Mrs. Jimmie (Carrie) Rodgers

Carrie Williamson was the daughter of a Meridian, Mississippi preacher and was married to America’s Blue Yodeler – Jimmie Rodgers – in April of 1920 – while she was still in high school.  Their marriage was one of hardship but survived the extreme life difficulties surrounding Jimmie’s rise to stardom, and to where we have come to know him as the “Father Of Country Music”, “America’s Blue Yodeler” and “The Singing Brakeman”.  His song frequently spoke of his married life with Carrie.  Many were written by her sister, Elsie Williamson and then recorded by Jimmie.  His signature song, “T For Texas” is one of those great blue yodel tunes, always ending with that incomparable – blue yodel.  His railroad songs told of life on the rails and were written around his actual life work as a railroad brakeman, and dated back to when he was a young lad and would sing with the hobo’s in the rail yards.

After Jimmie’s untimely death from Tuberculosis, Carrie Rodgers vowed to keep his music alive.  She had been instrumental in the ongoing career of Jimmie Rodgers and became a powerful and influential person in the country music industry for all the years of her life following his death.  The number of aspiring country singers who modeled themselves after Jimmie Rodgers was legion, and she always had an open door for anyone who appeared sincere in their efforts.  Among those aspiring artists was a young man who searched her name in the telephone directory and called her to ask her help in his career.  Under her superb guidance and influence, that person became known as the late and great country music legend, Ernest Tubb.

In the very early 1950’s, I had written my first song entitled “Birth Of The Yodel”.  This was my small tribute to Jimmie Rodgers.  In 1959, while performing at the Red River Jamboree Show in Paris, Texas, I became acquainted with a wonderful lady, Mrs. Floy Case.  One evening, after performing “Birth Of The Yodel”, she asked if I could give her a recorded copy of the song.  Unknown to me at the time was that Mrs. Case was a journalist and feature writer for several of the music trade papers including Billboard Magazine and Cashbox Magazine.  Suddenly, I found my name showing up in bits of Country News in both publications and still later, found myself on the end of a telephone call from Mrs. Carrie Rodgers who had received a copy of “Birth Of The Yodel”, from her good friend, Mrs. Floy Case in Paris, Texas.

A short time later, I was invited to the home of Mrs. Rodgers in San Antonio where we visited for several hours.  I was privileged indeed, when she brought out Jimmie Rodgers guitar and asked me to play it.  I found however, that Mrs. Rodgers was becoming very ill at the time of this visit and her condition subsequently resulted in life threatening surgery for cancer, which continued to progress and finally took her life in 1961.  Although separated by many miles, we visited frequently, and our friendship grew.  In spite of her terminal illness, she became the guiding light in my musical endeavors and displayed an interest in my musical welfare that has been unequaled.  I was privileged to speak with her just prior to her death and was present when she was laid to rest in Meridian, Mississippi.  The world of Country Music lost one of its most staunch supporters.  I lost one of the kindest friends I could ever hope to have. 

Although my musical efforts had brought us together, and it was through her influence that I was afforded further opportunities in country music, it is the kind and gentle nature of this lady and her friendship that has meant the most through all the ensuing years.  To know that a person of her stature would befriend a struggling young man with a dream, as I was at the time, further taught me that there are few things in life as rewarding as loving and caring about your family and your fellow man and showing sincere compassion for those less fortunate.

Jerry Hanlon (2001)


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