James Charles Rodgers recorded “My Rough and Rowdy Ways”. Professionally, Mr. Rodgers is Jimmie Rodgers that started his career in October 1929. Others considered Rodgers “The Singing Brakeman”, “The Blue Yodeler”, and “The Father of Country Music”.
The classic rounder song, “My Rough and Rowdy Ways” tells the story of a man who tries to change his “old ways”. However, he cannot drift from his “good ol’ rough ‘n rowdy ways”.
Eventually, he finds himself drinking heavily, playing pool, and you know what. Since the song’s release in 1929, “rough and rowdy ways” has become an expression to describe one’s “bad” behavior. The phrase has even recurred in popular music.
What makes the story of “My Rough and Rowdy Ways” so interesting? By many accounts, “My Rough and Rowdy Ways” may be somewhat personal. The love for liquor, women, cars, and gambling was among his many traits. Barry Mazor, the author of Meeting Jimmie Rodgers, points out, “There are specific, credible stories of Jimmie arriving in a town, meeting a few women, and leaving several new divorces in progress in his wake”.
The “Bad Boy” Image
To say Jimmie could be “rough and rowdy” at times would be putting it lightly. Furthermore, it is not surprising that Bonnie Parker was a big Jimmie Rodgers fan. “She liked Jimmie Rodgers; she had every record that he ever made”, said Billie Jean Parker (Bonnie’s sister).
This “rough and rowdy” image proved to do good to Jimmie. To the average working man, the romantically taboo lifestyle Jimmie portrayed had a strong effect. In their minds, Jimmie lived an exciting and adventurous life. A life they could never have. To a certain extent, they lived explicitly through his famous exploits.
Regardless of the degree to which Rodgers’ adventures were or were not exaggerated, for many artists, Rodgers is an inspiration.
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