Jimmie Rodgers, known as "The Singing Brakeman" and "the Blue Yodeler," was born in Meridian, Mississippi on September 8, 1897. After working as a brakeman for the railroad, a bout of tuberculosis forced Rodgers from the rails, as he took up his first love—entertaining.
Performing near Asheville, North Carolina in the summer of 1927, Rodgers traveled to Bristol, Tennessee upon hearing the news of a field recording session for the Victor Talking Machine Company. On August 4 that same year he made his first recordings, "Sleep, Baby Sleep" and "The Soldiers's Sweetheart," in a make-shift studio on the 400 block of State Street. Later that year he traveled to Camden, New Jersey where he recorded his first Blue Yodel, " ?T' for Texas," which went on to sell over 1 million copies. Rodgers went on to record 127 more songs over the next six years.
Rodgers' music blended blues, jazz, hillbilly, crooner, and vaudeville styles into a new prototype of American music, as he became country music's first superstar and the "Father of Country Music." The new genre of country music emerged during America's Great Depression as Rodgers traveled the nation with humorist Will Rogers, broke race barriers by recording with Louis Armstrong and blues guitarist Clifford Gibson, and even made a short film entitled "The Singing Brakeman." Jimmie Rodgers died in New York on May 26, 1933 from complications of tuberculosis while recording his last songs.
Rodgers' influence has crossed genres of music around the world. He was the first person to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and was among the first group of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The inscription on his plaque at the Country Music Hall of Fame describes him best: "the man who started it all."