James Charles "Jimmie" Rodgers

Is your surname Rodgers?

Connect to 5,000+ Rodgers profiles on Geni

James Charles "Jimmie" Rodgers's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Charles Rodgers

Also Known As: "Jimmie"
Birthplace: Meridian, Lauderdale, Mississippi, United States
Death: May 26, 1933 (35)
New York, United States
Place of Burial: Meridian, Lauderdale, Mississippi, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Aaron Woodberry Rodgers and Eliza Rodgers
Husband of Stella Rodgers; Private; Carrie Cecil Rodgers and Private
Father of Kathryn Rhyne and Carrie Anita Court

Managed by: Trine Kristin Grøthe
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

About James Charles "Jimmie" Rodgers

Find A Grave:

"Musician. He was a country singer known most widely for his rhythmic yodeling and for his songs about the common man and his trials. He has been called "The Father of Country Music," "The Singing Brakeman" and "The Blue Yodeler". It's been reported that he was born on September 8, 1897 in Meridian, Mississippi. In documents signed later in life, he lists his birthplace as Geiger, Alabama, the home of his paternal grandparents. The youngest of three sons, his mother died when he was very young. Rodgers spent the next few years living with various relatives in southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama. He eventually moved to Meridian to live with his father, Aaron Rodgers, a Foreman on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. Jimmie's affinity for entertaining came at an early age, and the lure of the road was irresistible to him. At thirteen he twice ran away to join traveling shows, but each time was brought back by his father, who found him a job on the railroad as a water boy. He was taught guitar by railroad workers and hoboes he ran into on a daily basis. Later, he became a brakeman on the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad. At 27 he contracted tuberculosis, which often kept him from working. That same year he traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, where he performed for the first time on Asheville's first radio station, WWNC. He returned a few months later with a group called the Tenneva Ramblers, and secured a weekly slot on the station. A newspaper columnist in Asheville wrote, "Whoever that fellow is, he either is a winner or he is going to be." Later that year they traveled to Bristol, Tennessee to record for Victor Talking Machine Company. There was a disagreement among the band members and Jimmie was forced to record alone. He received $100 for two recordings, "The Soldier's Sweetheart," and "Sleep, Baby, Sleep." Those recordings changed music history and helped make Jimmie Rodgers an indelible name in country music. In November he traveled to Camden, New Jersey to record 4 more sides, one of which was "T for Texas," which was released as "Blue Yodel." It sold nearly half a million copies, which rocketed Rodgers into stardom. After this, he sold out shows whenever and wherever he played and recorded when and where he wanted. Within a few years, tuberculosis affected his ability to sing, however. On May 17, 1933, he returned to the studios to record what would be his last tracks. He recorded 4 songs that day and had to rest for several days to try to recover his energy. When he returned to the studio, he recorded "Years Ago." The effort exhausted him. Within 36 hours, the father of country music was dead. When the Country Music Hall of Fame was established in 1961, Rodgers was one of the first three to be inducted. Rodgers was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and, as an early influence, to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. "Blue Yodel No. 9" was selected as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. On May 24, 1978, the U. S. Postal Service issued a 13-cent commemorative stamp honoring Rodgers, the first in its Performing Arts Series. The 1982 film Honkytonk Man, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, was very loosely based on Rodgers' life. Rodgers was ranked #33 on CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music in 2003. The Jimmie Rodgers Foundation maintains the Jimmie Rodgers Museum in Meridian, Mississippi."



James Charles Rodgers (September 8, 1897 – May 26, 1933) was an American singer-songwriter and musician who rose to popularity in the late 1920s. Widely regarded as "the Father of Country Music", he is best known for his distinctive rhythmic yodeling. Unusual for a music star of his era, Rodgers rose to prominence based upon his recordings, among country music's earliest, rather than concert performances – which followed to similar public acclaim.

He has been cited as an inspiration by many artists and inductees into various halls of fame across both country music and the blues, in which he was also a pioneer. Among his other popular nicknames are "The Singing Brakeman" and "The Blue Yodeler".


Jimmie Rodgers, described by many as the Father of Country Music, had two other nicknames during his career: the Singing Brakeman, which referred to his work on trains, and America’s Blue Yodeler, which described one of his unique contributions to country music. Publicity photographs also portrayed Rodgers as a guitar-playing cowboy and as a sharply dressed man about town. These images help illustrate the range of Rodgers’s musical interests.

