Jimmie Rodgers

Jimmie Rodgers is primarily known as a country/pop singer but he has featured on film.   He was born in 1933 in Washington State.   His more popular songs include “Kisses Sweeter than Wine”, “Are You Really Mine” and “English Country Garden”.   His film include “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come” in 1960 and “Back Door to Hell”.

Gary Brumburgh’s entry:.

He was born September 18, 1933 in Camas, Washington, a few months after beloved Country Music Hall of Fame singer Jimmie Rodgers (known as “The Singing Brakeman”) died of consumption. They were not related but perhaps Jimmie’s mother, a piano teacher who often played for silent movie houses, was inspired to name her son after the country legend as the same exact spelling of the first name occurred. His mother taught the musically-inclined Jimmie the piano and guitar. He formed bands and served at one time with the U.S. Air Force. He later was discovered on Arthur Godfrey‘s talent show and was signed by Roulette Records, an offshoot of RCA.

In the late 50s, Jimmie’s easy folk-pop style and melodic renderings caught on fast. A wonderful alternative to the rock-and-roll, he found a #1 overnight hit with the song “Honeycomb” in 1957 and followed things up with a handful of “top 10” singles including “Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again,” “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” “Secretly,” “Waltzing Matilda” and “Are You Really Mine.” Signed by Roulette Records, he severed ties with the record company in 1960 after a money dispute and signed with Dot Records the following year.

Jimmie became a popular commodity during these years, touring with the likes of Buddy HollyJerry Lee LewisLittle Richard and Frankie Avalon. He made TV appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “American Bandstand” to the delight of his fans, and even parlayed his singing fame into a brief movie career with lead performances in the remake of The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1961), in which he co-starred with Disney’sLuana Patten, and the war drama Back Door to Hell (1964). Both were only mildly received.

Things looked very promising with a TV summer series “The Jimmie Rodgers Show.” Not an electric performer by any stretch, the good-looking singer with the trademark cleft chin had a natural and easygoing charm that appealed to the masses. In 1967, however, right after signing with A&M, Jimmie’s life and career changed forever. In December of 1967, he was stopped by an off-duty police officer on the freeway after leaving a party. The details are sketchy and the incident remains a mystery, but Jimmie somehow suffered a severe skull fracture as a result of the encounter and claims the police brutally attacked him. The police report maintains that Rodgers was intoxicated and hurt himself when he stumbled and fell. Jimmie later sued the City of Los Angeles and settled out of court. His life, however, would never be the same.

I Jimmie attempted a comeback of sorts, appearing regularly on “The Joey Bishop Show” in 1969, but after three brain surgeries he still suffered from convulsions and had trouble with balance. A portion of his face also sagged and he did not like appearing on camera for that reason. Forced into retirement in later years, he devoted himself to religion and performed only on occasion in the concert venue. Some of his more popular songs can still be heard on commercials. He was married three times and has five children.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

New York Times obituary in 2021:

Jimmie Rodgers, whose smooth voice straddled the line between pop and country and brought him a string of hits — none bigger than his first record, “Honeycomb,” in 1957 — died on Jan. 18 in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 87.

His daughter Michele Rodgers said that the cause was kidney disease and that he had also tested positive for Covid-19.

Mr. Rodgers was a regular presence on the pop, country, R&B and easy listening charts for a decade after “Honeycomb,” with records that included “Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again” (1958) and “Child of Clay” (1967), both of which were nominated for Grammy Awards.

He might have continued that run of success but for an ugly incident in December 1967, when he was pulled over by a man who, he later said, was an off-duty Los Angeles police officer and beat him severely.

Three brain surgeries followed, and he was left with a metal plate in his head. He eventually resumed performing, and even briefly had his own television show, but he faced constant difficulties. For a time he was sidelined because he started having seizures during concerts.

“Once word gets out that you’re having seizures onstage, you can’t work,” he told The News Sentinel of Knoxville, Tenn., in 1998. “People won’t hire you.”

Mr. Rodgers was found to have spasmodic dysphonia, a disorder characterized by spasms in the muscles of the voice box, a condition he attributed to his brain injury. Yet he later settled into a comfortable niche as a performer and producer in Branson, Mo., the country music mecca, where he had his own theater for several years before retiring to California in 2002.

