Jimmie Rodgers, ‘Honeycomb’ Singer, Has Died at 87
Jimmie Rodgers, who had a run of crossover country and pop hits in the 1950s and 1960s, has died. He was 87 years old and died from kidney disease on Jan. 18, and had also been diagnosed with COVID-19, the Associated Press reports.
Born in September of 1933 in the state of Washington, Rodgers had a talent for performing music from an early age, but was drafted into the United States Air Force during the Korean War. Though circumstances had taken him away from pursuing a career in music, Rodgers revealed in a 2016 interview with Utah outlet The Spectrum that it was during his military days that he realized he wanted to spend his life working in music.
"We were sitting on the floor with only candles for light, and these tough soldiers had tears running down their cheeks. I realized if my music could have that effect, that's what I wanted to do with my life," he recounted (quote via People.)
During his service, he was transferred to the Seward Air Force Base in Nashville, Tenn., between the years of 1954 and 1956. There, he rekindled his love of music and even participated in Arthur Godfrey's CBS talent show, winning $700 on the program.
From there, Rodgers' career gained traction when he signed a deal with Roulette Records, and in 1957, he released what would go on to be his biggest hit, a rendition of "Honeycomb." Written by Bob Merrill in 1954, the song became a smash hit courtesy of Rodgers' version, which landed at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 and the R&B Best Sellers charts and was a Top 10 hit on the Country & Western Best Sellers in Stores chart.
The singer continued to release albums and chart singles throughout the rest of the '50s and well into the '60s. His Top 10 hits included "Secretly" and "Are You Really Mine?", and he also covered older classics including "English Country Garden" and "The Wreck of the 'John B.'"
During the '60s, Rodgers also began to pursue acting roles. He began by giving performances on a number of TV variety shows, and soon started racking up film credits, too, including an appearance in the 1964 film Back Door to Hell alongside a youthful Jack Nicholson.
Rodgers' career suffered a setback in 1967 when he was found inside his car in Los Angeles with a number of serious and mystifying head injuries. To this day, it's unclear what happened: The singer said he'd been pulled over by someone he believed to be an off-duty cop, who then caused his injuries. Meanwhile, the authorities alleged that Rodgers incurred his injuries in a fall while intoxicated. Rodgers filed a lawsuit, ultimately agreeing to a $200,000 settlement, but the injuries led to long-lasting spasms in his vocal muscles and occasional seizures.
Despite this blow to his health, Rodgers found his way back to performing again. He became a frequent performer and producer at his own theater in Branson, Mo., which he maintained for several years before relocating to California in 2002.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Louise Biggerstaff, as well as five children from his three marriages.