Gary: Not to be confused with Jimmie Rodgers – [This is about the Pop singer (born 1933), NOT the Country singer of the same name (1897-1933)]. I always enjoyed his music, I was not a huge fan, but do remember the beating that almost cost him his life, he had a difficult time.
My wife absolutely loves his music, so I will attempt to give what I think are some of the key songs. If I miss some of your favourites, let me know and I will do what I can.
James Frederick Rodgers (born September 18, 1933)
The Hits of Jimmie Rodgers
(Chum applies only in Toronto)
1. Honeycomb/ Roulette 4015/August 1957/ #1 Billboard #1 Chum
2. Kisses Sweeter than Wine/ Roulette 4031/ November 1957/ #14 Billboard #6 Chum
3. Oh-Oh I’m falling in Love Again/ Roulette 4045/ March 1958/ # 9 Billboard # 19 Chum
4. Secretly/ Roulette 4070/ June 1958/ #15 Billboard #8 Chum
4. Make me a Miracle/ B side/ June 1958/ #16 Billboard #15 Chum
5. Are you really Mine/ Roulette 4116/ August 1958/ #10 Billboard #14 Chum
6. Bimbombey/ Roulette 4129/ December 1958/ #10 Billboard #10 Chum
7. I’m Never Gonna Tell/ Roulette 4129/ April 1959/ #36 Billboard #17 Chum
8. Ring-A-Ling-A-Lario/ Roulette 4158/ June 1959/ #32 Billboard #20 Chum
9. Tucumcari/ Roulette 4218/ October 1959/ #32 Billboard #32 Chum
10. Just a Closer Walk with Thee/ Roulette 4234/ #2 Chum
11. The Wreck of the Sloop “John B”/ Roulette 4260/ #1 Chum
12. English Country Garden/ Roulette 4384/ December 1962/ #6 Chum
13. It’s Over/ Dot 16861/ June 1966/ #37 Billboard #35 Chum
14. Child of Clay/ A&M 871/ October 1967/ #31 Billboard #16 Chum
Although he was not related to the famous country singer Jimmie Rodgers, it is possible that the younger Jimmie Rodgers was named for the older one as that was a popular name given to baby boys in the early 1930s. [Also, he was born the same year as the Country singers death]
He was born in Camas, Washington and taught music by his mother, learned to play the piano and guitar, and formed a band while he served in the United States Air Force. Like a number of other entertainers of the era, he was one of the contestants on Arthur Godfrey’s talent show on the radio. When Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore left RCA Records to found a new record company, Roulette Records, they became aware of Jimmie’s talent and signed him up.
In the summer of 1957, he recorded a song called “Honeycomb” which had been done by Bob Merrill three years earlier. It was his first big hit, reaching the top of the charts for four weeks.
The following year, he had a number of other hits that reached the top ten on the charts: “Kisses Sweeter than Wine“, “Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again“, “Secretly“, and “Are You Really Mine“.
Other hits include “Bimbombey“, “Ring-a-ling-a-lario“, “Tucumcari,” and “Tender Love and Care (T.L.C)“.
In 1959 he had a televised variety show on the NBC network
In 1962 he moved to the Dot label, and four years later to A&M Records. He also appeared in some movies, including The Little Shepard of Kingdom Come, opposite Neil Hamilton.
Video 1965 Shindig:
In 1967 he had his last top-100 single, “Child of Clay“.
On December 20, 1967, while preparing to do a film for 20th Century Fox, he was a victim of an assault while driving on the San Diego Freeway in Southern California, receiving a severe beating leading to a fractured skull. This caused an approximately year-long period when he ceased to perform, but eventually returned, though not reaching the top singles chart again. He did, however, make an appearance on the album chart as late as 1969. Also, during that summer, he made a brief return to network television with a summer variety show on ABC.
His first wife, Colleen, had a fatal blood clot, claiming her life shortly after the 1967 beating. He remarried and with his new wife, Mary, he had a daughter in 1990.
The beating was very questionable; the trouble-plagued L.A. Police Department was involved. Here is what Rockabilly.nl had to say about it:
Jimmie was due to appear in another motion picture scheduled to shoot in Europe but he never started the movie owing to an incident which most reports date a few days before Christmas (20 December) 1967.
In the early hours of the morning Rodgers was motoring home from a party when he was pulled over, apparently by an off-duty police officer for suspected traffic violations.
“I had been at the Twentieth Century Fox studios in L.A. all day,” Rodgers explained. “I was getting ready to do a film with them and I was working on a motion picture script and musical story for stage called ‘The World Through the Eyes of Children’ which is a complete two-hour musical. “We had been to a Christmas party and I had been with my conductor all evening. I’d had a couple of drinks but I left the party in pretty good shape. I was driving at about 2 a.m. and someone pulled up behind me and blinked his lights. I pulled over and stopped in a little side street in the San Fernando Valley (also cited as being on the San Diego Freeway / near Mission Hills, north of Los Angeles). This guy walks up to my window. I rolled it down thinking it was my conductor but he said he was a policeman. That’s about the last I recall. “My conductor had gone on to my home and waited for me there. When I did not show up, he came back and found my car and there was a car parked behind my automobile with a police car behind it. The car behind my automobile took off and then the police car left. We eventually found out was the guy that stopped me was an off-duty policeman who later called the police to come out to the scene where I had been beaten”. Though police denied it and Rodgers remembers only a blur of police uniforms as he lapsed in and out of consciousness, the singer maintains that the officer beat him senseless and then drove off. “Apparently I’d made him mad, cut him off or something and he hit me,” Rodgers says. He seemingly became a victim of ‘road rage’ before it had a name.
Rodgers was so badly injured that he underwent three brain surgeries following the beating. Doctors had to reconstruct his skull and use a 20-inch square plate. He also had a broken wrist. In the long court battle that ensued, the off-duty officer who stopped him said the singer was driving erratically and slipped and fell when he got out of the car. Rodgers claims that the officer beat him until he was unconscious, then left him bleeding from the head wound. Other officers showed up but it wasn’t clear to Rodgers what they did at the scene, except leave him without medical attention. After he recovered, he filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, who following five years of litigation settled out of court for $200,000, a very large sum at that time. “It was a pretty good sum of money,” Rodgers says now “and I went on with my life”.
In the attack, Rodgers was hit with a blunt instrument that caved in the right side of his skull. The Police Investigation concluded that Rodgers climbed out of his car and fell while talking with the officer, crushing his skull. All three of the officers were suspended for 15 days for the ‘improper handling’ of the case. Rodgers said he still was wearing leg braces two years later when Carol Burnett invited him to make his comeback as part of her show. “I looked like a ghost,” he said. “But I could still sing”. “I think they just picked on the wrong guy, realized their mistake and tried to cover it up.” His ability to walk and talk were left temporarily impaired and he still has trouble with his balance. His weight dropped to 118 pounds. At the same time, Rodgers’ wife was suffering from a brain disorder. The couple eventually separated though Rodgers continued to take care of her until her death in 1978 aged 38 after complications with brain surgeries related to her earlier car accident – she had a clot on the brain.