Jimmie Rodgers ‘The Father of Country Music’ Collection up for auction

Jimmie Rodgers auction

Roots music history geeks, it’s time to break open those piggy banks.

Boston, MA based RR Auction will hold an auction offering a “diverse collection of material related to Rodgers’s life and musical career..”

The auction will total approximately 90 items, and will include letters, fabric (!), souvenir programs, newspaper clippings, and several signed and unsigned photos of the country music star and members of both the Rodgers and Bozeman families.

The jewel of the collection is a vintage matte-finish Victor Records publicity photo of Rodgers wearing a bowtie and boater hat, signed and inscribed in fountain pen, “To my dear little Aunt Dora, from your nephew with lots of love, Jimmie Rodgers.”

Additionally highlighted by a trio of handwritten letters:

The first, one page, dated October 12, 1913; letter to Uncle Tom, in full (spelling and grammar retained): “We are making a little money and having a good time to. I thing we will be in [Birmingham] Ala Saturday one time I hope all is well, tell all I said helo.”

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The second, one page, postmarked May 2, 1911; letter to Aunt Dora, in part: “You are well I hope. I will be down there during the fair, and I might stay up to the house sister and I are well how are you all and tell Talmage to write to me how is he. Well I will close I have got to eat supper at 6. Answer soon.”

The third, three pages, postmarked January 7, 1920; letter to Dora, in part: “I know I have been slow about writing to you but I have been going from place to place, and haven’t had time to write…and I am going to send your $10.00 dollars soon as I can possibly get it, but aunt Dora I have had to pawn my watch to get money to eat on. I have a very good job working between Delta Point La and Shreveport but having a hard time oh my…well aunt Dora I am going to stop, this train is running so blooming fast I cant hardly write as it is. Write me real soon and if you can spare $5.00 please send it to me.”

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Of additional note is a pair of scarce signed books from Rodger’s childhood. A copy of Goodrich’s New First School Reader (1864) and The Elementary Spelling-Book (1841), respectively signed on the inside of the front (Goodrich) and back (Elementary) covers in black ink, “Jimmie Rodgers.” Each book is individually presented in a picture box with nameplates affixed to the viewing glass and soft lining to the interior.

Also included in the treasures are a yellow crocheted bookmark, patch of red, white, and blue quilt, and red and white polka-dotted bandana; the latter of which was personally-owned and –worn by Jimmie Rodgers. Accompanied by a handwritten letter of provenance for the bandana from Anne Shine Landrum, Rodgers’s second cousin and is dated March 1, 2001.

The remainder of the lot includes a Jimmie Rodgers and Swain’s Hollywood Follies tour card, newspaper clippings, a pair of commemorative hats, a photo album which features approximately 45 personal images of family and friends, including legendary artists like Johnny Cash and Ernest Tubb; a VHS tape of The Singing Brakeman, Rodgers’s only film appearance; various Bozeman and Rodgers family correspondence and photos, including a wonderful cabinet photo of Jimmie and his two brothers, Walter and Talmage; and three portfolios that contain numerous letters, postcards, photographs, and a collection of six concert programs, including a Hank Williams Memorial show in Montgomery, Alabama, on September 20–21, 1954, and a Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival in Meridian, Mississippi, on May 19–26, 1990.

“This incredible collection of Rodgers memorabilia and intimate family keepsakes would make for a unique and instant focal point in any country music collection,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive at RR Auction.

Online bidding for the Hollywood Lifetime Collection Auction from RR Auction begins Thursday, March 12 – Wednesday, March 18, followed by a live auction on Thursday March 19, in Cambridge, MA, beginning at 1:00PM Eastern. More details can be found online at www.rrauction.com.

Listen Up! Sid Griffin – “Blue Yodel No. 12 & 35″

Photography by Philip Grey

‘Blue Yodel No. 12 &. 35′ has its boots in country music’s present and past.

The song’s bluegrass spirit evokes the best best of front-porch, foot-stomping rollicks. The song’s clever wordplay throws some of best hillbilly shade ever at the spurned (or spurner) and brings it into the present.

The title of “Blue Yodel No. 12 & 35″ may seem familiar. Griffin sheds some light on the song’s title and it’s spirit “Blue Yodel No. 12 &. 35’ refers to two of the great icons of present day guitar music. One is Jimmie Rodgers and the other is Bob Dylan. Rodgers was known for his gentleness even when being frank and Dylan is known for the frankness of his break-up songs so when you hear Blue Yodel No. 12 & 35 you hear a composition crossing their two lyrical styles, a song which is also sung in mid-point between their two musical styles. Why it came out sounding like one if these hip, young bearded bands from Brooklyn or maybe Texas I do not know! But the song swings spritely and with warm humour and I just love that.”

“Blue Yodel No. 12 & 35″ is from ‘The Trick Is To Breathe,’ the first solo album from Sid Griffin (the Coal Porters, the Long Ryders) in a decade. Known as a founder of today’s Americana/Alt-Country genre for his groundbreaking work Sid Griffin has never been far from the cutting edge. Few who could honestly claim to be a Godfather to the current roots music scene have made their mark in so many ways; bandleader, songwriter, instrumentalist, author of four books and broadcaster.

