The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #104326   Message #2135208
Posted By: GUEST,Richie
28-Aug-07 - 09:14 AM
Thread Name: Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers
Subject: Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers

I am trying to understand the first recording session (Bristol Sessions in 1927) with Jimmie Rodgers. If anyone can help and provide sources for their answers it would be appreciated. Thanks.

How much did Peer pay Rodgers?

What did Peer have to do with the break up of the Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers?

After the Tenneva Ramblers broke up with Rodgers when did they arrange a separate session with Peer?

Who accompnaied Rodgers to the session and where did he stay?

Here are some of my thoughts (please suggest corrections):

Rodgers and the Carter Family were both discovered at the Bristol recording sessions called the "big bang" of Country Music in August 1927. On Aug. 4 Rodgers recorded two songs for Ralph Peer, Victor's A &R man. From the accounts by Peer, Country Music historian Charles Wolfe and other sources we can see that Rodger's desire to succeed and just plain luck helped him on the road to fame. "The best things in life seem to occur by pure accident," said Peer. "We strive to accomplish something worthwhile; success finally comes to us, but usually from an unexpected source."

In Asheville, North Carolina, Rodgers wrangled a regular unpaid spot on local radio station WWNC and persuaded the Tenneva Ramblers (Claude and Jack Grant, with Jack Pierce on fiddle), a string band from Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia, to join him. Rodgers named the new group formed that March 1927, The Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers. When the radio program was abruptly canceled, they found work at a resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains and slowly increased the number of engagements. Rodgers was planning a tour north to Baltimore when he learned that Ralph Peer, an agent for the Victor Talking Machine Company, was making field recordings in Bristol, not far away. After arranging an audition with Peer on Aug. 3 by telephone, Rodgers went to Bristol with his wife and daughter, staying at a boarding house just across State Street from the studio run by Jack Pierce's mother. After the audition (the night before the scheduled recording on Aug. 4) The Tenneva Ramblers decided they didn't want to be called "The Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers." After all, they had only played with Rodgers a few months and had no great loyalty to him (they formed four years earlier in 1923). Peer himself was impressed with the Tenneva Ramblers and thought that Rodgers fronting the band was a mismatch [Jimmie Rodgers by Robert Krishef].

The group confronted Rodgers and they broke up. Deserted by the band, Rodgers persuaded Peer to let him record alone, accompanied only by his own guitar. In this case Peer was probably not interested in recording Rodgers at all but acquiesced since he had made a commitment to both groups.

When Rodgers showed up the next day at 2:00pm on Aug 4th wearing a faded old suit and carrying his old Martin guitar. Peer was disappointed to find that most of the songs Rodgers had been singing were fairly new pop songs and asked him for ones that sounded old but could be copyrighted. Peer rejected Rogers "T For Texas" at that time and they finally settled on one original song "Soldier's Sweeetheart" and one song that showed Rogers yodeling ability, "Sleep Baby Sleep." The fact that Peer only recorded two songs shows his lack of interest at Rodgers at that time.
Peers recollection years later that shows he had already put a positive spin on the session, after all Rodgers became
one of his top artists and made him a lot of money.

[Here's a few paragraphs of "Ralph Peer Remembers Jimmie Rodgers" from Bluegrass West: Jimmie Rodgers telephoned from Asheville. He said that he was a singer with a string band. He had read the newspaper article and was quite sure that his group would be satisfactory. I told him to come on a certain day, and promised a try-out.

When I was alone with Jimmie in our recording studio (a very old warehouse which had not been in use for many years), I was elated when I heard him perform. It seemed to me that he had his own personal and peculiar style, and I thought that his yodel alone might spell success. Very definitely he was worth a trial.
We ran into a snag almost immediately because, in order to earn a living in Asheville, he was singing mostly songs originated by New York publishers—the current hits. Actually, he had only one song of his own, "Soldier's Sweetheart," written several years before. When I told Jimmie what I needed to put him over as a recording artist, his perennial optimism bubbled over. If I would give him a week he could have a dozen songs ready for recording. I let him record his own song, and as a coupling his unique version of "Rock All Our Babies to Sleep." This, I thought, would be a very good coupling, as "Soldier's Sweetheart" was a straight ballad and the other side gave him a chance to display his ability as a yodeler. In spite of the lack of original repertoire, I considered Rodgers to be one of my best bets.

He was quite ill at the time, and decided that instead of trying to return to Asheville he would visit a relative in Washington, D.C. The money was enough to pay for this trip.]

Since Peer figured he was doing Rodgers a favor recording him in the first place he slipped him $20 after the session instead of the customary $100 ($50 per song) that he was supposed to pay Rodgers. Jimmie promptly used the money to move from Jack Pierce's mothers boarding hotel to a better hotel. Rodgers probably didn't want to have anything to do with Pierce after the band left him.