On This Day: Jimmie Rodgers Records Two Songs During the Bristol Sessions in 1927

by Clayton Edwards

This is a very important date for the history of country music. 95 years ago, a little-known 29-year-old singer named Jimmie Rodgers recorded his first two songs. It just so happens that he did so in a makeshift recording studio in Bristol, Tennessee. That was just the beginning of his career. Later, he would find major commercial success and become the Father of Country Music.

“Blue Yodel #1”

The historic Bristol Sessions took place between July 25th and August 5th, 1927. Ralph Peer, an engineer and talent scout for the Victor Talking Machine Company put together a recording studio in the upper floors of the Taylor-Christian Hat Company in Bristol, Tennessee. His mission was simple – Peer was in town to capture “Hillbilly Music” made by rural Appalachian artists and spread it far and wide.

Jimmie Rodgers Heads to Bristol

Tuberculosis forced Jimmie Rodgers to quit his long-lived career of working on the railroad. However, it didn’t stop him from traveling. Rodgers decided to live out his passion of being a professional performer and took his act on the road. By the time he came to Bristol, he had already made a name for himself as a radio star in western North Carolina.

Speaking of traveling, Jimmie Rodgers had to make a nearly 100-mile trek to Bristol, according to Frank Beacham’s Journal. In the days before interstate highways and modern automobiles, this was not an easy feat. It would have been even tougher for someone suffering from the symptoms of tuberculosis.

To matters worse, Jimmie Rodgers had a falling-out with his backing band not long before his recording session. As a result, he stepped into Peer’s makeshift studio with only his guitar to accompany him.

Embodying the grit and spirit that make country music what it is, Jimmie Rodgers pressed on. That day he recorded “The Soldier’s Sweetheart” and “Sleep Baby, Sleep.” Victor Records released those songs on a double-sided single later that year.

“The Soldier’s Sweetheart”

Initially, Rodgers found only moderate success. However, it was enough for Peer and Victor Records to take notice. Over the next six years, Jimmie Rodgers recorded over 100 songs for the label. His series of Blue Yodels put him on the map.

The Impact of Rodgers’ Bristol Recording Session

Today, we know the Bristol Sessions as the “Big Bang of Country Music.” However, Peer wasn’t the first person to record Hillbilly Music in Appalachia. The thing that sets these sessions apart from those that came before them is the fame garnered by two of their participants – The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.

Because of his Bristol recordings, Rodgers was able to build a career as a recording artist. As a result, his jazz and blues-infused style of country music alongside his signature yodeling made its way into the wider musical vernacular of the United States. He helped to shape the earliest days of country music and his influence lives on today, almost a century after his recording career began.

Rodgers died in 1933 at the age of 35 shortly after finishing a recording session in New York City.