JIMMIE RODGERS SAGA

WILD WEST RUNAWAY TRAIN, MEDICINE SHOW & MOVIE PREVIEW

all rights reserved

Producer/Director/Creator Benford Standley

 

 

The Jimmie Rodgers Saga Trailer

THE SETUP

 

Act 1--Reenactment of the Medicine Show era.  Actual Medicine

Wagon will come on stage where a number of our performers will do

renditions of Jimmie Rodgers songs and others from that era.

 

Act 2--Reenactment of the Tent Show era.  Set will be with Tent

Show like stage that would have been found during this late 1980's

 

Act 3--Reenactment of the Vaudeville era.  Set will be the stage as is

and we will have a Vaude Variety Show like never seen before.

 

Act 4--Screening of the JimmieRodgersSaga.com doc Preview.

Q & A following with the Director and musicians in the film.

 

Behind the performance area of the stage we will have a top of the

line theater screen were we will projects clips of film and stills that

will aid in the telling about Jimmie Rodgers and the evolving era of the

Entertainment Business itself...

 

 

The Majestic Theatre, located at 224 E. Houston Street in downtown San Antonio, Texas first opened on June 14, 1929.  It was one of the last atmospheric theaters designed and built by John Eberson for theater magnate Karl St. John Hoblitzelle of Interstate Amusement Company. The $3 million San Antonio building housed an auditorium, with a seating capacity of more than 3,700, that was the largest movie house in the South and the 2nd largest in the nation. The Majestic, with the latest lighting and sound equipment, a 3,500-gallon artesian well, and elevator access to balcony and mezzanine areas.

Exterior features of the Majestic include

an expansive cast iron canopy, a theater

marquee, and a decorated theater box office

made of marble and cast iron. The building has fourteen stories topped by a penthouse. The “Majestic” vertical sign, lit with 2,400 lamps,

was seventy-six feet in length and began at the seventh-floor level.  Upon entering the theater, patrons undoubtedly find themselves trans-

ported into a world of fantasy. The atmospheric theater blends Spanish Mission, Baroque, and Mediterranean architectural styles

Ninety years ago in 1929 all seats for the grand opening of the new Majestic Theater were reserved and ticket prices ranged from

$2 to $10. Proceeds were donated to the children’s hospital fund of the San Antonio Junior League and to Ella Austin Orphans Home.

Opening show featured the moving picture show Follies of 1929 by Fox Movietime. There were also live performances by banjoist

Mexican Troubadour Don Galvan, aka The Banjo Boy, an acrobatic group called the Seven Nelsons, Eddie Sauer and his

Syncopators (jazz players), the grand opening show's headliner was the very popular “Singing Brakeman” himself Jimmie

Rodgers, who reportedly received 18 curtain calls that opening night. As history would see it one day he'd become the “Father of

Country Music” and the only man in history to be inducted into the Country, Rock, Blues, Songwriter and Grammy Halls of Fame,

the W.C. Handy Blues Award, and in 2017 he would receive the Lifetime Achievement Grammy. On his plaque at the Country

Music Hall of Fame it says, The Man That Started It All.

 

 

From the 1830s and for the next 100 years wandering troubadours, medicine

shows, and the traveling circus, wild west and minstrel shows, tent shows, rag-

operas, tent repertoires, or tent reps as the were called, and the tabernacles,

freak shows and dime museums, store shows, and concert saloons gave stage

to the medicine doctors, charlatans, and bombastic grifters, the buffoonery of

the barkers, and the snake oil doctors with their tonics, ointments, liniments,

elixirs and snake oil jive "that it will cure whatever ales you," were traveling

from town to town. Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Gene Autry

to ole Buck Page of the Riders of the Purple Sage made their first money

as musician in medicine shows. In the beginning there was the medicine wagon

as time went by the snake doctors and charlatans of early day Europe would

pick up other entertainers along the way to add to his Medicine Show. The

Circus, and big time Museums with the promotions of P.T. Barnum around the

country, as Buffalo Bill Cody is loading up his Wild West Show we are seeing

great new forms of entertainment evolving...Theaters and Vaudeville to

Motion Pictures silent and talkie eras.

