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James Charles "Jimmie" Rodgers is Born

Today in Masonic History James Charles "Jimmie" Rodgers is born in 1897.

James Charles "Jimmie" Rodgers was an American entertainer.

Rodgers was born on September 8th, 1897. The place of his birth is in question, initially it was listed as Meridian, Mississippi. Later in life Rodgers wrote it was Geiger, Alabama. Researchers who have looked in to Rodgers say it is Pine Springs, Mississippi, which is near Meridian, as his birthplace. Rodgers claim of being born in Geiger probably comes from the fact when he was 6 or 7 his mother passed away and he was sent to live with his grandparents near Geiger.

As early as thirteen years old, Rodgers was putting together his own traveling shows. His father often had to bring him home. Rodgers' father worked on the railroad and got Rodgers a job as a water boy on the railroad. As a water boy he was in a position to learn guitar from other railroad workers, hobos and gandy dancers, a term used to describe individuals who worked building the railroad lines. A few years later he became a brakeman on the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad on the line between Meridian and New Orleans.

In 1924, Rodgers was 27 and contracted tuberculosis. This caused him to lose his job with the railway. On the up side this gave him more time to work on his entertainment career. He organized a traveling show across the Southeastern United States. He was eventually forced to return home when a cyclone destroyed the tent used for the show. He briefly returned to railroad work in Florida before his illness forced him to stop again. He also moved west to Tuscon, Arizona and worked as switchman before finally returning back to Meridian in 1927.

The same year Rodgers traveled to North Carolina where he appeared on WWNC. Shortly after he recruited a band called the Tenneva Ramblers and they appeared on a WWNC regular program called "The Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers." In July of 1927 Rodgers and the Tenneva Ramblers got word a representative from Victor Talking Machine Company was looking for local bands to audition. In early August they auditioned and were accepted by the Victor representative. The representative asked them to return the next day to be recorded. Rodgers and the band went their separate ways before the recording happened. There are two stories as to why, one belongs to Rodgers, the other to the band. In Rodgers story the band argued about the billing on the recording. In the band's version, which came from one of the band members, they found out Rodgers had leased some instruments from a local music shop. He then sold the instruments and never paid the music shop, the band felt this was unacceptable behavior. Regardless of the reason for the split, Rodgers went to the recording session in Camden, New Jersey by himself.

Rodgers first recording sessions as not very lucrative, he only made $100. They were modestly successful once they were released. Still determined to make it as an entertainer, Rodgers went to New York to get more recording sessions. This time he worked with his sister-in-law who helped him write songs. She wrote 40 songs he performed. Some were on her own, others were with Rodgers. The new set of songs catapulted him into fame. He began touring the country with people like Will Rogers and playing with musicians like Louis Armstrong.

By August of 1932, Rodgers' health was getting worse due to the tuberculosis. He continued to press on though. He traveled back to Camden to do more studio recordings. It was his second to last session. When the session ended he headed to Texas where he built a home for his family. Not one to stay in place too long, he headed back to New York city for recording sessions in mid May. His health was so bad between sessions he laid in a cot to get his strength back.

Rodgers passed away on May 26th, 1933 of pulmonary hemorrhage while staying at the Taft Hotel in New York City. At the time of his passing his record sales accounted for 10% of all of RCA's sales.

Rodgers was a member of Spinks Lodge No. 507 in Mississippi.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.