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Mrs. Jimmie Rodgers

Mrs. Jimmie Rodgers

If you’ve read my columns you know I’m a sucker for famous quotes from famous folks and I use one whenever it fits my column. Examples:

From movies: “Here’s looking at you, Kid”, “I’ll be back”, and “Run, Forrest, Run”; from world leaders: “Nothing to fear but fear, itself”, “I Shall Return”, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”, and Paul Revere, who shouted, “Faster, you old nag, we got a nation to save”, … I made that one up---but here’s one that connects.

In 1922, Egypt archaeologist Howard Carter, after searching for 31 years, discovered King Tut’s tomb. As he opened the vault he was asked: “Do you see anything?”

“Yes”, he replied, “Wonderful things.”

I had such a moment, not quit as monumentally, but on June 2, 1947, I opened a box mailed from San Antonio, Texas, answering a letter I had written.

As I nervously opened it, I too saw “Wonderful Things” which I can better describe with the title of one of Jimmie Rodgers’ greatest hits, “Treasures Untold”.

It contained a letter from Mrs. Jimmie Rodgers, her 1935 biography of Jimmie, 8 autographed pictures he had signed in 1932, (she wrote “only 12 left” now), an old ticket and poster from a concert, a fan club booklet from 1929, (my birth year), and a 78 rpm record with his picture laminated on it.

I’ll tell you the amazing story of this record next time; why only 100 were pressed and sent to her but never marketed. She had presented one each to Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow and Roy Acuff, and with this one for me she would only have 5 left and only 10 known to exist in the world. The others were lost or stolen.

As late as 1972 even the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, where Jimmie had been the first person inducted, did not have one. I’ll tell you how they got one.

I carefully handled each article while tightly holding the box. To understand my emotions, just imagine your reaction had you received such a box from Pricilla after Elvis’ death. In his time Jimmie was as famous as Elvis, but unlike Elvis, he had been totally forgotten by 1947. That would change!

Early next morning I got in touch with seven of my friends and had them pose by a phonograph holding an old Jimmie Rodgers record in one hand and his picture in the other. I boxed and mailed the pictures of our “Club”, pictures of Bayou Lafourche, and me, including one singing with the Dudley Bernard band. (I was not yet a member but told her I was singing a Jimmie Rodgers song although I really didn’t remember).

I included other articles to fill the box, which of course paled in comparison with her gifts to me. Only the picture record, the biography and two of her letters survived the Hurricane Hilda flood of 1964. So began our correspondence that lasted for the rest of her life.

In 1950, with little fanfare and not much expectation, RCA released an LP “Jimmie Rodgers Memorial” containing 12 of his greatest hits. To their amazement it flew off the shelves, bought by old fans, new fans, fans who only knew the legend, and from fans from all over the world.

His fame, legend and music was revived, but that would come later. The complete 105-song box set, 5 CD’s, is available on Amazon for under $25.

Also in 1950, a new announcer, Jim Andrews, initiated a program on WBOK in New Orleans called “Hillbilly Jamboree”.

To my delight he played a Jimmie Rodgers record on his program every day, most of which I had never heard since RCA had not yet begun the re-issues.

Having worked in San Antonio he knew Mrs. Rodgers, (he called her Carrie), and one morning he called me, introduced himself and told me that Mrs. Rodgers was coming to visit him for an interview. She had given him my phone number for him to invite me to meet them at the radio station for lunch. I couldn’t believe my ears.

What a way to start my day!

Next week, I meet the great lady. Bye now!

Comments are welcomed at: leroymartin1929@gmail.com