Friday, January 27, 1978

50 years ago: Jimmie Rodgers released his first of twelve blue yodels

Blue Yodel #1 (T for Texas)

Jimmie Rodgers

Writer(s): Jimmie Rodgers (see lyrics here)


Released: January 27, 1928


First Charted: March 31, 1928


Peak: 2 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2.51 video, 1.0 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Jimmie Rodgers grew up sickly, shuffled amongst family members. By age 14, he struck out on his own to follow his father’s footsteps as a railroad man. His failing health ended that career before he’d turned thirty, and he turned his attention to his other love – music.

In 1927, Rodgers auditioned for Ralph Peer of Victor Records. In August, Rodgers had his first recording session with Peer and then, on the day after Thanksgiving, drove to New York for his second session. When Rodgers had a shortage of material, Peer relented to recording one of Rodgers’ blues songs – “Blue Yodel No. 1.” SS Not sure what to do with the stuff, Victor marketed it as “a popular song for a comedian with a guitar.” LW

Tuberculosis felled the man known as “The Singing Brakeman” in 1933 when he was just 37. However, in his short life, he had such an impact on music that he earned an even bigger nickname: “The Father of Country Music.” He helped make country music as as a viable, commercial genre AC by articulating rural America’s concerns about “love, loss, and hardship in a way…most Tin Pan Alley writers could not…emulate.” LW He was so embedded in rural culture, shoppers requested his latest recordings be added to their grocery lists. LW

However, his music reached beyond white rural America. He “combined black and white musical forms and popularized American rural music traditions.” NRR That “marriage of blues and country is the essence of Rodgers’ contribution to popular music.” LW For a “generation after his death, virtually every country music performer – and not a few blues artists – would owe a deep stylistic debt” SS to Rodgers.


Resources:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Jimmie Rodgers
  • AC Ace Collins (1996). The Stories Behind Country Music’s All-Time Greatest 100 Songs. New York, NY; The Berkley Publishing Group.
  • LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 65.
  • NRR National Recording Registry
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Page 21.


First posted 1/27/2014; last updated 11/4/2021.

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