Friday, October 9, 2009

Jimmie Rodgers and Clayton McMichen


Here's a photo (Click to enlarge) of Jimmie Rodgers and Clayton McMichen in Tupelo, Mississippi, in December 1929 that's displayed in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

By 1929, Jimmie Rodgers had experienced a meteoric rise from obscurity to stardom similar in many ways to the later experiences of Hank Williams and Elvis Presley. By summer he was making in excess of $1,000 a week in royalties.

On top of this, according to Rodgers, he made "$1,500 a week" playing the R-K-O’s Interstate Circuit tour and Loew’s vaudeville circuit. By 1929 he was a millionaire; he built a house in Kerrville Texas, bought a fancy new Buick, new clothes and had all the trappings of success.

So Jimmie was planning a some concerts during the winter of 1929. Who did he select to play fiddle? One of the best: Clayton McMichen.

"Everybody knows McMichen" said a concert poster advertising a concert featuring Jimmie Rodgers and McMichen in Chattanooga which was part of Rodger's tour across the south and southwest. Rodgers considered Mac his "good pal" and in 1932 would call on Mac to help him with his recordings.

Cccording to the 1977 book, Jimmie The Kid: "Clayton McMichen, the Georgia fiddler, with whom Rodgers later recorded, claimed he introduced Rodgers to Ralph Peer in Atlanta in 1926 or 1927."

This claim seems unlikely for many reasons. We know from the two photographs of McMichen and Rodgers (the above dated Dec. 1929 and another dated 1930 that's clearly early in the year) and the Chattanooga concert poster that Mac was part of the winter tour. When they met is uncertain. According to the book Jimmie The Kid, Gid Tanner met Rodgers in Atlanta so it could be assumed Rodgers met Mac in Atlanta as well.

More on Jimmie and Mac later,

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