Jimmie Rodgers honoured with first marker on the Mississippi Country Music Trail

Mississippi honours the "Father of Country Music", Jimmie Rodgers, with the first marker on the Mississippi Country Music Trail. The marker was unveiled on Tuesday 1st June at Oak Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Meridian, Mississippi.

"Because of his influence on the musical genre, Jimmie Rodgers is clearly recognised as the 'Father of Country Music'" said Mary Beth Wilkerson, director of the Mississippi Development Authority's Tourism Division. "Prior to the recording of Rodgers' first songs for the Victor Talking Machine Company, there was no such musical genre as country music. His style was a national phenomenon that paved the way for generations of country music, blues and rock and roll artists to come."

Born in 1897 in Meridian, James Charles "Jimmie" Rodgers' love for entertaining started at an early age. By age 13, he had twice organised travelling shows, only to be brought home by his father, who secured young Rodgers his first job working on the railroad as a water boy. Rodgers would later become known as "The Singing Brakeman" because of his railroad ties. In 1924, a bout with tuberculosis temporarily ended his railroad career, but offered him the chance to get back to the entertainment industry. He organised a travelling road show and performed across the Southeastern United States. Rodgers later worked on the railroad in Florida and Arizona before travelling to Asheville, North Carolina in 1927. There, Rodgers recorded his first songs for Victor Talking Machine Company and released several records to modest success. A short time later, he skyrocketed to stardom with the release of "Blue Yodel" (better known as "T for Texas"). 

As one of the first country music superstars and pioneers, Rodgers was one of the first three artists inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961. His musical influence is not limited to country music. Rodgers was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Blues and rock musicians worldwide have cited him as a musical inspiration. A Mississippi Blues Trail marker honouring Rodgers is also located in Meridian. The United States Postal Service issued a 13-cent commemorative stamp honouring Rodgers, the first in its long-running Performing Arts Series.

Even 80 years after his death, Jimmie Rodgers remains one of the most influential figures ever in the history of popular music. Bob Dylan, Bono, Alison Krauss, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle and Jack White are only some who have testified to the influence of "The Singing Brakeman". 

Much like the Mississippi Blues Trail, which now garners over 100 markers, the Mississippi Country Music Trail celebrates Mississippi's rich heritage of country music legends and chart toppers. The trail will feature a variety of country music artists, uncluding Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Jerry Clower, Faith Hill, Paul Overstreet and others to comprise the first 30 markers across the state. 

For more information about the Mississippi Country Music Trail, explore the official Mississippi Development Authority's Tourism website.