recovered, he was unable to continue the strenuous work of a railroader. Turning to music, he joined a road show as a "blackface" singer and instrumentalist and later promoted a short-lived Hawaiian road show.

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