James Frederick Rodgers was born on Sept. 18, 1933, in Camas, Wash., in the southwest part of the state. (Four months earlier, a more famous Jimmie Rodgers, the singer known as the father of country music, had died; the two were unrelated.) His mother, Mary (Schick) Rodgers, was a piano teacher, and his father, Archie, worked in a paper mill. Jimmie started out singing in church and school groups.

After graduating from high school, he briefly attended Clark College in Washington State but left to enlist in the Air Force, serving in Korea during the Korean War. In a 2016 interview with The Spectrum, a Utah newspaper, he recalled one particular evening near Christmas 1953.

“I bought a beat-up old guitar from a guy for $10 and started playing and singing one night and all the guys joined in,” he said. “We were sitting on the floor with only candles for light, and these tough soldiers had tears running down their cheeks. I realized if my music could have that effect, that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”

Back in the States and stationed near Nashville, he started performing in a nightclub for $10 a night and free drinks before returning to Washington after mustering out. In 1957 he traveled to New York to perform on a TV talent show and also snagged an audition for Roulette Records, singing “Honeycomb,” a Bob Merrill song he had learned off a recording by Georgie Shaw and had been performing in the Nashville club.

“They basically said, ‘Don’t go any further, that’s great,’” he said in an interview with Gary James for classicbands.com.

Mr. Rodgers was taken to a studio to record what he thought would be a demo with musicians he had only just met.

“They brought in four players and three singers and we recorded it in about two hours — no charts, no music,” he said in a 2010 oral history for the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association.

A week or two later, he was surprised to hear the song on the radio. It reached the top of the Billboard pop and R&B charts.

Later that year he had another success with his version of a song that had been a hit for the Weavers, “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” giving it an up-tempo kick and injecting key changes similar to what he had used in “Honeycomb.”

“I was told that they won’t sell — records that change keys, people can’t sing along with them,” Mr. Rodgers recalled in an oral history recorded in 2002 for the National Association of Music Merchants. The public disagreed.

His early songs, released as Elvis Presley was shaking up the music scene, were a sort of comfort food, jaunty yet melodic and not too earthshaking. In 1959 his quick popularity earned him his own television variety show, which ran for one season.

“If his singing style calls for more emphasis on beat than lilt,” Jack Gould wrote of its premiere in The New York Times, “at least it has the virtue of being well this side of rock ’n’ roll.”

Mr. Rodgers dabbled in acting in the 1960s, including a leading role in “Back Door to Hell,” a 1964 war movie whose cast also included Jack Nicholson. In 1965, “Honeycomb” found new life when Post introduced a cereal by that name, repurposing the song to advertise it, the jingle sung by Mr. Rodgers. He also sang a SpaghettiOs jingle that riffed on his “Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again.”

Mr. Rodgers said he was under consideration for a featured role in the 1968 movie musical “Finian’s Rainbow” when the encounter on the freeway derailed his career. In his telling, he was driving home late at night when the driver behind him flashed his lights. He thought it was his conductor, who was also driving to Mr. Rodgers’s house, and pulled over.

“I rolled the window down to ask what was the matter,” he told The Toronto Star in 1987. “That’s the last thing I remember.”

He ended up with a fractured skull and broken arm. He said the off-duty officer who had pulled him over called two on-duty officers to the scene, but all three scattered when his conductor, who went looking for Mr. Rodgers when he hadn’t arrived home, drove up.

The police told a different story: They said Mr. Rodgers had been drunk and had injured himself when he fell. Mr. Rodgers sued the Los Angeles Police Department, prompting a countersuit; the matter was settled out of court in his favor to the tune of $200,000.

During his long recovery Mr. Rodgers got another shot at a TV series, a summer replacement variety show in 1969.

“I looked like a ghost,” he admitted in a 2004 interview.

His marriages to Colleen McClatchy and Trudy Ann Buck ended in divorce. In 1978, he married Mary Louise Biggerstaff. She survives him.

In addition to her and his daughter Michele, he is survived by a son, Michael, from his first marriage; two sons from his second marriage, Casey and Logan; a daughter from his third marriage, Katrine Rodgers; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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