Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jimmy C Newman

I know by now that the passing of Opry star Jimmy C Newman has been reported by many media outlets and on his Facebook page. Jimmy had a unique sound at the Opry that will be missed and probably never replaced. I had the honor, and yes I call it an honor, to meet Jimmy twice. The first time was about 20 years ago at Opryland during the Opry's birthday bash. He was kind enough to sign a birthday card for my wife and even asked a few questions about her. The second time was last year at the Opry. Again, very polite and a true gentleman.

Lots has been written about Jimmy and his career. Peter Cooper, of the Tennessean, wrote an excellent piece and I hope he doesn't mind if I use parts of it:

Jimmy Yves Newman, known to Grand Ole Opry fans as Jimmy C Newman, died June 21. He was 86 and suffered from cancer. For more than 50 years, Mr. Newman was a mainstay on the Opry, where he performed rollickling, Cajun-inflected songs such as "Alligator Man" and "Bayou Talk." He added the "C" to his name in the early 1960s, saying that it stood for "Cajun," and he took pride in his designation as the first Cajun artist to join the Opry. His first Top 10 country hit, "Cry, Cry, Darling," came 60 years ago, in the summer of 1954.

He was born in High Point, Louisiana, near Big Mamou, raised in a bilingual family with parents who delighted in the cowboy sounds of Gene Autrey and the country music of Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. His father died when he was a teenager, and he left school after six years of education to wrok on a farm. During World War II, he worked in a defense plant as a welder's helper, and there he met an electrician and music aficionado named J.D. Miller. After Mr. Newman's recorded debut in 1946 for Modern Records, Miller determined to record Jimmy on his own Feature label. He did so, but without commercial success.

"I said to myself, I gotta write a hit song, he told author and music historian Colin Escott for the liner notes of a Bear Family album called 'Bop A Hula,' so I wrote 'Cry, Cry Darling.'" "Cry, Cry Darling was later recorded by Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, Ronnie Milsap and others. Jimmy's recording was his first national success.

In 1954 he joined the Louisiana Hayride, but after having five straight Top 10 records, he came to the Opry in 1956. In 1957, he notched his highest-charting record with "A Fallen Star," which reached #2 on the Billboard country charts and #23 on the pop chart.

He moved around various record labels and in 1961 he ended up on Decca records. In the 1960s he recorded 16 Top 40 country hits including 1963's "D.J. For A Day," which was the first country hit written by Tom Hall, who would later add a "T" to his name. Jimmy was also a partner in a publishing house, Newkeys Music, and in 1963 Tom T began writing for the company.

Jimmy also offered a boost to teenager Dolly Parton, allowing her to take part of his allotted "Friday Night Opry" stage time in 1959 so that she could make her debut on the show. He also helped Eddy Raven to a publishing deal in the 1970s and he gave a gleaming yellow stage suit to a scuffling young Marty Stuart so that Stuart could look like a bandleader. That suit was one of the first pieces in Marty's collection of country memorabilia, a collection that is now museum-quality.

In 1963, he recorded "Folk Songs of the Bayou Country," with fiddler Rufus Thibodeaux and accordionist Shorty LeBlanc, and he sung some of that album's lyrics in French. From that point on he took care to include Cajun music in his concerts and to hold high his Louisiana heritage. In 2009, he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, an honor that followed by five years his induction into the Cajun Music Hall of Fame.

Jimmy's last Top 10 country hits came in 1965 and 1966 with several Tom T songs, but he remained a formidable and popular presence on the Opry and on television. In 1991, his "Alligator Man" album received a Grammy nomination.

By all accounts, he knew how to hold success. Never a chart dynamo, he was a steadily entertaining personality for a majority of country music's commercial life and a spice of life for more than a half-century on the Opry. He was a devoted husband to Mae Newman: their marriage lasted for more than 60 years. He was a cultural ambassador for southeastern Louisiana, and a kind and gracious presence offstage. And he was a smiling engaging performer to the end. His final Opry performance came on Friday June 6.

A public service will be held Wednesday June 25 at the Ryman Auditorium at 10 a.m. and will be followed by a private visitation and memorial service for close friends and family. Contributions may be made to the Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund.

I can really add much to what Peter wrote except for say that it is always sad when another Opry legend has passed away and even more so with Jimmy C Newman. He was a devoted Opry member for almost 58 years and he always brought excitement and spunk to the show.

