Jimmie Rodgers was more than just country music's first big star, he was also one of the first performers in the early stages of the recording industry to truly understand the benefits of having a distinct public persona. He became known as "the Singing Brakeman" after his discovery at the famed Bristol Sessions
in 1927, and he astutely altered that image in 1930 by moving to Texas and donning a cowboy outfit. His records sold astoundingly well for the time, which meant he was much imitated, and this four-disc, 100-track set attempts to chart the phenomenon. Included are sides by W. Lee O'Daniel
, who would eventually become the Governor of Texas, and a whole disc of Gene Autry
, who began his singing career as a Rodgers mimic, covering close to 30 of Rodgers' songs between 1929 and 1931, before turning to the blues and then morphing into a cowboy singer. The third disc is split between sides by Bill Cox
, who was known as "the Dixie Songbird," and the intriguing, somewhat mysterious Goebel Reeves, who recorded as the Texas Drifter (he also tracked as George Riley, Louis Acker, and the Yodeling Wrangler, among other handles) and seems to have been every bit the hobo he claimed to be. Also included here are early- to mid-'30s recordings by future honky tonkers Ernest Tubb
and Hank Snow
, both of whom began their careers as Rodgers imitators. It will all probably be too much yodeling for the casual listener, but dedicated Rodgers fans, archivists, and historians of the era will delight in this in-depth exploration of the Jimmie Rodgers milieu.