Jimmie Rodgers: On this day in country music history
Nicknamed the Singing Brakeman for his work on the railroad, on this day in 1933 the man also known as the Father of Country Music died at the age of 35 of a massive tuberculosis-related hemorrhage at the Hotel Taft in New York. Twenty-eight years later, Jimmie Rodgers, who would have been 63 years old, became one of the first people inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, along with Hank Williams and songwriter Fred Rose.
This skinny little guy, who eight years earlier had contracted tuberculosis while working as a brakeman on the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, was known as well then for his yodeling as for his influence on Delta blues musicians like Howlin' Wolf. Howlin' Wolf had as a child tried to emulate Rodgers' yodel, but found his voice came out sounding more like a growl or howl. More recently, his influence has reached everyone from Merle Haggard to Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson to Jerry Garcia.
In his young life, Rodgers went from running away from his father to form traveling bands, to working on the railroad, to pressing enough Victor hit recordings to buy his family a home in Texas, where the weather soothed his TB. However, he was always drawn back to his travels. During the Depression, record labels weren't able to travel to musicians to do field recordings and so Rodgers traveled to New York City, despite the fact he was in poor health.
On May 17, 1933, Rodgers began what would be his last group of sessions for Victor and Bluebird. Resting frequently, he had to record sitting down and often retired early to his hotel. On his second day in the studio, he recorded "Jimmie Rodgers' Last Blue Yodel (Women Make a Fool Out of Me)."
The engineer hired two session musicians to help Rodgers after he had to take a few days off, and together they recorded three songs including "Mississippi Delta Blues," "Old Love Letters" and "Somewhere Down Below the Dixon Line." Rodgers rested on a cot between songs. For the last song of the session, Rodgers chose to perform alone, recording "Years Ago" by himself.
This would be Rodgers' last song ever; he died from a lung hemorrhage two days later in his hotel room, on May 26, 1933.