He will be missed and my thoughts and prayers go to his family.


  1. Byron, you did a beautiful job.

    It occurs to me that Jimmy was part of one of the funniest stories I ever heard about life in Nashville, and it also says something about his friends. Tom T. told about it in one of his books. I think I have it right. One night, a group of couples went out--T, Faron Young, Jim Ed Brown, Jimmy C., and their wives. The Bares may have been there too. They were at a piano bar and asked the guy if he'd play a song and he said, yes, but anything but Harper Valley P.T.A., because he was sick of that song. Well, T had written it and Jimmy had published it, and all of them were just hysterical.

    Jimmy bought a ranch, and Tom T. gave him a saddle as a present. That also led to the great bull story, which has appeared here before but is too good not to repeat. One night at Tootsie's, Willie told Faron he would sell him "Hello Walls" for $500 because he needed money to buy a bull. Faron said, no, you'll make more than that from the song, I'll lend you the money, and did. Willie said he'd pay him back and didn't. This went on for years, and Faron would mention it to Waylon or whoever to ask Willie. Finally, Faron said he was in his office in downtown Nashville and looked out the window. There was a commotion, a bunch of people gathered around a big rig. It turns out Willie had sent him a bull and had it delivered. Faron got it to a ranch and told Ralph Emery, now, what am I supposed to do with it? It happened to be a Friday night and Ralph said, well, Jimmy C. Newman is your old pal and he has a ranch, so maybe he can help you, and he's probably over at the Opry. Faron said, "Oh, please let him be at the Opry!" He ran over there after the show, and the two of them ended up co-owning the bull, which moved to Jimmy's ranch and went on, I guess, to have a very happy life doing what bulls do.

    Good memories. We have those and the performances to ease our pain.

  2. He should be in the Country Music Hall of Fame. All I'm saying.

  3. Yes, another "LEGEND" has passed and will be greatly missed. We too had the honor to meet Jimmy C twice; the first was at our small town in MD, he played at the park pavillion, it was a great show and we also met him backstage at the Grand Ole Opry on Dec 31, 1999; will never forget that night. We were privileged to see him in concert and at the Grand Ole Opry many, many times. He leaves a huge void at the Opry.

  4. Fred, Bismarck:

    A sad day. Jimmy is on the short list of country entertainers who can never be replaced because they aren't being made like that anymore. I would vote for him for the Hall in a minute.

  5. I am still at a loss for words. Spent the nite over here in Spain totally lost by the death of one of the legends that I so admired and got to see at the Opry. I am so fortunate that I got to write to him and see him twice as I have earlier stated.
    I am greatly worried that the opry will not replace this style of music, which is a damn shame because it is just as important as bluegrass, blues, gospel, country, etc. to the fabric of American Culture. There are fine Cajun and cajun Country musicians such as Jo-El Sonnier that could pick up the tradition. If they dont want an Opry Member from that genre, then they should at least have guests artists that do this style of music.
    It is such a sad day, Jimmy C. Newman was a great gentleman, legend, and key part to the Opry. I remember listening to that show 2 weeks ago. He sounded good to me. I would have never known that he was battling cancer. He always looked healthy.
    As the legends pass on, I fret to think about what the Opry will be like once there ar eno more legends from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, for those members that come after are all pretty much slackers and do absolutely nothing to support the show. True there may be some exceptional cases, but the majority are as worthless as tits on a boar.
    Like many here....I truly believe that JImmy C. Newman deserves The Country Hall of Fame...period. No questions asked. I also hope that this coming Friday that he is honored at The Opry.........
    Damn..... my heart is broken....... getting tougher each Saturday to tune in and listen ...... soon I will not have one singer on the show that I like.

  6. He's one of the only people that I actually would listen to on today's Opry. Makes one wonder what the Opry will be like in thirty years.

  7. We met Jimmy in Nashville backstage at the Opry and at a fan club event during fan fair. He was always gracious and very interested in what his fans had to say. The night in 1999 we were backstage at the Opry Bettie Walker was having him try on a special jacket for the Golden Voice show at the Ryman. Bettie was excited and wanted to make sure the jacket fit to Jimmy's liking and Jimmy was being very patient as we stood by and waited to talk with him.

