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Jimmie Rodgers (1897 - 1933)

Father of Country Music

Jimmie Rodgers was the first figure inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and is fondly referred to as the "Father of Country Music." Yet his combination of blues and hillbilly styles made him a true forebear of rock and roll, and he was also part of the first group of musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Born in Meridian, Mississippi, in 1897, Rodgers worked on the railroad from the age of 14, learning the blues from black workers on his crew. At 24, he contracted tuberculosis and was forced to quit his job.

He turned to music, recording 110 sides for the Victor label between 1927 and his death from TB at 1933. Having worked on the railroad, he became known far and wide as "the Singing Brakeman." Among the most noteworthy of his recordings were his series of "Blue Yodels," in which he drew from Appalachian hill ballads, black spirituals, rural blues and white pop music - all elements whose electrified synthesis would serves as the blueprint for rock and roll. No less a kindred spirit than Bob Dylan had this to say in the liner notes to the Jimmie Rodgers tribute album that became the first release on Dylan's Egyptian Records in 1997:

Jimmie Rodgers, of course, is one of the guiding lights of the Twentieth Century, whose way with song has always been an inspiration to those of us who have followed the path. He was a performer of force without precedent with a sound as lonesome and mystical as it was dynamic. He gives hope to the vanquished and humility to the mighty.