 

Tony Pastor, who would become the “Father of Vaudeville” who'd started as a boy

in show business and ended up singing in P.T. Barnum's Scudder's American Museum

in New York. Pastor was for sure mentored by the Great P.T. Barnum, then he leaves

us the history that he invents we might say, “Vaudeville”. Wiki states: In 1874, Pastor

moved his company a few blocks to take over Michael Bennett Leavitt's former

theater at 585 Broadway. The theater district was moving uptown to Union

Square, and in 1881 Pastor took a lease on the former Germania Theatre

on 14th Street in the same building that housed Tammany Hall. He alternated

his theater's presentations between operettas and family-oriented variety shows,

creating what became known as “vaudeville”.

The concert saloon was evolving and more New York style theaters were heading west and soon some business men were taking the

idea of shows into theaters like the ones in the big cities, bring their dog and pony shows with musicians, singers, dancers, comedians,

jugglers, magicians, muscle men, fat ladies, men and women impersonators, minstrels, trained animal acts, acrobats, ventriloquists,

celebrities, and freaks inside venues then to sell people admission. Many of the characters that were out of the early circus & medicine

show era and still had their shuck and jive became big showmen.  It is said that some of the genius of Pastor was to clean up the show

and make it fun and safe for women, especially the ones in cities shopping.

With this new entertainment source to be called vaudeville with performers called vaudevillian there in

the latter parts of 1850tys and early '60tys and these showmen would just bring together a troupe from

this group of entertainers and misfits that would entertain the country.  1883 the Gaiety Museum opened

in Boston by Benjamin Franklin Keith ex-circus man was creating chain of theaters and Buffalo Bill Cody

was loading up his Wild West Show to travel the US and across the seas, while a new form of entertain-

ment called "shorts" then motion pictures was starting to take entertainment dollars then the talkies, aka

“sound on film” that had been home to New York with Cecil B DeMille renting a barn off the corner of

Hollywood & Vine in 1913, the movie industry was setting the stage to bring an end to the medicine

show and vaudeville rein in the theaters.

 

In 1930 with the great depression and the coming of the new motion pictures with sound their fame began

to move the vaudeville shows out of the theaters. Yet there was a period of time that they joined and many

of these “variety” shows were part of a moving picture show experience that was the new big draw,

especially in 1927 when sound came to the film with the Jazz Singer, and would be the year that Jimmie

Rodgers was first discovered by Ralph Peer, Sr. at the Bristol Sessions, and radio and phonograph

records where exploding.  The wave lengths and the RPMs were changing.

 

Fox Movietime Follies of 1929 screened the night

that Jimmie Rodgers was on the bill to open the theater

More on the Fox Movietime Film

Follies of 1929

Follies of 1929 by Fox Movietime was the movie that was part

of this period in entertainment history where the "moving picture shows" were a blend of the vaudeville and the new form of entertainment knows as the "talkies" the new "Sound On Film" business was bringing the old Medicine Shows, Vaudeville and

Tent Shows to extinction. The film had Multicolor sequence in

its original release, as well as being filmed in the experimental

Grandeur wide-screen. The film was produced by William Fox

who founded the Fox Film Corp in 1915, and is now considered

“a lost film,” as all film prints known to exist were destroyed in

fires at Fox storage facility in New Jersey in 1937.  This was

during the time that vaudeville and moving picture show were

on the same stage, until vaudeville went the way of the

medicine show and the tent shows...At one time William Fox

had 1,000 theaters with his Movietone sound systems.

Director, David Butler

Staring: John Breeden, Lola

Lane, DeWitt Jennings

 

 

Jimmie Rodgers and Will Rogers, Will would

call  Jimmie his "distant son" CLICK PIC FOR MORE

Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman and later to become the Father of

Country Music, and who at the time was one of the biggest record and

radio stars in the US teamed up with Will Rogers, motion picture star,

vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator and a rope-throwing

cowboy to do a tour of Oklahoma and Arkansas where they raised $250k

to help support a Red Cross relief tour to help the millions suffering from the

Great Depression and the Dust Bowl that was hitting Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas at that time in history.  Some historians say that this effort saved

the Red Cross from bankruptcy saving many people from hunger and they

brought attention to the devastation going on in this part of the country at a

time the nation was deep in the Great Depression.  Due to Jimmies failing

health he was not able to do all 52 performances in the 48 towns and Will

Rogers got a plane to help make the trip more easy to cover all the ground

in the 18 days of the tour.

