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Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America's Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century Hardcover – May 15, 2009
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"The story of [Rodgers'] enormous influence, bursting with names of stars, stalwarts, and one-hit wonders, and featuring discographical endnotes for most chapters, is the immensely piquant and satisfying meat of one of the most intelligent, fascinating, and cogent pop-music histories ever."--BookList (Starred Review)
"Nashville writer Mazor has fashioned a superb book, not only celebrating Rodgers' life, but illustrating the manner in which the man's wares have influenced American popular music for over 80 years.. Mazor's book does much in keeping the legend alive."--MOJO Magazine(5-star review)
"Excellent, highly readable." -- Douglas Brinkley
"A book I heartily recommend." -C. Eric Banister, Music Tomes
"Barry Mazor's Meeting Jimmie Rodgers is a superb book, superbly written, and indispensable to anyone who wants to understand the legacy of Jimmie Rodgers and why his music has endured for over eighty years."--Nolan Porterfield, Author of Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America's Blue Yodeler
"A shrewd, hard-headed look at the great Mississippi singer's influence on country, rock and roll and folk music. Mazor adeptly combines solid research, musical savvy and a stubborn refusal to accept received wisdom about popular music that Jimmy Rodgers helped invent." --American Songwriter
"Until I read this book, I had assumed that the last word had been written on Jimmie Rodgers, the great country blues musician. But, buoyed by Barry Mazor's keen insights, innovative research, and felicitous writing style, I have become aware of new dimensions of the Singing Brakeman's influence on American popular music. While Rodgers drew upon a wide array of styles and genres to build his own career, it has been his legacy to shape the sounds and styles of generations of musicians, both in and outside of country music, right on up to our own time."-Bill C. Malone
"Barry Mazor's expertly researched and elegantly written book... is a valid history of Rodgers success...Meeting Jimmie Rodgers finds his influence in nearly every American music idiom, and does so with critical acumen and brilliant flashes of insight." --The Shepherd Express
"If you write about music, you should read this book. If you are a fan of American music, you should read this book."--Nashville Scene
"A great new book... Barry lets us see anew a musician/artist/entertainer/man who many perhaps thought we'd already seen more than enough of... Barry liberates Rodgers from dehumanizing single-vision tropes like "authenticity," arguing instead for a worldview more bittersweet and fine, more like life."--Living In Stereo
"This is a fine addition to the literature on Rodgers. This carefully researched, well-written book provides something special."--Choice
"Extremely well-researched..."--Dirty Linen
"Barry Mazor has done a superb research job on this music legend."--Steve Ramm, In the Groove
"Full of interviews and documentation, this volume crosses musical borders just as Rodgers did in his recordings."--In The Groove
"Mazor is a lively writer (I read most of this book in one sitting) as he engagingly traces the rise of the Mississippi-born and medicine show-bred Rodgers from working-class obscurity to famed songsmith while exploring the legacy that his tones, tunes and themes have left on popular music of a variety of genres..."--Gary von Tersch, Sing Out!
"Mazor challenges the rigid distinctions between folk and popular music, debunking scholarly claims of folk music's aesthetic purity." --Oxford American
About the Author
Barry Mazor has been writing about American music since the 1970s. A long-time senior editor for the roots and pop music magazine and website No Depression, he writes frequently on country and pop music for The Wall Street Journal. Recent winner of the Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism. He lives in Nashville, TN.
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In doing so, Mazor rejects the kind of phony and inaccurate talk about Jimmie's "folk roots" that spring from Country music's claims of folk authenticity and the neglect of popular music that a generation of music scholars who came out of the 1960s folk revival usually employ. Jimmie grew up in an era when popular music, Ragtime, and early Blues were exploding in everything from street sings to medicine shows (to which the young Jimmie Rodgers ran away several times), minstrel shows Black and white, theater, barrom, and tent shows, sheet music and the early recording industry.
Jimmie grew up in this music. While he may have heard a few blues from Black railroad works in his work on the railroads that was largely interrupted by Jimmie's desire to play music and enjoy himself and his struggle with tuberculosis, Mazor points out the many places Jimmie went to list to Black Blues, Ragtime, Jazz, and pop musicians and singers and his continued listening to that music both live and on record after he achieved success.
By giving such an accurate picture of where Jimmie came from, he aslo gives a picture of what streams of music flowed over and into the millions who followed Jimmie Rodgers,streams of blues, rags, and hints of jazz as well as touches of the sentimental old fashioned music on one side and the pop crooning of the twenties on the other side, and how they all flowed together. Rodgers was not only popular with Southern whites, but sold many records among African Americans, was avidly listened to by the Black Blues singers who Rodgers studied, inspired the socalled Cowboy singers like Gene Autry who entered music as a Jimmie Rodgers clones, and laid the way for both Western Swing--a truer descendant of Jimmie's music than Nashville's spawn--and much of the Country honky-tonk Style.
Rodgers is still considered a major star charting records and getting his tunes covered in West Africa and other parts of the world.
Rodgers is just so plain good in my uncritical opinion, that you can overlook what he meant and where he took the music and culture. Mazor is not extreme enough to say if it were not for Rodgers what has happened would not have happened, but he gets very close to showing us why Rodgers happened, and what about our culture, our music, and our lives produced the resonance his music and life have received since.
Readers of the book will find that the appearance of Louis Armstrong on the Johnny Cash show that opens the book is easily available on youtube and is just as enjoyable and historic as Mazor describes it.
This is one of those books that anyone who seeks to understand 20th Century American music, not just country music or blues, needs to own. It is also very readible, interestingly illustrated, and provides easily accessible musical examples of Rodgers and the music of others that can bring the book off the pages and into your ears.
This book belongs in every home.
I had never heard of Jimmie Rodgers before I read this book, and I had heard only one of his songs--"In the Jailhouse Now"--although I didn't know it was his. Upon reading "Meeting Jimmie Rodgers," however, I learned what an influential singer he had been. The subtitle of Mazor's book gets at his thesis: "How America's Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century." Rodgers was heir to the music traditions of the South: hillbilly, country, blues, gospel, Vaudeville. And yet, like all artistic originals, he took that tradition and made it a new thing, his own distinctive thing. Much of Rodgers' distinction was the "blue yodel," which he did not invent but which he did perfect. Many country and western artists today trace their inspiration to Rodgers.
So, on the one hand, Mazor's book told me a lot about a man I had never heard of. It also provided me with a discography of original Rodgers' recordings, as well as recordings of his musical contemporaries and numerous imitators. On the other hand, the book assumed such a thorough knowledge of roots music generally and Jimmie Rodgers particularly that it was hard reading for this non-specialist.
On the whole, then, this is a good book. Had I been more knowledgeable about Jimmie Rodgers at the outset of reading it, I think it would have been a very good book.
Most recent customer reviews
It's not a biography of Jimmie Rodgers, although it does contain a lot of...Read more
I think it was that he died young, that others felt they could copy his style...Read more