Born James Frederick Rodgers in 1933 in Camas, Washington, Jimmie had a pretty normal childhood. His mother was a piano teacher and so he learned at an early age to play. He majored in music at Vancouver Clark College in Washington but with the aim that he would teach music, not be a performer.
He enlisted in the Air Force and served during the Korean War. It was while he was stationed in Seoul, Korea, that he bought a guitar and learned to play. When the war ended, he returned to the states and was stationed at Stewart Air Force Base in Nashville. There he started playing for audiences. He heard the song “Honeycomb” played by someone else, liked it so much, that he rearranged it to suit his style.
“Honeycomb” was written by Bob Merrell in 1954. The song didn’t make much of an impact until Jimmie Rodgers heard it. When the Air Force ended, he went back home to Washington where he got a job playing at a local night club. He was so popular he stayed there for 17 weeks. A fellow named Chuck Miller saw him play and recommended he try out for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts in New York. Miller even lend Jimmie the airfare so he could fly to New York. There Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatori of Roulette Records heard him sing and signed him to a record contract.
They recorded “Honeycomb” first and it went to number one where it stayed for two weeks. Jimmie had three more very good hits, “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” “Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again,” and “Secretly” before starting the long slide into obscurity. In 1967, he got badly hurt during a traffic stop. He blamed the cops for roughing him up, they said he fell and hurt himself. He was pretty much out of business after that. He tried comebacks, but they never took.
He is still alive and, I believe, lives in his home town of Camas, Washington.
This video has Dick Clark in it, but this is not Bandstand. This is from a show called Saturday Night Beech Nut Show, it aired on May 3, 1958.
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