 

There are stories that for a while both Jimmie and Will had suites at the

Gunter Hotel.  The kick off party for their tour was in the hotel's Crystal

Ballroom and was attended by the high society of San Antonio and Texas.

 

 

Jimmie Rodgers story rides the same track that the cutting edge of the advancement of the

entertainment business and the technologies that drove it along.  From running away with a

medicine show as a boy then later producing his own tent show.  He was doing radio in the

early days before he was recorded on some of the first portable recording equipment in

1927, with his record being released on the wind up Victrola on cylinder record and disc,

and he was discovered at one of the first field recording of Victor Talking Machines.

 

Jimmie was a huge radio record star and in 1929 he's doing a RKO Vaudeville Show

Tour that was playing a number of grand theaters across a few states as Radio-Keith-

Orpheum Interstate Circuit that summer and he ended up doing a number of Majestic

Theaters all timed to make this grand opening in San Antonio in the Summer of 1929.

 

TENT SHOW

 

Dedicated to Merle Haggard the Jimmie Rodgers

Great-Grand-kids, Jimmie Dale Court and

my kids Lance, Desiree, Robby and Ashley

 who I worked all their lives on this project.

With proceeds going to help

Runaway Children and Youth

 

Jimmie Rodgers the Father of Country Music

loved and lived in San Antonio, Texas

 

During Jimmie's early days working on the railroad run as a brakeman out of Meridian, Mississippi he would find himself heading through New Orleans and Houston with a turnaround in San Antonio, Texas where he loved the action of that great city. As far back as 1916 he was coming to Texas riding the T&P Train to look for work in El Paso, Abilene, where there are still stories about him in West Texas where later his quest for health would lead him back there in 1929, and at the height of his career he bought a house in Kerrville, Texas that was called his “Blue Yodeler's Paradise,” yet he began to spend a lot of time in San Antonio.  He was also touring Texas appearing solo in conjunction with various movie bills and working for a time out of Sweetwater, Texas with a Victor distributor out of Dallas.  In August he started some recording sessions in Dallas, Texas at the Jefferson Hotel. He was starting to sing cowboy songs, including Yodeling Cowboy.  He would rent a suite at the Gunter Hotel when in San Antonio and story tells he just kept a suite there for some years.

 

Jimmie was a huge radio and record star and in 1929, he was doing a RKO Vaudeville Show tour that was playing a number of grand theaters across a few states as Radio-Keith-Orpheum Interstate Circuit that summer and he ended up doing a number of Majestic Theaters all timed to make the grand opening of the Majestic in San Antonio in the Summer of 1929 for a four day run and receiving 18 curtain calls the night of the opening some 90 years ago there across the street from the Gunter Hotel where he had his suite.

 

In 1930 Jimmie toured 24 Texas cities as the feature act with Swain's Hollywood Follies one of the numerous medicine shows that Jimmie sometimes would appear with including Skeeter Kell and His Gang and the J. Doug Morgan Medicine Show. He was constantly touring and spending more time in recording studios.  Jimmie was adorning the cowboy outfits and wearing ten gallon Stetsons and cowboy boots, with some photos in chaps. There is no doubt that his cowboy and western music was also influencing the next generation of cowboys like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers, Ernest Tubb, and Hank Snow.  Down the trail Rodgers would become “The Father of Country Music” and inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, then the Blues, Rock and Roll, Songwriter and Grammy Halls of Fame and receive the W.C. Handy Blues Award and in 1978 he was the first entertainer to be on a US Postage Stamp.

 

In 1931 he sold his home in Kerrville and bought a home in San Antonio's Alamo Heights and during these times was recording at the Texas Hotel and the Bluebonnet Hotel in San Antonio and living in a suite at the Gunter Hotel and traveling the United States, with many trips to the San Antonio train station to tour then return to “a place that he dearly loved.” Within one year of going professional in 1927, he became the best-selling and most popular non-classical performer in the nation. There is still question where Jimmie Rodgers was born however Rodgers adopted Texas as his home during his most public years, and was traveling to San Antonio as a boy riding the rail...