James Charles Rodgers was born outside Meridian, Mississippi, on 8 September 1897. Since his father, Aaron Rodgers, worked on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, Jimmie grew up traveling, especially after his mother, Eliza Rodgers, died when he was only five or six. From age fourteen until he was twenty-eight he worked, sometimes irregularly, as a brakeman or flagman on railroads, traveling through much of the South and Southwest.

Always interested in making music, Rodgers decided to see if he could earn a living from it after he contracted tuberculosis and discovered that railroad work made it hard to breathe. In 1924 Rodgers started singing in vaudeville and medicine shows. In 1927 he first performed on the radio in Asheville, North Carolina, and recorded his first songs in Bristol, Virginia. Although he made records for only six years, Rodgers recorded more than one hundred songs.

His songs were about three minutes long, and almost all featured Rodgers playing the guitar. Some had bands accompanying the singer, while others consisted entirely of Rodgers playing and singing. Part of Rodgers’s uniqueness lay in the variety of his music, and part lay in his appealing voice. While most of his records were marketed as country or hillbilly music, he learned a great deal from the styles of Tin Pan Alley, the blues, and jazz, and some of his songs included Hawaiian ukuleles.

Rodgers’s most notable innovation was the blue yodel—blues songs in style and sound and lyrics with “yo-de-lay-hee-ho” between verses. He recorded thirteen blue yodels, and all are in the blues AAB format (saying a line twice and then following with a concluding line) and tell of trouble and sometimes violence between men and women. “T for Texas (Blue Yodel No. 1)” begins, “T for Texas, T for Tennessee / T for Texas, T for Tennessee / T for Thelma, that gal that made a wreck out of me.” Later Rodgers sings that he is “gonna shoot poor Thelma / Just to see her jump and fall.” Yodeling came from various sources—perhaps from cowboy songs or from the songs of travelers in the Swiss Alps—and Rodgers was not the first musician to yodel between verses of his songs, but he made it such a trademark that some people assume that country music always included yodeling.

Rodgers helped write many of his songs, sometimes by reworking older songs and often by writing a tune while another writer supplied the words. Sometimes he modified popular musical styles, but sometimes he was clearly singing about himself, as when he sang, “I had to quit railroading / It didn’t agree at all.” In “Hobo’s Meditation,” he asked, “Will there be any freight trains in heaven?” And when he sang “TB Blues” and “My Time Ain’t Long,” both he and his audience knew he was singing about his own illness.

Three themes dominated Rodgers’s songs. One was movement—sometimes leading back home, sometimes not. Second was a sentimental picture of home life. Love and longing for mothers and fathers were common, as in “Daddy and Home” and “Down the Old Road to Home.” Finally, he performed numerous songs about love that failed, whether because men or women left, because they cheated, or because they committed crimes and went to jail.

Two features of Mississippi life were especially important for Rodgers in songs such as “Mississippi Moon” and “Mississippi Delta Blues.” First, working on trains gave him numerous stories about and insights into traveling people. He empathized with people on the move, in large part because he was one of them. This empathy was especially important during the Great Depression, when so many people had to travel in search of work. “Hobo’s Meditation” and other songs portrayed sad men riding the trains from the point of view of a sympathetic narrator. Second, as a Mississippian, Rodgers likely grew up hearing more African American music than most other early country musicians.

In 1933, just six years after his recording career began, Rodgers took a train to New York for what would be his final recording session. He was so weak from tuberculosis that he had to rest on a cot between songs, and he knew death was coming. He died on 26 May, less than thirty-six hours after recording “Years Ago.”

Rodgers was extraordinarily popular during his short lifetime and remains popular with generations of music fans. Numerous musicians have remade Rodgers’s songs, especially “T for Texas” and “In the Jailhouse Now.” He was the first performer inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961, and in 1976 the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Museum opened in his hometown of Meridian.

view all

James Charles "Jimmie" Rodgers's Timeline

September 8, 1897
Meridian, Lauderdale, Mississippi, United States
January 30, 1921
May 26, 1933
Age 35
New York, United States
Meridian, Lauderdale, Mississippi, United States