Thursday, May 7, 2009

Jimmie Rodgers

This week we've been trying to tie up a few loose ends ... and catching up on some topics that we've covered in some of our previous Forgotten Hits features ... which got me to thinking about 1950's and 1960's folk / rock singing sensation Jimmie Rodgers.

Two years ago we reported the details of Jimmie's life-saving surgery to remove a 28" metal plate from his skull that had been there for the past forty years. The good news ... in what doctors called nothing short of a miracle ... is that Jimmie pulled through that surgery with flying colors ... but we couldn't help but wonder how he was doing two years on ... so we contacted his son Michael for an exclusive Forgotten Hits update. Any problems post surgery? Was his father living a better quality of life? We wanted to know the latest.

Jimmie Rodgers was one of the early Rock And Roll Pioneers ... in fact, he was able to incorporate both a Folk Sound and a Country Sound to his music and, in the process, carve his own path up The Popular Music Charts.

Between 1957 and 1967, Jimmie scored fifteen Top 40 National Hits (and just missed with a couple more.) Honeycomb (#1, 1957); Kisses Sweeter Than Wine (#5, 1957); Secretly (#4, 1958) and Are You Really Mine (#10, 1958) went all the way into The Top Ten ... while others, like Oh-Oh, I'm Falling In Love Again (#13, 1958); Bimbombey (#11, 1958); The Long Hot Summer (#49, 1958); Make Me A Miracle (#31, 1958); I'm Never Gonna Tell (#36, 1959); Because You're Young (#30, 1959); Ring-A-Ling-A-Lario (#32, 1959); Wonderful You (#40, 1959); Tucumcari (#32, 1959); T.L.C. Tender Love And Care (#24, 1960); Waltzing Matilda (#41, 1960); Just A Closer Walk With Thee (#44, 1960); The Wreck Of The "John B" (#50, 1960); No One Will Ever Know (#43, 1962); The World I Used To Know (#51, 1964); It's Over (#37, 1966) and Child Of Clay (#30, 1967) kept his name on the charts and his voice on the radio for over a decade.

Then, in 1967, a very strange tragedy struck. Jimmie was driving home from a party in December when he was stopped on The San Diego Freeway by an off-duty policeman. The events that transpired AFTER he was stopped have been a point of contention for the past 40 years. The "official" police report states that Rodgers fell to the ground while being questioned about his "erratic" driving. Rodgers has always maintained that he was THROWN to the ground, attacked and beaten. (I've also read that he was attacked through his window ... most likely with a tire iron ... when he rolled it down to see why this other car had forced him off the road.) In EITHER event, he ended up hospitalized for over a year, undergoing three brain operations during which time a 20 square inch steel plate was implanted under his scalp, literally forming part of his skull!!! (One can only surmise that if the official police report is correct, he must have "fallen to the ground" quite a FEW times as he also had multiple leg and arm injuries!!!) In fact, Rodgers once said, "My doctor told me that I'd have had to jump off the roof of my car eight times, landing on my head, in order to cause that kind of damage." Lawsuits transpired for the next several years before things were ultimately settled out of court.

Incredibly, 40 years later ... in March of 2007, the story broke that Jimmie went in to have a surgery to remove this metal plate in his head. We broke regular news updates in our Forgotten Hits Newsletter (courtesy of Jimmie's son Michael), letting our readers know (and, in effect, much of oldies land, thanks to the deejays on our list) that the surgery was a COMPLETE success ... incredibly, during the interim forty years, Jimmie's skull had grown back to its original state. Pretty amazing and miraculous if I do say so myself!!!

We experienced a TREMENDOUS outpouring of prayers and well-wishes ... as well as thanks for all the great music that Rodgers has given us over the years ... all of which were forwarded on to Jimmie in the hopes of helping with the healing process.

Now ... two years later ... we couldn't help but wonder how Jimmie was doing with his recovery ... so we spoke with his son Michael last week, who told us:
Dear Kent,
So nice to hear from you.
Dad is doing great and enjoying life to the fullest. He is still busy with writing projects and playing golf most days. Currently he is on a road trip and is expected here in Nashville sometime next week. When I see him I will tell him of your email and your request to speak with him.
Thanks again and please thank everyone with your group for the love and support that you have all shown my father.
Michael Rodgers

We're hoping to bring you a few words from Jimmie himself in the days to come. In the meantime, we'd like to offer THIS suggestion: For YEARS now, there's been talk about doing a Jimmie Rodgers bio-pic ... with this INCREDIBLE fairy-tale ending to the story, wouldn't this seem to be the PERFECT time to do so?!?!?!??

Here's one of my all-time favorite Jimmie Rodgers tracks ... sadly, his LAST chart hit. From 1967, it's "Child Of Clay", our featured track in Forgotten Hits today.