This week we are going to 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 Saturday, May 26, Jimmie Rodgers will have been gone 79 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. To celebrate the life and times of Jimmie Rodgers, I will be highlighting a Jimmie Rodgers’ song each day and showcasing popular bluegrass versions of each song.
Any Old Time — Jimmie Rodgers
I just received your letter
You’re down and out, you say
At first I thought I would tell you
To travel on the other way
But in my memory lingers
All you once were to me
I’m going to give you another chance
To prove what you can be
Any old time you want to come back home
Drop me a line and say, no more you’ll roam
You had your chance to play the game fair
And when you left me, sweetheart, you only left a load of care
Now that you’re down, I’m going to stick by you
If you will only say your roaming days are through
You’ll find me here like the day you left me alone
Any old time you wanna come back home
You’ll find me right here like the day you left me alone
Any old time you wanna come back home, home, home
One aspect of Jimmie Rodgers that makes him so unique in American music is the sheer variety of musical styles he recorded during his short musical career. His original recording of Any Old Time may surprise many who have not heard it.
Any Old Time was recorded as a vaudeville/Dixieland jazz number. This may come as a shock to many who may not see the Father of Country Music in this light. Jimmie’s recording begins with him and his acoustic guitar, but finishes out with a complete jazz ensemble complete with piano, trumpet, and trombone. The Del McCoury Band and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band could have some fun with this one!
Jimmie’s influence in jazz music is oft-forgotten. Many of his tunes included horns and a very jazz-influenced fiddle. The greatest jazz musician of all time, Louis Armstrong, even had ties to Jimmie Rodgers. Back in 1930, a 29 year old Armstrong took part in a recording session in Hollywood, CA where he was asked to play behind America’s Blue Yodeler. With Louis on trumpet, and Lil Armstrong (Louis’s second wife) on piano, Jimmie sang Blue Yodel #9 (Standing On The Corner), which is one of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
Even without the Dixieland instrumentation, Any Old Time is still a very jazzy song. The melody has a very vaudeville feel to it, even without the horns. The jazzy feel to the tune makes it very easy for artists to let loose and have a good time recording this classic Jimmie Rodgers song.
Beautifully written, the song tells of a man who is giving a past lover a second chance. Although he has been hurt by this woman, he feels sympathy since she has not been doing well since leaving him. He decides to give her the chance to come back as long as she promises to be true.
You’ll find me here like the day you left me alone
Any old time you wanna come back home.
This song runs deep with emotion. Sadness, anger, pain, love, forgiveness, betrayal- it’s all here. This may be why it still resonates with audiences eighty years later.
Any Old Time has been recorded by many acoustic and bluegrass artists perhaps most memorably for bluegrass fans by Tony Rice on his Church Street Blues album.
One of my favorites on the album, Tony’s voice soar on Any Old Time. Vocally, it is easily one of his best songs ever; he makes it seems so natural. The jazz feel to the song’s melody does nothing but help him. Rice’s guitar work on the song may seem simple compared to his mind-boggling work on others, but it is a perfect match to Rodgers’ style, and leaves more room for Rice’s vocals to shine. This is a more stripped-down rendition of the song compared to Jimmie’s original version, which many will find refreshing.
Another stellar version of Any Old Time which many bluegrass fans may not know is available comes from Alison Krauss & Union Station. In 1997, Bob Dylan led the charge to record a Jimmie Rodgers tribute album. The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers – A Tribute included such artists as Dwight Yoakam, John Mellencamp, Iris Dement, David Grisman, Willie Nelson, Jerry Garcia, Steve Earle, Bono, and AKUS performing some of Rodgers’ most well-known songs.
Alison’s version of Any Old Time is hands-down the best recording on the album. The track begins slowed down with simply Alison and a piano, then picks up the tempo and adds in mandolin, guitar, bass, and light drums. The arrangement for this song is great. It pays homage to the Father of Country Music, while still keeping it Alison Krauss. She sings her heart out and delivers the song’s lyric in a very honest way, brilliantly unveiling all of the song’s emotional subtleties in a way only Alison can. This is a recording every bluegrass fan needs to have.
Bluegrass and bluegrass-related artists such as Sara Watkins, Jimmy Gaudreau & Moondi Klein, and Doc Watson have also recorded Any Old Time, as have country stars such as Webb Pierce, Ernest Tubb, and Hank Snow. Hopefully, you’ll listen to any or all of the aforementioned renditions of this Rodgers classic and understand what makes this song appealing people of all generations.
Come back tomorrow for Rodgers Rememberance Vol III: Frankie and Johnny.
If you enjoy the Rodgers Remembrances this week, feel free to tune in to my radio program, Bending The Strings, this Saturday afternoon on My Classic Country 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!