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March 26, 1998
News Posted: March 30, 1998
One Hundred and one years ago come September the 8th. will mark the birthdate of a legend to end all legends in the world of Country Music, Mr. Jimmie Rodgers.
James Charles Rodgers was born in Meridian, Mississippi in 1897, his father Aaron was a section foreman for the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. So then it was here that Jimmie Rodgers was to hear his first songs and ballads that were to influence his life forever more.
He would sit for hours listening to the railroad laborers sing their moaning chants and lullabies, and when they rested, they taught Jimmie how to play simple tunes on the guitar and banjo. Jimmie's Mother died when he was four so all those young years were spent in the freight yards, switch-shanties and boardinghouses.
At the age of 14 Jimmie was working as an assistant to his father, and later in the same year of 1911, he went to work as a brakeman. A short time later with the help of his older brother Walter, Jimmie became a regular on the New Orleans and Northeastern Line between Meridian and New Orleans.
Jimmie worked as a flagman, call- boy, baggage master and of course a brakeman, when Jimmie went to work, so did his guitar and banjo.
When you read everything you can find on the life of Jimmie Rodgers, it is pretty easy to see where he got his songs.... from life.... from the hard working people of the world , from those who sweated long hard hours in the freight yards just barley getting by, from the hobo that wandered into the yards for maybe a bite to eat or a cup of coffee by the fire..from the Railroad Bulls that would throw the hobos or bums off the trains, or from just resting a while sitting on the ground leaning back on a leg of the old water tank.
Jimmie Rodgers met, fell in love and married the lovely Carrie Williamson on April the 7th. 1920, the following January a daughter, Anita, was born.
The spring of 1924 found Jimmie working on the railroads in Colorado and Utah, but the cold winters had taken their toll on him and when he came home with a cold and a persistent cough and the flakes of blood began to appear, tuberculosis was apparent.
There is no end and never will be an end to the Jimmie Rodgers story as long as there are people that love the music of the land. Railroads seem to have always been a part of the way of life, either honest or the likes of Jessie James who didn't care a lot for the train owners but had a deep desire to lighten the load in the freight cars of some of that ready cash or gold dust.
Jimmie Rodgers recorded about a hundred and ten songs, but let me take you back a little to the middle 70's when a man that was soon to become a good friend of ours sent us a piece of notebook paper with a sketch drawn out on it of a man, on the man's head was a railroad cap and the man had both his thumbs sticking up kinda leaning over his guitar.
Of course the man was supposed to be Jimmie Rodgers and what this man had drawn was supposed to be a stamp, and while I was looking at this crude drawing, I was thinking, it will be a cold day in St. Petersburg before this is ever something we'll be lickin' and stickin' on a letter, because in those years people were sending the Postmaster pictures of everything from their dog to their grandmother hoping they would soon see it on a stamp.
BUT my friend was no quitter, he made copies of that drawing and sent it to everyone he thought would read his letter, from the President on down. He never mentions the fact about how much he knew about Jimmie Rodgers, but he did mention that he to had been a brakeman for the railroads..The truth is, this man probably knows more about Jimmie Rodgers than any one else living today, not only was he doing a radio show in Delano, California playing all of Jimmie's records, and we mean the original 78's scratches and all, and they were all his, and he had a story to go with every single record, like when they were recorded, where they were recorded and probably how Jimmie was feeling and the clothes he was wearing on that particular day.
My friends name is "HENRY YOUNG" age has caught up with him now, but unlike most of us that never quite reach that one big dream, Henry did, because on May the 24th. 1978 Henry was sitting on a stage in Meridian, Mississippi, also on that stage and standing before a packed house in front of a microphone was the daughter of the great Jimmie Rodgers , Anita Rodgers Court, and almost the first words out of her mouth were these, "If it had not have been for Henry Young, there would have been NO stamp of my father".
Of course after others could see how far this had gone, naturally they tried to take credit for it, but Henry knew and the Rodgers family knew, and as I watched that show from the video that Henry had sent us, that old piece of notebook paper flashed through my mind, with a man and a guitar and two thumbs up, and I thought to my self, by god you did it Henry.