So why did it take a decade for ‘The Trick Is To Breathe’ to happen. ”I was waiting for the right combination of songs and the right place to record”, says Griffin, ‘I got the songs, I found the place just outside Nashville, and I found the right pickers. It was a heavenly experience”. Twelve tracks featuring ten new Sid originals, one cover song and a spoken word poem combine to equal what Sid describes as ”the best album of my long career”.

‘The Trick Is To Breathe,’ will be released on September 16, 2014

Official site

Ken Burns’ Country Music Documentary Coming to PBS in 2018

Ken Burns

I’ve been hearing about Ken Burns’ new project focusing on Country Music for over a ear. Now PBS has made it a realty b announcing that the anticipated documentary, succinctly called called “Country Music,” will air in 2018.

That will be about 5 years worth of work on the one series. Sure that’s a long time
but it helpes to keep in mind that it’s a year less than he spent on his ten-episode miniseries detailing jazz. And given Burn’s attention to detail ranging from The Civil War and the history of baseball it’s satisfying to see that there is care being applied ot a genre we all love.

The origins and fundamentals of roots, folk and country music are vast . deep at least as deep and vast as many of the topics Burns has tackled before. I have faith that this is going to be a fascinating (and lengthy) series.

From the release “The country series explores the question, “what is country music.” It will track the careers of the Carter family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and others.”

“For over a century, country music has been a pivotal force in American culture, expressing the hopes, joys, fears and hardships of everyday people in songs lyrical, poignant and honest,” said PBS President Paula A. Kerger. “It is fitting that we have two of America’s master storytellers, Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, tell the story on film of an art form that for generations has told America’s story in song.”

The documentary will follow the rise of bluegrass music with Bill Monroe and note how one of country music’s offspring – rockabilly – mutated into rock and roll in Memphis. It will show how Nashville slowly became not just the mecca of country music, but “Music City USA.” All the while, it will highlight the constant tug of war between the desire to make country music as mainstream as possible and the periodic reflexes to take it back to its roots.

That;s the part that will be interesting to me, how Burns handles the splinter threads of the genre. The aforementioned Bluegrass The Outlaws, Bakersfield and, as Steve Earle helped shepherd and deemed, “Great Credibility Scare of the Mid-1980s.”

Jimmie Rodgers Guitar Used to Record for First Time in 80 years

Britt Gully

The Mississippi Picnic (6/8) at New York’s Central Park will honor “Singing Brakeman,” Jimmie Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music,” as his iconic guitar will be played for the first time in 80 years to record music.

Rodger’s custom-ordered 1927 Martin 000-45, has his name in pearl inlay on the neck and “Thanks” written upside down on the back. After his death, Rodgers’ widow loaned the 000-45 to Ernest Tubb, who played it for forty years. It was later donated to the Jimmie Rodgers Museum, in Meridian, Mississippi, where it is kept in a safe behind glass.

Tribute artist Britt Gully received permission to use the guitar for recording a tribute CD and will play the guitar at a Rodgers tribute at the event. That day will celebrate the ‘Mississippi Country Music Trail’ by recognizing Jimmie Rodgers. Gully will perform along with other Mississippi artists during the picnic.

“This guitar is magical,” Gully said. “There was never a time when playing it that I did not realize what I was playing, and who played it before me.”

The first New York Mississippi Picnic took place in 1979, when a small group of native Mississippians living in New York had a strong desire to improve the perceptions of both regions in regard to one another.

Americana – What It Is?

Americana joins around 100 other words whose use is now widely recognized as new entries in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. According to the dictionary’s editors Americana music is defined as: “a genre of American music having roots in early folk and country music” Now after many a heated battles for going on 13 to 15-years (No Depression magazine was first published in 1995 ans the Americana Music Association was founded in 1998) concerning the fine distinctions of Americana music this seems to be simultaneously as clear and murky a definition as you’ll find.

It’s my view that when producer Ralph Peer set up his record studio Bristol, Tennessee in 1927 the distinction between “county” and “folk” was nonexistent. The elements of both genres laid fused in the sounds of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family and the art form was cleaved apart for marketing and political reasons some 30 years later.

I applaud the recognition Merriam-Webster has bestowed on the Americana genre but saying that it has “roots in early folk and country music” overlooks what much of the music that performers like Gillian Welch and William Elliott Whitmore do to define their sound. They reach to a time before the genres were distinct entities and the styles of both were found in the hollers, plains and porches of our European ancestors. They reach back to the original source to remind us all how great the music is and while giving it their own personal slant.

