Today is the birthday of the Father of Country Music, James “Jimmie” Rodgers (1897-1933). A second generation railroad worker, he also performed in tent shows and vaudeville, pioneering a form of music that synthesized traditional American folk song, railroad work songs, cowboy music and yodeling. By 1927 he had his own radio show and began to make recordings. His influence is marked in performers ranging from Hank Williams to Gene Autry to Jimmie Davis (“You Are My Sunshine”). Unfortunately in 1924 he had contracted TB. By 1933 the toll of performing on his weakened body was too much; he died that year of a pulmonary hemorrhage after several days of recording.
Believe it or not, there’s actually some film of him. He made this short The Singing Brakeman for Columbia Pictures in 1930:
To learn more about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc