Jimmie Rodgers, Early Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, Dies at 87

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The cover of Jimmie Rodgers’ self-titled 1957 debut LP

Jimmie Rodgers, who scored a #1 pop hit with “Honeycomb,” and went to earn another four Top 10 pop singles, died January 18, 2021. The news of his death at age 87 was announced by his daughter, Michele Rodgers, who wrote, “He was my 1st great love, my best friend & now my greatest loss.” (Rodgers is not related to Jimmie C. Rodgers, who is often referred to as the “father of country music.” The latter died in 1933 at age 35.)

Neither the cause nor place of death was revealed.

Rodgers was born on Sept. 18, 1933, in Camas, Wash., and learned to play piano and guitar as a boy. After completing one year of junior college, he joined the United States Air Force. His official biography states that in 1952, Rodgers was stationed in Korea supporting the front lines during the Korean War. While still in the military, he joined a band called the Melodies.

Once he was transferred to Seward Air Force Base in Smyrna, Tenn., he earned pocket money by singing in local clubs at night. It was then that he first learned the song “Honeycomb,” a 1954 hit written by Bob Merrill.

Following his military career he returned to his hometown and reunited with his childhood sweetheart, Colleen McClatchey, the first of his three marriages. (The couple had two children, including Michele.) Rodgers performed as a contestant on the Arthur Godfrey talent show and his appearance got the attention of Roulette Records, which released his recording of “Honeycomb” in 1957. The single reached #1 and ultimately became his theme song.

A steady run of pop singles followed throughout the decade, including a pair of #7 pop hits, “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” and “Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again.”

The ’60s delivered sporadic chart entries, though nothing that equaled his earlier success. He continued to place songs on the country singles chart through the ’70s, and was seen regularly on most of the popular TV variety and talk shows, including The Andy Williams ShowThe Mike Douglas Show and Hee Haw.

Watch Rodgers perform on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

Rodgers penned his autobiography, Dancing on the Moon, which detailed what he described as the savagery of the recording business, and money that he said he was owed for unpaid royalties from Roulette Records. It also recounted his 1967 brutal beating, which he claims was at the hands of an off-duty Los Angeles policeman. The suspicious case involved eight-figure lawsuits and countersuits; Rodgers ultimately accepted an out-of-court settlement.

In his own autobiography, Me, the Mob and the Music, fellow Roulette recording artist Tommy James claims that Rodgers was the victim of an attack paid for by the label’s owner, Morris Levy, in response to Rodgers’ repeated demands for the royalties he had earned.

Rodgers had two children with his second wife, Trudy. He’s survived by his wife, Mary, with whom he had a daughter.

“God’s speed Dad,” his daughter, Michele, wrote. “You’re finally home. Well done.”

Related: Looking back at those we lost in 2020

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  1. MST66
    #1 MST66 20 January, 2021, 02:21

    So sad about Jimmie! We listen to our Palm Springs neighbor most every day.

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  2. Payer younsi
    #2 Payer younsi 20 January, 2021, 08:54

    R.I.P , Jimmie Rodgers .

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  3. Zenguy1213
    #3 Zenguy1213 20 January, 2021, 10:06

    His last hit “Child of Clay” is still one of my favorites!

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  4. #4 "Stars in Stereo " Long Island N.Y.WLIRFM 21 January, 2021, 03:26

    My husband and I had a New York radio music show and interviewed Mr. Jimmie Rodgers, who was the nicest gentleman and gifted us with his album for our radio audience to enjoy…A great voice and musical talent…RIP.
    Carol & Joseph Ierna

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  5. Kenny Laursen
    #5 Kenny Laursen 23 January, 2021, 01:56

    I was his opening act one week in 1978. A year later, we worked opposite in Lake Tahoe. A couple years after that, we appeared together on a cruise ship to Alaska. The times we spent hanging out are my great treasures. “If time were not a moving thing and we could make it stay” …Mary, may God always bless you and Jimmy.

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  6. howardm
    #6 howardm 24 January, 2021, 01:25

    Don’t forget Ring A Ling A Lario

    Reply this comment
  7. KathyinCT
    #7 KathyinCT 26 January, 2021, 08:15

    Honored to meet him about 6 years or so ago, if more than that, gosh time has flown!!! Dear, dear man. He asked if I could get ahold of CBN to mention him about a miracle he had healthwise and I never got to it. To his wife, I apologize. Procrastinating not good 🙁 Til we meet again!

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    • Juju
      Juju 26 January, 2021, 15:07

      Jimmy was a real sweetheart of a man.
      My favorite hearthrob back in the 50s as a teenanger

      Jimmie was an Amazing man to live so long with a terrible injury he did not deserve

      My mom and dad adored him also

      I met him briefly in branson missouri a few years ago when his wife was performing with the dancing ladies. He was so proud and happy for her

      Rest in peace jimmie and deepest sympathy to his family

      Love. Judy cutrera

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