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12,393 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 112 of them this year alone and, so far, 112 this month (Jan. 23).

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Blue Yodel Number Nine by Jimmie Rodgers

Radio Recorders Studios 7000 Santa Monica Boulevard Los Angeles, July 16, 1930.

"Well today is a big day for me and no mistake. I got another record session for Mister Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Record Company. This is my sixty third side for the company and I think it’s gonna be kinda’ special for me.

I guess you could say I bin’ kinda’ lucky. I was born in 1897 in Geiger Alabama, didn’t have much in the way of schoolin’ and ended up a brakeman for the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad.  In 1927 I got tuberculosis; which meant I had to quit that job. I’d always sung and fooled around on the geetar and in December I heard Victor were looking for talent and the auditions were in Bristol Tennessee where I was livin’ at the time. Well what do you know? Mister Peer signed me up to the Victor Talking Record Company.

We’re at the start of the Great Depression and almost from the first cut I’m selling a million records on most every release at a cool 75 cents apiece. Jimmie Rodgers the Singing Brakeman sure got an even break huh? I guess I’ve really hit that old jackpot.

Here we are one hot July afternoon at Radio Recorders in LA and Mister Peer has just introduced me to my new band for the session and some band it is and no mistake. I got Mister and Mrs. Louis Armstrong on trumpet and piano. The great Satchelmouth and his lovely wife Lil, they sure are my kind of people.

Only thing is, I feel a sorta’ bashful about my end of the deal. I’m just a hick from the sticks, even with my millions of sales. I ain’t much on the geetar, and my timing is a kinda’ wayward, but I guess I sure do sound like myself. Guess that’s why the folks like me.

Then over by the piano we got Mister Louis Armstrong the greatest jazzman of all time and the inventor of scat singing. The creator of the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, West End Blues, Cornet Chop Suey, Weatherbird and Stardust, to name just a few! He sure can blow that horn – he’ll charm the birds outa’ the trees and then make the walls come tumblin’ down!

Anyways Lil asked me to play geetar, to help her out on the rhythm side. I said sorry ma’am; the old axe gotta stay in its case. She looked a little sad but I weren’t gonna play no geetar with the one and only Satchelmouth in the room. I surely know when I’m outclassed.

We got some sort of balance between my croakin’ and hollerin’ and Louis’ trumpet and Lil’s piano after a lot of trial and error. Lil said she’d give me an eight bar intro. She started playing and then I started singing. They both kind of looked at me funny at that and that made me nervous so I stopped singing - seems like I’d come in two bars early.

Well the rehearsal went on and on and I kept screwing up the timing.

I’m kinda’ famous for my yodeling but I weren’t doin’ it in the right place or the right length and the song just kept falling apart. Mister Peer had been listening in the control room and he came out and said Lil can’t you just follow Jimmie? He just does what he feels, when he feels it and I said yeah, I ain’t been to no music college. Anyways we got some sort of a routine organised. We kept the six bar intro, verse, yodel, verse, yodel, trumpet solo, verse, yodel, and finish. Lil nailed down the rhythm and chased me round the verses.

Louis, well what can you say? He made the whole darn record. The man is a stone genius. We got it down cold third take. Then I started coughing."

Jimmie Rogers died in 1933 at the age of 36 of a pulmonary hemorrhage induced by overwork and chronic tuberculosis. He is considered to be the father of Country music. In his six-year career he sold over ten million records.

In all there are twelve Blue Yodels.

Gerry Richardson

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