Blue Yodeler: Jimmie Rodgers

Photograph courtesy of Wilson Library's Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Blue Yodeler: Jimmie Rodgers

by Bland Simpson
Southern Cultures, Vol. 12, No. 4: Music 2006

"The Blue Yodeler's first royalty came out to $27."

James Charles Rodgers was born in Meridian, Mississippi, in 1897. His mother, Eliza, died when he was four years old. After that, he was off riding the rods with his father, a foreman on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. By the time he reached fourteen, Jimmie Rodgers was carrying water for the black men who worked for his father. Jimmie had quit school and was now a fulltime railroad man himself.

The black railroaders liked him. They taught him the guitar and the banjo. They taught him work songs, field hollers, chants. Jimmie Rodgers took what he’d learned and won a talent show back in Meridian singing “Bill Bailey.”