When he was 13 years old, he ran away twice to give traveling shows. His father who worked for the Mobil and Ohio Railroad, ended that by putting Jimmie to work as a water boy with the same railroad.
When he was 27 in 1924, he came down with tuberculosis, temporarily ending his career on the railroad but giving him a chance to pursue entertainment. He organized a traveling road show however after a cyclone destroyed his tent, he went back to work with the railroad.
On April 18, 1927 Jimmie and Otis Kuykendall performed for the first time on the new North Carolina station WWN. A few months later, Jimmie recruited a group from Tennessee called the Tenneva Ramblers and they secured a weekly slot on the station as the Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers. A columnist said, “Whoever that fellow is, he either is a winner or he is going to be.”
On August 4, Jimmie Rodgers recorded two songs: “Sleep, Baby, Sleep” and “The Soldier’s Sweetheart.” For the recordings, he received $100 from Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company. In November of that year, Peer recorded Rodgers again at the Victor studios in Camden, New Jersey. Four songs made it out of this session: “Ben Dewberry’s Final Run,” “Mother Was a Lady,” “Away out on the Mountain” and “T for Texas.” In the next two years, “T for Texas” (released as “Blue Yodel”) sold nearly half a million copies, rocketing Rodgers into stardom.
In the next few years, Rodgers did a movie short, "The Singing Brakeman", and made various recordings across the country. He toured the Midwest with humorist Will Rogers. On July 16, 1930, he even recorded “Blue Yodel No. 9” (also known as “Standin’ on the Corner”) with a young jazz trumpeter named Louis Armstrong, whose wife, Lillian, played piano on the track.
Rodgers’ next to last recordings were made in August 1932 in Camden,New Jersey and it was clear that TB was getting the better of him. He had given up touring by then but with the success of "T for Texas" he had a weekly radio show in San Antonio, Texas, where he’d relocated and built a house for his family in Kerrville, Texas.
Starting in May 1933, Jimmie went to New York for recording sessions. He completed four songs on the first take, but his illness was taking its toll. After a days rest he had to record sitting down and shortly went back to his hotel to rest so he could complete his recordings.
Jimmie recorded “Years Ago” by himself, finishing as he’d started six years earlier, just a man and his guitar. Within 36 hours, at age 36, “The Father of Country Music” was dead. (1)