On November the 3rd. 1961 Jimmie Rodgers name was placed at the Country Music Foundation in Nashville, Tennessee, as the first entrant into the COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME.
Like Jimmie Rodgers, Henry Young's life centered around the Railroads, he to was a brakeman and he to loved the music, but I think Henry thought most about the honesty of Jimmie's music and how much it was a part of the people, a real part. People were poor in those days and usually only a few could afford the price of a record, but that seemed to be o.k., Henry would either go to a friends or stop by a store where they happened to be playing the latest J.R. record and a few times more of hearing it would know all the words and of course the first thing he would say when he ran across another friend was, "Have you heard Jimmie's new record" ?.
Harry Kirby McClintock, now that name might not ring any bells, at least for right now, but it sure was of interest to Henry Young, so much in fact he wrote a book about him back about 1981, and because of it he appeared on several T.V. and radio shows, and, because of that sold out a couple printings of the book..and now due to health reasons has not been able to actively seek another publisher to print it again, but when he does it will probably sell out again.
Yep this guy, Harry Kirby McClintock was a railroader in more ways than one, from ridin' the rails, to being a hobo, to being a family man to a writer and a lot of other things in between, maybe one of these days before long we will take a ride again through this book that Henry wrote and tell you the story, but when we do the name Harry Kirby McClintock will become "Haywire Mac" and who could forget his song, published in just about every school song book in the country called, "THE BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN"
As a final word on Jimmie Rodgers, as far as we know, only one time was Jimmie ever captured on film, the setting is Jimmie arriving for work at the train depot waiting for his train to come in and two ladies are there, one works there and the other lady is knitting sitting there on the platform, the one lady ask Jimmie if he would like some coffee and while she is getting it kinda' yells through the window and ask Jimmie to sing his new song, since a country singers guitar is never very far away, he reaches inside the door for it, sits down and sings the lady a couple of songs. Even though the film is only a few minutes long it brings you face to face with the singing brakeman, Mr. Jimmie Rodgers.
I also believe that only a few copies of this film,(now on a tape) is anywhere, but thanks to Henry Young, one is in our studio.
Here are a few things you probably forgot about. * The telegraph replaced the "Pony Express" on October the 7th. 1861 >> * Billy The Kid, is said to have been one of the worst outlaws in the West, it is said that he committed his first killing at the age of 12, when he was killed by Sheriff Pat Garret, Billy The Kid was 21 years old and had 21 notches in his gun butts.>> * William Frederick Cody was better know as Buffalo Bill, he earned his famous name nickname in 1867-1868 when he supplied buffalo meat to a railroad company laying tracks for the 1st. transcontinental railroad >> * "Comanche" was the name of the horse that was the only living survivor of the Battle Of The Little Big Horn, after Comanche died in 1891, his remains were mounted, he is now in the Dyche Museum at the University of Kansas.
I know that a lot of you are so busy that you had forgotten some of the things above, why it was just the other day that a young feller that works down there in Tennessee at the Durango Boot company called, said..."say, do you have any idea where that dang horse went to" ?, we knew the minute we told him, we shouldn't have because a horse is the last remaining thing he doesn't already have in his apartment, so if you are traveling between Nashville and Kansas and see a guy driving towards Tennessee with a dead horse on a trailer, while your casually sucking on a straw, ask him if his name is Wayne Rogers and if he says yes, steal his horse.
Only about another week till time springs forward, that'll make the afternoons and evenings seem ten hours long, give you more time to smell the neighborhood B-B-Que smoke, the other night driving home we spotted a dead possum along side the road so we pulled over and loaded him up, even though it was late when we made it home, with a little help from some bread dough we made a "Possum Pizza" --I just thought of something, since they call good ole George Jones "Possum" that would be a good name for him to use should he get a hankerin' to open a Pizza shop.
Well anyway folks, we'll see ye next time, but just in case we don't, Take Care of Yourself
Goodbye "J.J." Have a safe trip home. And thanks to all the good people that treated you good.
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