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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Last Updated: 03/27/2002