    Later, he came to Nashville, Indiana to appear with Bobby Bare and was filling in for Johnny Russell who wasn't doing well. We gave Jimmy a framed photo collage of some shots we had taken at the Opry and album covers from our collection. He was really taken by the gift and obviously appreciated it. In a few days a call came to my house and Jimmy talked to my mother telling her he was trying to get in touch with me to thank me again for the gift. Then, since that didn't work out, I got a nice hand written letter thanking us for the gift.

    With his home address in hand Istarted sending Christmas cards to his house and at least once got a note back stating he still had the photo collage and really appreciated it.

    Very unlikely we will see his kind again in country music.

    Bless is family and friends in this sad time.

    Mr. Fisher can mark another off his ever shorter list!

    Knighstsville, IN

  8. Jimmy C's cajun music was always a huge hit at the Opry; big response/applause whenever he was on the show.

  9. If you wonder and worry about the future of the Opry, consider this:
    Jimmy Dickens-93
    Ralph Stanley-87
    Jesse McReynolds-85
    Buck White-84
    Jan Howard-84
    Bobby Osborne-82
    Loretta Lynn-82
    Stu Phillips-81
    Stonewall Jackson-81
    Roy Clark-81
    Mel Tillis-81
    Jim Ed Brown-80
    Ray Pillow-77
    Charlie Daniels-77
    George Hamilton IV-76
    Bill Anderson-76
    Charlie Pride-76
    Del McCoury-75
    Jeannie Seely-74
    Connie Smith-72
    Ronnie Milsap-71

    Granted that many of these do not appear every week, or even every month, but this is the bulk of the Opry's cast. Pete Fisher talks about putting younger fans in the seats but at the same time, he needs to look at the cast and start bringing in younger "country and bluegrass" members, who will actually be there to support the show. Yes, it might be time to start to worry at bit.

  10. Wow, plus Jean Shepard is 80 (and two who will never be back, Tom T Hall(78) and Jeanne Pruett(77) - that leaves 40 members under 70 (and the majority aren't in the young category either). It also would be a good time for the "new/younger" performers to observe the ones in your list, to learn respect/appreciation/stage presence to their audiences, something that all of these entertainers have always been doing ! The "younger" fans also need to learn the same !!

  11. Sorry, how could I forget Jean. Right there on my list. I know new members have been added that are younger, but they just aren't there to support the show.

  12. If the Opry survives once these folks are gone I think it is becoming painfully clear that it will not be a show with the format we still can enjoy. That concert venue is getting closer every day. Soon, you WILL be able to answer that question of who you are going to see months in advance. That will be the only way they can ensure they have performers on stage and advance ticket sales to fill the seats.

    Some here may feel that a few of these veterans should have hung it up before now but we should thank them for keeping the Opry as close to it's tradition as it is. Sometimes it is uncomfortable but I'd rather here these folks on their worst night than many of these new acts with the best they can offer. At least I know they are sincere and what they sing and say the fans is from the heart.

    We need to count our blessings every weekend!

    Knightsville, IN

  13. What's going to happen to Bessyl Duhon? His fine Cajun accordion work has been a fixture of the Opry since the 1970s.

  14. What a shock to here of the passing of Jimmy C. Newman. You can't find too many more devoted to Opry as this man. Was pleased to see him mentioned on the Opry website. Hope they will do a tribute at the Opry this weekend, and include Cajun Country. I agree with the other comments Jimmy most definitely deserves a place in the CMHOF. Watched the rock and roll hall of fame ceremony on HBO over the weekend, what a tremendous tribute to the artist they had. The CMHOF could take a few pages from their book.


  15. Along with everyone else, I am very saddened by the death of Mr. Newman. He was integral part of the Opry and above-and-beyond a faithful member. He cannot be replaced and he will be dearly missed, both as a performer and as the wonderful human being that he was. This really got me to thinking about how many Opry members we've lost in such a relatively short amount of time. I looked back at the program for the night of my first-ever Opry attendance - July 16, 1988. I was 14 at that time and this was a dream come true for me. Looking at that program, we've lost Keith Whitley (who was guesting), Charlie Louvin, Bll Monroe, Roy Acuff, Wilma Lee Cooper, Jack Greene, Charlie Walker, Jimmy C., Hank Snow, Justin Tubb, Roy Drusky, Bill Carlisle, and Johnny Russell. I would also include the 4 Guys since they are no longer a part of the Opry (and since Brent Burkett has passed away). That is a LOT of star power, tradition, and commitment to replace. The Opry management has certainly not done a good job replacing these folks with stars who have the commitment to the show that these folks had. I think we can all conclude that the Opry of old is no more, and in a few years, we will probably not recognize it at all. As the "old guard" continue to pass on, the Opry will continue to decline, as it has done for the past decade. It's hard to believe how many of the committed members who truly loved the Opry have passed on in the 26 years since I attended my first show. Too bad they have not been replaced by people who have the same love and admiration. Very sad, indeed.

