New historic marker to honor famed ‘singing brakeman’ Jimmie Rodgers and his Asheville ties


A new roadside marker to be dedicated on Sept. 8 in Asheville will mark a great moment in the town’s musical history – how Jimmie Rodgers, known as the “singing brakeman,” got his big break through the local radio station WWNC.

Here’s the press release from the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources:

ASHEVILLE — Jimmie Rodgers moved to Asheville in 1927 and worked as a railway brakeman, janitor, cab driver and even a city detective. But it was appearances on WWNC radio that gave him his big break in music. He went on to become known as the “singing brakeman” or “yodeling cowboy.” He will be honored with dedication of a N.C. Highway Historical Marker Sept. 8, at 2 p.m., at Haywood Street at Battery Park Avenue, as part of Jimmie Rodgers Day in Asheville.

Rogers played live weekly with his friend Otis Kuykendall on WWNC, beginning in April 1927. Other musicians were added and the group was known as the Tenneva Ramblers and later as the Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers. WWNC featured old-time country musicians and broadcast from the Flat Iron Building.

Record producer Ralph Peer captured Rodgers’ first two tracks Aug. 4, 1927. “The Soldier’s Sweetheart” and “Sleep, Baby, Sleep,” were recorded in Bristol, Tenn. The well-known Carter Family also made their first recordings that week in what became known as the “Big Bang of Country Music.” When a successful Rodgers returned to Asheville in December 1929, he was touted as “Asheville’s Own.” He died of tuberculosis in 1933.

In addition to the public highway marker dedication at 2 p.m., there will be a parade with street musicians and performers leading to a ticketed musical celebration at the Asheville Music Hall at 4 p.m.

For information on the highway marker dedication, please call (919) 807-7290. For information on the musical celebration, visit

The N.C. Highway Historical Marker Program is within the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources and a joint program with the N.C. Department of Transportation.

A bit more from Dallas Taylor:

Not many know that Jimmie Rodgers, commonly referred to as “The Father of Country Music,” “The Singing Brakeman,” and “The Blue Yodeler” lived and had his radio debut in Asheville in 1927. On Sunday, September 8th, 2013, Jimmie Rodgers’ 106th birthday will be celebrated during a public ceremony unveiling a state historical marker and later a private reception at Asheville Music Hall. WNCmusic.Org is a local organization devoted to unifying, advocating for, and promoting the Western North Carolina music industry across all genres. It is our mission to recognize and support the many talented musicians in our community. Jimmie Rodgers Day is an opportunity to continue the legacy of the hard working music industry in Western North Carolina.

A big thank you to loyal reader Pope for the heads-up on this.


Dallas September 4, 2013 - 1:59 pm

Thank you so much for sharing, I appreciate the quote!

Josie September 3, 2013 - 4:30 pm

I think you have a typo in your headline.

Jason Sandford September 3, 2013 - 5:13 pm

Thank you, Josie. #underslept

Big Al September 3, 2013 - 6:00 pm

That was a FAST fix!

NFB September 3, 2013 - 3:56 pm

Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, also had a radio show on WWNC, for a few months in 1939.

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