Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America's Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century
Seemann, Charlie, Journal of American Folklore
Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America's Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century. By Barry Mazor. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. 376, illustrations.)
Jimmie Rodgers has been the subject of a number of books, beginning with his widow Carrie Rodgers's romanticized personal account of Rodgers's life story in the privately published My Husband Jimmie Rodgers (San Antonio Southern Library Institute, 1935). Jimmie the Kid: The Life of Jimmie Rodgers, by Mike Paris and Chris Comber (DaCapo Press, 1977), provided the first serious look at Rodgers's life, but the authoritative Rodgers biography is Nolan Porterfield's Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America's Blue Yodeler (University of Illinois Press, 1979). Many of us assumed that, with Porterfield's masterful work, the Rodgers story had been told.
There were continuing assessments of Rodgers's near-term impact and legacy, such as my own article "Jimmie Rodgers: Those Who Followed" (Journal of the American Academy for the Preservation of Old-Time Country Music 36:8-11, 1996), in which the immediate yodeling imitators and disciples of Rodgers were considered. These included some well-known artists such as Gene Autry, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, and Governor Jimmie Davis, and some not so widely known, such as the Carlisle Brothers, Elton Britt, the Girls of The Golden West, and Slim Whitman. It was this legacy that led to his being proclaimed "the Father of Country Music," but Mazor, in Meeting Jimmie Rodgers, shows us that Rodgers was much more, and how and why he was eventually inducted not only into the Country Music Hall of Fame but also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Mazor sees Rodgers as the prototypical individual singing star, not only pioneering the way for later artists such as Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell, but also non-country artists such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and even Elvis Presley. He stepped away from the then common string band and ensemble traditions to perform by himself, with his guitar, his multifaceted "shape-shifting" persona (railroader, cowboy, rounder, ladies' man) and charisma. …