  16. I too wonder what would happen to Bessyl Duhon.... a great musician........... man this sucks!!! Still at a loss for words over all of this over here in Spain....... I seriously feel like I no longer have a reason to listen in. I mean Jimmy C. was my go to guy!!!!!! Now what do I do???

  17. Eddie Stubbs will do a two hour tribute Wednesday night. I did not catch the time.

    Knightsville, IN

  18. Thanks Jim, and I will be listening.

    People ask me all the time how long the Opry has. Just my personal opinion, but I think they will make it to 100, and who knows after that. That is just 11 more years and by the 100th, you could assume that the vast majority of the legends, and the others who have supported the show, will have passed on. Oh, I am sure they will continue to have something called the Opry, but I think it will probably be more of a concert type show then what we see today. I hope not, but I am concerned.

    And for those who ask about Ryman Hospitalities maybe selling the Opry and WSM, the article in the Tennessean yesterday just confirms that the company is in the best financial position they have been in for a long time and have no plans to sell anything.

  19. I must say that I was surprised to receive an Opry Update(sales) email and included was a brief statement about Jimmy and about a dozen photo's. Better than I would expect.

    It sound like from a money standpoint things are great. With that in mind we should expect to continue in the current direction. I can see the day coming when the Opry name is gone and it is an open concert venue for all music with country the least represented. Sorry to be such a pessimist!

    Knightsville, IN

  20. Jim, I don't share your pessimism.
    The 'Opry just has too strong a connection to country music to become a venue for all types of music in the foreseeable future.
    I don't hear a lot of totally off the wall country music on the 'Opry now. Even acts like Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, and Brad Paisley seem to keep it close to traditional when they appear.
    The ;Opry is just too Country to change that much in our lifetime.

    I hope.

  21. Jimmy C.Hall of Famer enough said

  22. Fred, Bismarck:

    They may call it the Opry for as long as they want ... but what will the music be?

    Reflecting "country" radio, the Opry may become country in name -- or claim -- only. In my opinion, it is just about there now.

    On the other hand, it's also true that a seller can call his product just about anything he wants. Baseball owner Bill Veeck had this response to those who complained that expansion -- the proliferation of teams -- had led to dilution of talent on the field: "Hey, a major-league baseball player is whoever we say he is."

    Musical preferences are personal, and there are a lot of people who think modern country is just the greatest thing.
    Going by what's on the radio and on the Opry these days, I have a strong suspicion they've won the election. So I guess they can do anything they want -- except make me listen!

  23. The Opry lineups are up for this weekend and on the first segment they list "Cajun Country." It looks like they will let Bessyl do a tribute. And if I am able to listen, I'm going to have trouble with it.

  24. Cajun Country doing a tribute is awesome!!!!!!!!! I agree with Michale, when I am listening in I dont think I will have dry eyes.............. gonna be a rough weekend listening to teh Opry in Spain

  25. Friday, August 8, 2014 Hunter Hayes a young Cajun Artist will play the Opry. Just saw this on the link of future shows...... This makes me feel good. There is no better way to honor Jimmy C. Newman than to keep the cajun country tradition that he started at the Opry going....

  26. Apparently, Charlie Daniels did "How Great Thou Art" tonight and dedicated it to him.

  27. Also, Jimmy C. Newman recorded a lot of Tom T. Hall's early songs. And Jimmy C. Newman is only one of two artists who had a release recalled by Decca Records in it's entire history. That infamous 45 is the rare "Future Farmers Of America, the final word spelled in the song about M-A-R-I-J-U-A-N-A is what offended a lot of listeners and the FFA. So, Jimmy C. Newman could be a very adventurous singer. A sad loss in the world of Country and Cajun Musics. .For further information on the recalled 45, go visit my blog,