Jimmie Rodgers , byname of James Charles Rodgers, also called the Singing Brakeman and America’s Blue Yodeler (born September 8, 1897, Pine Springs Community, near Meridian, Mississippi, U.S.—died May 26, 1933, New York, New York), American singer, songwriter, and guitarist, one of the principal figures in the emergence of the country and western style of popular music.
Rodgers, whose mother died when he was a young boy, was the son of an itinerant railroad gang foreman, and his youth was spent in a variety of southern towns and cities. Having already run away with a medicine show by age 13, he left school for good at age 14. He began working on his father’s railroad crews, initially as a water carrier, and during this time was likely exposed to the work songs and early blues of African American labourers. As a young man, he held a number of jobs with the railroad, including those of baggage master, flagman, and brakeman, crisscrossing the Southwest but especially working the line between New Orleans and Meridian, Mississippi. Early on, Rodgers aspired to be an entertainer, and the life of the railroad worker provided him ample opportunity to develop and exercise his musical skills, to absorb a mixture of musical styles, and to catalogue the experiences of working people and southern small-town life that would later be at the heart of so many of his songs. He learned to play the guitar and banjo, honing what became his characteristic sound—a blend of traditional country, work, blues, hobo, and cowboy songs.
After contracting tuberculosis, Rodgers was forced to give up railroad work in 1924 or 1925 and began pursuing a performing career, playing everything from tent shows to street corners but with little success. He relocated to Asheville, North Carolina, and began appearing on local radio in 1927, backed by a string band formerly known as the Tenneva Ramblers. The group (renamed the Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers) also performed at resorts and traveled to nearby Bristol, Tennessee, in the hope of making a field