Rodgers Remembrance Vol X: Jimmie’s Texas Blues

| May 24, 2013 | 1 Comment

Jimmie RodgersThis week we are going to once again remember the life and times of America’s Blue Yodeler, the Singing Brakeman, and the Father of Country Music: the late, great Jimmie Rodgers. On Sunday, May 26, Jimmie Rodgers will have been gone 80 years.

Arguably the most significant man in American music, he has heavily influenced country, blues, folk, jazz, Hawaiian, rock, pop, Americana, western swing, jazz, and bluegrass music. As I did last year, I will be highlighting a Rodgers’ song each day and showcasing popular bluegrass versions of each song, to celebrate the career of Jimmie Rodgers.

The way I been treated, some time I wish I was dead;
The way I been treated, some time I wish I was dead;
(Lord know…)
‘Cause I ain’t got no place
To lay my weary head.

[Yodel]

When I want you, woman, I always find you gone;
Ev’rytime I want you, always find you gone;
(You’re always gone…)
Listen here, good mama,
I’m gonna put your air brakes on.

[Yodel]

Some like Chicago, some love Memphis, Tennessee;
Some like Chicago, some love Memphis, Tennessee.
(Ask sweet mama…)
Give me sweet Dallas, Texas,
Where the women think the world of me.
[SPOKEN] Hey, hey, hey…

[Yodel]

You may have your troubles, I’m having my troubles, too;
You may have your troubles, I’m having my troubles, too;
Yes, I know how it feels
When you’re feeling so doggone blue.
(Have mercy, Lord…)

[Yodel]

I’m not singin’ the blues, I’m tellin’ you the hard luck I’ve had;
I’m not singin’ blues, I’m tellin’ you the hard luck I’ve had.
(Baby, I’ve had it, too…)
The blues ain’t nothin’ but a good man feeling bad.

[Yodel]

In addition to being the father of country music, Jimmie Rodgers is a leading figure in blues music. Revered by many as the greatest blues singer of all time, Howlin’ Wolf’s favorite blues singer was Jimmie Rodgers.

“My man that I dug, that I really dug, that I got my yodel from, was Jimmie Rodgers. See, he yodeled, and I turned it into something more of a howl.”   Howlin’ Wolf

Rodgers’ blues is evident in many of his songs, particularly in his collection of thirteen blue yodels. The blues sound is clear in Jimmie’s Texas Blues due to its format. Most classic blues songs follow the same pattern. The songs are written with one line, the line repeated, and then a punch line. The punch line is key. In addition to adding a hint of humor, the punch line adds clarity to the preceding lines and expresses the true sentiment of the verse and the song itself.

For example

1st Line: I’m not singin’ the blues, I’m tellin’ you the hard luck I’ve had;
1st Line Repeated: I’m not singin’ blues, I’m tellin’ you the hard luck I’ve had.
Punch Line: The blues ain’t nothin’ but a good man feeling bad.

A well-written blues song is timeless, which is why Jimmie’s songs are some of the most-recorded tunes of all time. Not just in country and bluegrass — Jimmie’s songs are recorded and performed all over the world.

One aspect of Jimmie’s Texas Blues which is purely Rodgers is his spoken asides. In the verse quoted above, the aside used was “Baby, I’ve had it too…” Rodgers transformed so many aspects in American music and introduced many subtle practices which are now common place in the music industry. He was the first to include spoken phrases not directly connected to the song, such as his “Hey, hey, hey” with which many are familiar. Rap artists use this all the time, and it all started with Jimmie Rodgers.

Jimmie’s Texas Blues is a quintessential example of some of Rodgers’ best aspects. This song hasn’t been as popular through the years as some of his others, but it still has all the earmarks of a Rodgers song. Even though you probably haven’t heard it before, you can still tell it is a Jimmie Rodgers song, the sign of a real artist. Jerry Lee Lewis once said that there were only four stylists in all of popular music: Hank Williams, Al Jolson, himself, and Jimmie Rodgers. Jimmie’s Texas Blues is a great example of why.

The Traditional Grass - 10th AnniversaryOne of the few covers of the song comes from The Traditional Grass. Mark Rader is such a fan of Rodgers’ music, and does a magnificent job channeling his inner “Blue Yodeler” for Jimmie’s Texas Blues. He features many Rodgers-influenced guitar licks throughout, and sings as if his heart has just been crushed and “sweet Dallas, Texas” is the only place where he can find solace. The rest of the band’s bluesy instrumental breaks complete the transformation from an overlooked Rodgers cut into a bluegrass song.

Come back tomorrow for Rodgers Remembrance Vol XI: Those Gambler’s Blues.

If you enjoy the Rodgers Remembrances this week, feel free to tune in to my radio program, Bending The Strings, this Saturday afternoon on Classic Country Radio from 3:00-5:00 p.m. (EDT). In honor of the life of Jimmie Rodgers, I will be producing a very special tribute show including many of the songs discussed in the Rodgers Remembrances this week. You won’t want to miss it!

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Daniel Mullins

Daniel is from southwestern Ohio and has been around bluegrass his entire life. He manages the Classic Country Connection, a music store in southern Ohio which specializes in bluegrass, classic country, gospel, and Americana music. He is the host of the Bending The Strings radio program, which plays a variety of bluegrass, newgrass, and Americana music. He also maintains the website for Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers.
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