Jimmie Rodgers celebrated with album, NYC picnic

By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Press

JACKSON — Country music star Jimmie Rodgers will be celebrated this weekend at the annual Mississippi Picnic in New York City, where a musician will play songs recently recorded using a guitar once owned by Rodgers.

Britt Gully used Rodgers’ custom Martin guitar in February to record a tribute album at the Jimmie Rodgers Museum in Meridian, Miss., Rodgers’ hometown. The museum owns the guitar.

It was the first time the instrument had been played in a recording session in years.

Gully, who is from Kemper County, Miss., said the guitar is valued at $1 million.

He’ll play a replica of the instrument Saturday during the picnic at Central Park, an annual gathering of Mississippians who live in the New York metro area.

Rodgers died in 1933.

“It was an honor just to get to touch it, much less play it and record and album with it,” Gully said. “That’s Holy Grail for me.”

The guitar has been kept in safe in recent years at the museum dedicated to Rodgers, who is considered the father of county music and was also known as the “Singing Brakeman” from his time as a railroad worker.

Gully said another country music star, Ernest Tubb, played the guitar for years after Rodger’s death, but it hadn’t been used for a recording in decades.

Saturday’s picnic is the 34th annual gathering of Mississippi expatriates in Central Park. The first picnic was organized by a group of native Mississippians living in New York who wanted to improve perceptions of the Magnolia State.

Rodgers died from tuberculosis in 1933 at the age of 35 while he was in New York for a recording session, but his music went on to inspire musicians from all genre’s and made him an international star. He was among the first inductees in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum when it opened in 1961.

Gully said the tribute album was recorded in the Jimmie Rodgers Museum, using the Rodgers’ guitar, a piano that belonged to Roger’s sister-in-law, a songwriter named Elsie McWilliams, and a microphone believed to have been used by another country music giant, Hank Williams.

He said it is available now through the Jimmy Rodgers’ foundation, but wider distribution is in the works.