"Singing Brakeman" dies

May 26th, 1933

On this day in 1933, country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers, nicknamed "the Singing Brakeman," died in New York City at the age of thirty-five. Rodgers, born in Mississippi in 1897, worked as a brakeman on railroads throughout the South and learned songs from black railroad workers, who also taught him to play the banjo and the guitar. A severe case of tuberculosis, contracted in 1924, forced Rodgers to retire from the railroad. In 1927 he signed a contract with the Victor Talking Machine Company, and his records catapulted him to almost immediate fame. He recorded 111 songs altogether and sold twenty million records between 1927 and 1933. Rodgers enthralled radio, recording, and stage audiences with his performance of songs that seemed to catalogue the varied memories and experiences of small town and rural Americans. To seek relief from tuberculosis, Rodgers moved to the Hill Country and in 1929 built a $50,000 mansion in Kerrville, but left there to live in a modest home in San Antonio in 1932. Among the many performers who either knew or were influenced by Rodgers are Mance Lipscomb, Freddie King, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Tommy Duncan, Kenneth Threadgill, and Bill Neely.

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"Singing Brakeman" dies

May 26th, 1933

On this day in 1933, country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers, nicknamed "the Singing Brakeman," died in New York City at the age of thirty-five. Rodgers, born in Mississippi in 1897, worked as a brakeman on railroads throughout the South and learned songs from black railroad workers, who also taught him to play the banjo and the guitar. A severe case of tuberculosis, contracted in 1924, forced Rodgers to retire from the railroad. In 1927 he signed a contract with the Victor Talking Machine Company, and his records catapulted him to almost immediate fame. He recorded 111 songs altogether and sold twenty million records between 1927 and 1933. Rodgers enthralled radio, recording, and stage audiences with his performance of songs that seemed to catalogue the varied memories and experiences of small town and rural Americans. To seek relief from tuberculosis, Rodgers moved to the Hill Country and in 1929 built a $50,000 mansion in Kerrville, but left there to live in a modest home in San Antonio in 1932. Among the many performers who either knew or were influenced by Rodgers are Mance Lipscomb, Freddie King, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Tommy Duncan, Kenneth Threadgill, and Bill Neely.

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Related Handbook of Texas Articles

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With more than 27,000 articles about Texas history, the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas is the largest online encyclopedia about all things Texas. Now you can celebrate the history of Texas every day by activating your free subscription to Texas Day by Day. Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles. It's one of the best ways to learn more about Texas history — in only 15 minutes a day!

Activate your free subscription to Texas Day by Day and you can:

  • Explore Texas history each day in bite-sized pieces conveniently delivered to your inbox each morning
  • Astound your friends with your Texas history prowess
  • Get in-depth looks at some of the overlooked events and landmarks in Texas history
  • Discover new places to explore in the Lone Star State
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