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Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers

GUEST,Richie 28 Aug 07 - 09:14 AM
GUEST,Richie 28 Aug 07 - 02:44 PM
Arkie 28 Aug 07 - 08:13 PM
Peace 28 Aug 07 - 08:54 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 07 - 09:23 PM
GUEST,Richie 29 Aug 07 - 08:19 AM
Fred McCormick 29 Aug 07 - 10:37 AM
GUEST,Richie 29 Aug 07 - 12:00 PM
GUEST,Sondra Pierce Kelley 05 Sep 07 - 04:13 PM
Arkie 05 Sep 07 - 06:56 PM
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Subject: Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 09:14 AM


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.


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Subject: RE: Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 02:44 PM


I have questions about Blues Yodel #1 or "T for Texas."

Did Rodgers play "T for Texas" for Peer on Aug. 4 when they were trying to figure out songs that Rodgers could record?

I assumed that Rodgers would have played it, since he considered it one of his better songs, and that Peer not wanting blues from a white hillbilly artist would have not been interested.

Peer stated that he came up with the Blue Yodel titles, and the Blue Yodeler nickname. When did and where did Rodgers acquire the nickname?


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Subject: RE: Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers
From: Arkie
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 08:13 PM

Richie, have you read Nolan Porterfield's biography of Jimmie Rodgers?   I think it is considered the definative work on Rodgers' life.

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Subject: RE: Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers
From: Peace
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 08:54 PM

"Peer agreed to record him again, and the two met in Philadelphia before traveling to Camden, New Jersey, to the Victor studios.

Four songs made it out of this session. "Ben Dewberry's Final Run"; "Mother Was A Lady"; "Away Out on the Mountain"; and "T for Texas." In the next two years, the acetate that contained "T for Texas" (released as "Blue Yodel") and "Away Out on the Mountain" sold nearly half a million copies, which was impressive enough to rocket Rodgers into stardom. After this, he got to determine when Peer and Victor would record him, and he sold out shows whenever and wherever he played."


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Subject: RE: Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 09:23 PM


Thanks for your replies. No, I don't have Nolan Porterfield's biography.

Carrie Rodger's also wrote a book about her husband. Her bias may be a problem.

The real problem is accurate information. I know Rodgers wanted to play "T for Texas" for Peer on Aug. 4. It was his best song. I figure that a blues wasn't the type of song Peer wanted. Rodgers boldly went to NYC from Washington D.C. without an invite from Peer and little money. He called Peer when he got to NY saying "I just happened to be in town and decided to see if you needed any more recordings."

After arranging the session in nearby Camden, NJ he convinced Peer to record "T for Texas." I still don't think Peer was sure of his ability at that point. He thought his yodel was marketable. Peer was a shrewd A & R man but mostly from a monetary viewpoint.

Much of the internet bios contain errors about the early performers and finding info is important to me. There are mistakes in most of the biographers books as well.

Yet there are people who want accurate info and know things.



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Subject: RE: Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 08:19 AM

Here's a great story about Rodgers:

Early in 1928 after Rodgers had cut "T for Texas" (which didn't take off until the summer) Rodgers was not happy with Peer or Victor and approached Columbia for an audition in Atlanta. Frank Walker, head of Columbia's Old Familiar Tunes who had recorded the Skillet Lickers and would one day sign Hank Williams, listened to Jimmie sing. He turned to his assistant Bill Brown and said, "Who needs Jimmie Rodgers, we've got Riley Puckett."


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Subject: RE: Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 10:37 AM


I can definitely recommend Porterfield's biography on Jimmie Rodgers, which also contains a useful discussion of Ralph Peer and his involvement with country music. When I read it I felt he could have pulled a few less punches, especially where Peer was concerned. However, given the extent to which he was relying on the co-operation of family members, his reticence is understandable.

Otherwise I think you'll find it the most accurate source of information on both caballeros there is.

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Subject: RE: Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 12:00 PM


Thanks-I'll check out Porterfield's take.

Here's an interesting quote from Peer:

"The records wouldn't have been any good if Jimmie had sung with this group (Tenneva Ramblers)," said Peer. "He was singing nigger blues and they were doing old-time fiddle music. Oil and water don't mix." [Guitar; An American Life by Tim Brooks]

It seems to me that Peer was responsible in part for breaking up the group. He probably said something similar to them at the audition. His interest was only in the Tenneva Ramblers at the time.


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Subject: RE: Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers
From: GUEST,Sondra Pierce Kelley
Date: 05 Sep 07 - 04:13 PM

I am Jack Pierce's daughter. From the papers and notes I have the argument was over the billing - My father's group had been togethr for several years & they did not want Jimmie to have the top billing. I have the orginal recording of the Bristol Sessions. You can get them from the Museum in Bristol.

My father died when I was only one but my mother had alot of "old stuff" from his early career.


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Subject: RE: Music History Question: Jimmie Rodgers
From: Arkie
Date: 05 Sep 07 - 06:56 PM

Mrs. Kelley, thanks for posting here. It is nice to get input from those who have a personal interest and often inside information. According to what I have read there was a disagreement over billing and it occurred before the recording session started.

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