Monday, August 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Jimmy C Newman

I wanted to extend birthday greetings to one of the Opry's great veteran stars, Jimmy C Newman, who is celebrating his 84th birthday today. Jimmy was born on August 29, 1927 in the area of High Point, Louisiana. (although some websites list his date of birth as August 27, his official website and the Grand Ole Opry have the August 29th date). Jimmy still performs at the Opry almost everyweek, and he still looks and sounds great. Here is a summary of his career:

"One of the few Cajun artists to enjoy major success in mainstream country music, Jimmy Yeve Newman grew up on a farm about ten miles from Mamou, in the heart of Cajun country. In his youth he was mostly influenced by country music stars-Jimmy Rodgers, the Carter Family, Bob Wills-and movie cowboys such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. It wasn't until Newman began his professional career in 1946 with Cajun fiddler Chuck Guillory that he began to learn Cajun music. During this formative period, he came to admire Cajun artists such as Iry Lejeune and Harry Choates. As a member of Guillory's Rhythm Boys, Jimmy sang mostly hillbilly songs in English, along with a few Cajun songs in French.

In 1951 he made his first solo disks for the Feature label, where he cut Cajun-country songs such as "Wondering" and "I Made a Big Mistake." It was also during the early 1950s that he became a regular on the Louisiana Hayride, before moving to Nashville where he recorded "Cry, Cry, Darlin", a Top Twenty hit on the DOT label. Newman had become a member of the Grand Ole Opry by 1956, and had his biggest hit to date, " A Fallen Star," in 1957. It was during this time that Nashville DJ T. Tommy Cutrer gave Jimmy the middle name Cajun, and the "C" stuck.

Newman moved on to MGM, and then to DECCA, where he enjoyed a long string of hits, including "Alligator Man" (1961), "Bayou Talk" (1962), "Artificial Rose" (1965), and "Born to Love You" (1968). In 1974, Jimmy returned to his Cajun roots and recorded the 'Jimmy Newman Sings Cajun' album for the regional La Louisianne label in Layfayette, Louisiana. One cut from that album, "Lache Pas La Patate," sold more than 200,000 copies in French-speaking Canada, qualifying for a gold record. He continues to include strong elements of the Cajun sound-the accordion and fiddle-in his music."
(Thanks to Charlie Seemann for that article)

Jimmy C remembers when he first came to the Opry:

"When I got to the Ryman, Webb Pierce was on the Opry, and George Morgan, Jimmy Dickens, Hank Snow, Carl Smith, Faron Young-it was probably the end of that certain era when the Nudie look was so big. The Nudie suits and the Cadillacs were the big things when I came to the Opry. I wore western suits then-I couldn't afford a costume by Nudie himself-but in '57 I had a crossover hit with 'A Fallen Star' and I went to the Ivy League look."

I have always enjoyed Jimmy C on the Opry because his music is so happy. It has a bounce to it and I think it brightens people up. Whenever Jimmy is on Jean Shepard's segment, she always requests that Jimmy plays, "Cajun Stripper", which she has said is one of her favorite songs. And I always enjoy it when Jimmy Dickens introduces him and says that his group are all, "14 carat South Louisiana Cajun." I always got a kick out of that, even though Jimmy now has mostly the Opry staff band backing him up.

Jimmy's actual Opry induction date is sometimes hard to pin down, but we do know that he joined the Opry in August 1956. The best date that I could come up with was August 4, 1956, which was one week before George Jones first joined the Opry.

While I don't have the line up from August 4, 1956, when he did join the Opry, I do have the line up from August 12, 2006, the night Jimmy C Newman was honored as a 50 year Opry member.

6:30 Jimmy Dickens (host); Mel McDaniel; Billy Joe Shaver
7:00 Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers (host); Martina McBride; Julie Roberts; Lee Roy Parnell
8:00 Jim Ed Brown (host); Helen Cornelius; Jan Howard; The Whites; Jean Shepard; Opry Square Dancers
8:30 Jeannie Seely (host); JIMMY C NEWMAN

9:30 Jimmy Dickens (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Lee Roy Parnell
10:00 Jean Shepard (host); JIMMY C NEWMAN; Julie Roberts
10:30 Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers (host); The Whites; Opry Square Dancers
11:00 Jim Ed Brown (host); Helen Cornelius; Jack Greene; Billy Joe Shaver
11:30 Jeannie Seely (host); John England & The Western Swingers

Happy Birthday to Jimmy C Newman


  1. Jimmy C. was a friend of my mother's and is just a great guy, besides being a great entertainer who never really has gotten all of the credit he deserves. Happy Birthday to him!

  2. Mike, I really agree with you. He is really underrated as a country music star. I know that he will never be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, but I wish that he would receive some consideration.

    I am glad to hear from a first hand source what a fine person he is. Of all my visits to Nashville, I have to admit that I have never met Jimmy C.

  3. He's kind of shy--to this day, he thinks in French, so he's nervous about his English, as much as he makes fun of it. Just devoted to Miss Mae--I think they have been married for more than 60 years now. And I think--I could be wrong--Bessyl Duhon is the longest tenured musician or sideman on the Opry outside of the Smoky Mountain Boys. He's been with Jimmy since he began Cajun Country around 1977.