News Round Up: A Brit Explains Country (Americana?) Music

  • After the loss of Doug Sahm and  Freddy Fender, the future of the Texas Tornados was uncertain to say the least. Well Texas Music Matters has unveiled a new Texas Tornadoes cut, Who’s To Blame Senorita,written by Doug Sahm and his son Shawn. Shawn will also lend support to their new album, Esta Bueno,will be released March and is “…a collection of old sounds and new songs — with five previously unreleased vocal performances by Doug Sahm, new songs written by Fender, and a new song written by Doug and Shawn titled Who’s To Blame, Senorita?
  • Marty Stuart officially announced the creation of the Mississippi Country Music Trail. the Trail will feature 30 markers celibrating a variety of country music artists, including Jimmie Rodgers, Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Jerry Clower, Faith Hill, Tammy Wynette, Mac McAnally and Stuart himself.
  • In another stoke of tone-deafness the Academy of Country Music has released their nominees for their 45th annual awards (April 18.) Nowhere in the Song Of the Year category will you find in one of the most popular (and good) songs sweeping awards outside of their narrow vision of mainstream country radio -  Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett’s Golden Globe -winning and Oscar nominated The Weary Kind from the great Jeff Bridges movie Crazy Heart. Hey ACM, do us all a favor and j ust give all the awards to Swift and put something else on in that time slot!

News Round Up: Dolly Parton Loves the Great Smoky Mountains

  • Dolly Parton will be on hand for the 75th Anniversary Rededication of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on September 2nd, joining Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue and several other dignitaries. Dolly serves as Ambassador for the Park’s 75th Anniversary,  she is a Sevierville, Tennessee native and donated the first year profits from her album, Sha-Kon-O-Hey (Land of Blue Smoke) to the organization, “Friends of the Smokies”.
  • On her new album, The List,  Roseann Cash will cover 12 classic songs culled from a list given to her by her legendary father, Johnny, gave her in 1973, and interpreted through her own unique style. Produced and arranged by Grammy Award winner John Leventhal (Cash’s husband), the album includes Cash’s covers of songs written and/or recorded by The Carter Family, Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Cochran/Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan. (via Country Standard Time)
  • Norah Jone’s may be less boring on her new release (they don’t call her Snorah for nothing, people!) After bonding with producer Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse) for engineering one of Jone’s favorite records of all time, Tom Waits’ ‘Mule Variations (!) she hired him on for her new release. She will also feature songwriting contributions from Ryan Adams, Will Sheff of Okkervil River.

Todd Snider in the New York Times

  • The New York Times features a great feature on Todd Snider. Snider discusses his long career of writing smart roots-folk songs, speaks to some of his fans (like Kris Kristofferson) years of struggling with addiction, and his new Don Was produced release  “The Excitement Plan” on Yep Roc records.
  • Tom Russell’s new upcoming , Blood and Candle Smoke (Sept. 25), was recorded in Tucson’s Wave Lab with features members of Calexico. Head over to his MySpace page to hear Santa Ana Wind and Mississippi River Runnin’ Backwards.
  • Also in  Tom Russell news, the man will be among many contributors to a new Jimmie Rodgers book, Waiting For a Train: Jimmie Rodger’s America, planned to be released in July.
  • Dave Alvin Remembers his friend and Hacienda Brothers founder Chris Gaffney.
  • The fine folks over at HearYa.com review The Builders and The Butchers album  Salvation Is A Deep Dark Well.
  • Jay N. Miller at the The Patriot Ledger talks to Brooklyn based band Americana band Yarn.

Hard Times

These are tough times for America. Wall Street and board room crooks, unnecessary wars, mounting national and personal debt, massive unemployment, terrorists threats.. These are not the toughest times we’ve faced in our history,I think the fisr depression and the civil war were much tougher, but they are hard relative to the lives most people have lived today.

The silver lining is that from hard times comes great music, and country music taps into the populist zeitgeist better than any other genre beside blues. Much has been made about John Rich’s Shuttin’ Detroit Down and Hank William Jr’s Red White and Pink Slip Blues but it’s hard for me to buy populist empathy from a guy that parades around  in mink coats and a guy that puts hotel employees in a choke hold and demands a kiss.

Here is a list of songs that I believe exhibit the best of what it sounds like to live through the worst.

Ryan Bingham – Hard TimesA new artist with an old voice . The name says it all.


The Drive By Truckers – Puttin’  People on the Moon A stiff shot of old-school Southern rock chased withed populist rage.


Jimmie Rodgers  – Muleskinner Blues – A classic of down-on-your-luck and lookin’ for work poetry.


Johnny Cash – BustedHarlan Howard’s 1962 penned song of working man’s woe was aa hit for Johnny Cash in 1962 on his classic At Folsom Prison live album and was an even bigger hit for Ray Charles the following year.


Merle Haggard – Workin’ Man Blues – Classic Bakersfield rocks this ode to the laborer.


Frankie Miller – Blackland Farmer – A paen to the 1958 farmers that were just starting to get a glipmpse of the industrial farms that were to change thier professions and lives forever.


Levon Helm – Poor Old Dirt Farmer -  Helm, the only American in the Americana/rock group The Band, tells the story of his Dad’s farm inTurkey Scratch, a hamlet west of Helena, Arkansas.


Johnny Paycheck – Take This Job and Shove It – it’s not all hand-wringing and woe is me in country music. Paycheck’s cover of  David Allan Coe’s song was a huge 70’s hit and a raised finger to The Man.