 

During the three years he was living in San Antonio he was the biggest record and radio star in America. From Texas he would travel to New York to record, New Jersey to film a movie, and Hollywood to record and meet with movie people. It wasn't until he moved to Texas that he began to wear western clothes. In his family letters in the archives you see many written on Gunter Hotel stationary.  He knew the states' railroad towns well, especially the San Antonio Station.  Jimmie even put his Texas experiences on one of his huge hits T For Texas his Blue Yodel #1 that was covered by the likes of Waylon Jennings, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dwight Yoakum, Grandpa Jones, Boxcar Willie and Molly Hatchet.  In 1931 he recorded Travlin' Blues, TB Blues, and Jimmie The Kid at the Texas Hotel in San Antonio.

 

He related in his Waiting for a Train from his hoboin' days a line about being thrown off a train “in Texas a place he dearly loved.”  In Jimmie's Texas Blues he sings "Give me sweet Dallas, Texas, where the women think the world of me."  His wife Carrie Rodgers wrote about Jimmie's love for Texas in her book My Husband Jimmie Rodgers, she told stories about their times in Texas and told of his huge love for the Lone Star State and its people.  Following all of his three years of touring Texas the press was always very positive.

 

During January and February of 1931, Will Rogers, the famous cowboy, humorist, vaudeville and motion picture actor, and

Mary Pickford one of the top actress in movies teamed up with Jimmie Rodgers to tour the drought-stricken areas of Texas

and Oklahoma doing a Red Cross relief tour. This tour was told to have saved the Red Cross organization from bankruptcy

by raising over a quarter-million dollars for the needy. Some of the tour was rough on Jimmie, due to the serious decline in his health. Kick off event for the tour is in San Antonio at the Gunter Hotel in the Crystal Ball Room and attended by the Mayor

and many dignitaries from Texas and Washington.

 

In 1932 Jimmie started his radio show at KMAC in San Antonio. When he was not in town live on the station and touring they would play his records. Jimmie Rodgers, Will Rogers, Mary Pickford, Mae West, and cowboy film stars Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, John Wayne and Gene Autry stayed at the Gunter Hotel with Will and Jimmie had suites and lived in the hotel at times story tells. His illness was taking him further and further away from his stardom. He returns to San Antonio to record TB Blues and Jimmie the Kid and in February made an honorary Texas Ranger at ceremonies in Austin, and appears as featured attraction at the Texas Rotary Club's state wide convention in March. He also joins Leslie E. Kell Shows for appearances in Houston and San Antonio. Over a four year period Jimmie played many many towns and cities in Texas.   Jimmie even moved his Masonic Lodge membership from Mississippi to San Antonio and he was made a private detective in San Antonio.

 

Barry Mazor noted in his book Meeting Jimmie Rodgers, “A handsome blond leather briefcase that Jimmie had toted on that last trip north had been placed in his casket...It would later be owned by Johnny Cash who would give it to Marty Stewart. That briefcase was emblazoned “Jimmie Rodgers, San Antonio, Texas.” Read much more in Mazor's award winning book in his chapter “South By Southwest A Easterner in a Cowboy Hat.”

 

The curtain opens and a medicine wagon pulled by a horse walks in on the stage. 

The "Snake Doctor" MC, possibly playing the role of Will Rogers gets down

from the Medicine show and Jimmie Rodgers (Chance Wilson) gets out of the

back with his guitar.   They go about their routine and Jimmie sets up and the MC

gets his show ready as a few people begin to gather around to see the show. 

After a couple of songs the MC does his barking and selling his snake oil cure all. 

 

All Aboard the Wild West Runaway Train, Medicine Show and Motion Picture Preview...

Benford Standley's

40 years work for kids

1984 Austin, Texas Country Music

Sings for Runaway Hotline

 

Buffalo Benford Multimedia, LLC

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Runaway Children & Youth

JimmieRodgersSaga.com