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Jimmie Rodgers: The Father of Country Music lesson plan


While students may be somewhat knowledgeable about Mississippi’s rich contributions in the field of blues music and rock and roll, they are probably unaware of the state’s contributions to the field of country music. This lesson will enable them to study the content and form of country music and to explore the connections between the genre and the rural, southern environment of the early 20th century. In doing so, they will become acquainted with the life of a famous practitioner from Mississippi; Jimmie Rodgers.


Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3, 4, and 6.


Grades 4 (with modifications) through 12.


Mississippi History Now article

Butcher Paper (optional)

The video, "Jimmie Rodgers: The Father of Country Music" (optional)

Jimmie Rodgers recordings (optional)


Students will:

record the major events in the life of Jimmie Rodgers by constructing a brief sequence-chain;

recognize and describe the genre of country music;

determine how the environment in which he lived influenced Jimmie Rodgers’s work.


Begin the lesson by playing a recording of any country music song (teacher’s choice). Allow students to react. Have students discuss their impressions of country music: its sound, content, etc. Ask if there are any "famous" country musicians from Mississippi. Switch the discussion to blues and rock-and-roll music for students to compare their knowledge of the different musical types and the contributions of artists from Mississippi. Write the terms, The Singing Brakeman, and, America’s Blue Yodeler, on the board or overhead. Instruct students to think about the terms and to write appropriate descriptions of them in their notebook. You may want to provide time for some students to read their responses. Ask students to listen for explanations of the terms as the lesson continues and to compare their answers.



Tell students that Mississippi’s rich cultural heritage consists of contributions to many different musical genres, including country. Let them speculate on the meaning of the term genre, before having them write a correct definition in their notes. Tell them that Jimmie Rodgers, from Meridian, Mississippi, became known as the Father of Country Music. Have a student point out the location of Meridian on a wall map. Help them understand the time of Rodgers’s life: the beginning of the 20th century; the Great Depression; World War I; etc. Have students discuss the prevailing music technologies of the period.


Ask students to read the Mississippi History Now article and to make brief notes concerning the major events in the life of Jimmie Rodgers.


In groups of three or five, students will compare their notes and determine how to construct a sequence-chain depicting his life events. Allow students time to complete the chains and display the chains in the classroom. Ask students to compare/contrast the chains. Lead a whole-class discussion on the events, allowing students to talk about all three of Rodgers’s nicknames.


Play additional recordings of Rodgers’s music, if possible, and/or show the short video, "Jimmie Rodgers: The Father of Country Music." See Resources below for information on ordering it from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Instruct students to make observations from the music, the video, and their reading regarding the origin, format, and content (themes) of country music. Have them construct a graphic organizer (perhaps in the shape of a guitar) to illustrate this information.


Make a list on the board or overhead of the titles of Rodgers’s songs. You can find a list of his song titles at http://www.jimmierodgers.com. Ask students to categorize the themes, if possible, and to discuss WHY they think they were the subjects of his music. As they continue to study the titles, ask students to think about ways that Rodgers’s songs were a reflection of his environment and the times. Instruct students to compose a list of primary events, times, places, and things that influenced his music. Once again, have them compare lists, edit, and turn them in for credit.


Ask if students think today’s musicians are influenced in the same way. Let them offer examples. Let students speculate on the kind of music Rodgers may have written if he had been born and raised in New York City. Instruct students to adopt the role of a musician and to create some song titles of their own.


Lead a class discussion, asking students to think about their knowledge of country music, both pre- and post-lesson. Through questioning, determine that students have mastered the objectives.


As a homework assignment, instruct students to write a rough-draft essay supporting the Jimmie Rodgers’s title as the Father of Country Music. Students should use information they have gathered on each of the three objectives to support their essay. In class, let them share their drafts, revise and edit them, and then do their final writing of the essay for a grade.



Participation in discussions and group activities


Completion of sequence-chain and additional graphic organizers





Students may wish to write and perform a drama depicting the life of Jimmie Rodgers.


A visit to the Jimmie Rodgers Museum in Meridian would be enjoyable.


Construct a bio-poem. (See the Mississippi History Now lesson plan on Richard Wright for model. http://teacherexchange.mde.k12.ms.us/


Students may investigate other country music stars such as Willie Nelson and Charley Pride. Pride is from Sledge, Mississippi.


Country music star Ernest Tubb was greatly influenced by Jimmie Rodgers. Research the details.


Many areas of the state have local country music performers. Consider having one visit the classroom.


"Jimmie Rodgers: The Father of Country Music," video MU 25, available through Mississippi History on Loan, Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Videos are available free of charge to Mississippi public schools and to eligible private schools. Complete the required form (if you do not have one, call 601-961-4724 and ask the audiovisual coordinator to mail one to you). Mail the completed form to: Mississippi History On Loan, Manship House Museum, 420 East Fortification Street, Jackson, MS 39202-2340. Orders will be shipped and must be returned by first class U.S. Postal Service. Borrowers are responsible for return shipping costs.

Wilson and Ferris, Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

Jimmie Rodgers Museum, Box 4555 Meridian, MS 39304      Telephone: 601-485-1808. http://www.jimmierodgers.com

Palmer, Robert. Deep Blues, Penguin Books, USA, 1981.

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