Jimmie Rodgers Gets New Wave of Respect

June 18, 2009 — One of the first three people inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the late Jimmie Rodgers is generally regarded as the Father of Country Music, his career capped by "T For Texas," the first of his many "Blue Yodel"s. More than 75 years after his death, he’s being remembered by a trio of books that recall his impact on popular culture.

The latest addition is Waiting For A Train: Jimmie Rodgers’s America, set for release next month through Rounder Books. An outgrowth of a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame celebration of his life, the book features writings by a number of artists and experts, including Marty Stuart, Bob Dylan, Rodney Crowell, Steve Forbert and Dave Alvin. Country music scholar Bill Malone contributes a piece about the man they called the Singing Brakeman, as do three authors who’ve written entire books on the man: Nolan Porterfield, Barry Mazor and Jocelyn Neal.

Nolan wrote Jimmie Rodgers: The Life And Times Of America’s Blue Yodeler in 1979, documenting the wild ride that took him from a railroad job to become country music’s first superstar, only to see much of his earnings eroded during the Great Depression. Jimmie died, insidiously sick of tuberculosis, in a New York hotel room in 1933.

Jocelyn Neal and Barry Mazor authored Jimmie Rodgers books that were both released last month. Jocelyn’s The Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers: A Legacy In Country Music was published by the University of Indiana Press on May 20. It examines three of his more than 100 singles — "In The Jailhouse Now," "Muleskinner Blues" and "T For Texas" — in linking him to early blues performers Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith and to current country acts Gretchen Wilson and the Dixie Chicks.

Barry’s Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America’s Original Roots Music Hero Changed The Pop Sounds Of A Century was available through Amazon beginning May 15. Published by the Oxford University Press, it likewise analyzes the Singing Brakeman’s impact on culture, connecting the dots with cowboy singer Gene Autry, country’s Johnny Cash and modern rock figure Beck.

Jimmie was honored earlier this year when he received the first star on the Mississippi Walk of Fame in Meridian, the town where he was born.