MEETING JIMMIE RODGERS by Barry Mazor, (Oxford Univ. Press), 376 pp, softbound.
Here’s a great book that we somehow missed when it originally came out in hard cover in 2009. It’s rather distressing that a book of this qual- ity did not come to our attention earlier, and that tells us it’s likely that a lot of others with an interest in early country music and/or this great artist may have missed this as well. Make no mistake, though we may take him for granted now, Rodgers was a giant in American music—pop as well as country (the book has a long but accurate sub-title: “How America’s original roots music hero changed the pop sounds of a century”.
Nolan Porterfield years ago wrote what has been the best biography to date on Rodgers, but Barry Mazor has added much de- tail to the life, musical career and influence of “the Singing Brake- man” or “America’s Blue Yo- deler” (take your choice). This book is loaded with all sorts of interesting facts and knowledge- able commentary, with the 15 chapters giving extensive coverage of Rodgers’ huge influence as well as his early years and things that influenced him. Mazor discusses Rodgers’ con- temporaries like the Carter Family, Gene Autry and Jimmie Davis, then country stars of the 1940s and 50s like Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard.
He shows the effect that Rodgers had on Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan among many others, and even comments on the Blue Yodeler’s unlikely influence on woman singers (Rose Maddox, Dolly Parton and then Rhonda Vincent all tackled “MULESKINNER BLUES!”). A couple of the many interesting highlights are references to Jimmie’s popularity in foreign countries (his 78s came out ex- tensively in Australia and Great Britain, and even in Japan, India and Africa), and the interesting account of how a devoted early Rodgers collector (Jim Evans) started a fan club which led eventually to Rodgers’ songs being re-released starting in the 1950s, after a dry spell of some 20 years of unavail- ability. At the end of each chapter there are listings of pertinent books and music to check out. This is a superb study of a great artist, packed with all sorts of detail—HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!. $ 18.00