Two music giants together recreating a historical recording session from 1930. It’s pretty amazing how much music can be traced back to Louis Armstrong and how many people he influenced over the years. Probably the most important musical figure of the 20th century and I’m not the first person who has said that. As the story goes, Django Reinhardt was reduced to tears and murmured, “my brother” when he heard Louis on record the first time. Of course, Louis made many appearances with many different people over his long career, but most people out there would not associate him with Country Music in any way. Just goes to show that categories are sometimes very meaningless.
While Johnny Cash may not have had Louis’s range in styles and influence, he was certainly an American icon, not only as a musician, but also as an entertainer. He was one of the first entertainers to embrace charity and awareness work and lobbied and performed on behalf of prisoners, Native Americans and poor people long before anyone else did. Two of his best albums were recorded in prisons. His music still sounds as original and fresh as it did when it was released 50-60 years ago and his television show from the early 1970s was really cool. It brought a whole lot of great music to the people just as he did right up until his death nine years ago.
Lynyrd Skynyrd did a pretty rippin’ version of Blue Yodel (the first version of this song was called T for Texas). Singer Ronnie Van Zant was a pretty huge country music fan and had a keen appreciation for all of the great music, black and white, that originated in his section of the country. This is from the Knebworth show in 1976 where they opened for The Rolling Stones. Steve Gaines had been in the band only a short time and was already doing well and drummer Artemus Pyle really drives the train along!
The original was done by The Blue Yodeler, Jimmie Rodgers. He was an entertainer and a railroad worker from an early age. After contracting tuberculosis when he was 24, he gave up on the railroad work and started singing. He recorded the T for Texas version of Blue Yodel (Blue Yodel #1) in 1927 in NEW JERSEY of all places. It was a huge hit, selling half a million copies. The 1930 version of Blue Yodel (#9) (also called Standing on the Corner) featured Louis Armstrong on trumpet and Louis’s wife Lillian on piano. It was recorded in Hollywood just as Louis says in the first clip. Sadly, Jimmie’s constant touring and performing schedule combined with the effects of TB wore him out at the very young age of 36 in 1933. The Blue Yodeler’s legacy continues to live on today as The Father of American Country Music.