Jimmy C. Newman Biography

Jimmy Yves Newman, 27 August 1927, Big Mamou, Louisiana, USA. Since he was of French origin, speaking both English and French, and grew up in the heart of the Cajun area of the state, it is no surprise that he went on to become one of the main artists to bring that genre of music into the field of country music. He left school prematurely when his father died to help support his eight siblings. Newman first became interested in country music through hearing his brother Walter play guitar and sing Jimmie Rodgers songs. In the mid-40s he played in a local Cajun band and made his first recording in French in 1946. Later, he formed his own band, played local radio and small venues around the state, and eventually presented his own programme on KPLC-TV in Lake Charles, where his mixture of Cajun and country music quickly proved popular. In 1949 he recorded the original version of the Webb Pierce hit ‘Wondering’. The release failed to chart but, determined to find a hit song, he wrote and recorded ‘Cry, Cry Darling’. Listeners to his early recordings will note a prominent hiss on his pronunciation of the letter ‘S’, caused by a badly fitted gold tooth. Fred Rose tried to eliminate the problem by changing lyrics, such as in ‘Cry Cry Darling’, where ‘sunshine’ became ‘moonlight’ (a little later a partial denture replaced the offending tooth and permanently cured the problem). Also through the auspices of Fred Rose, Newman joined Dot Records. In 1954 a new recording of ‘Cry Cry Darling’ reached number 4 on the US country charts and led to his joining The Louisiana Hayride. Between 1955 and 1957 he had five more Top 10 country hits, the biggest being his recording of Ned Miller’s ‘A Fallen Star’, which became a number 2 country and number 23 pop hit. Newman acquired the ‘C’ in his name when the drummer on the recording of the song, T. Tommy Cutrer, labelled him Jimmy ‘Cajun’ Newman and the initial stuck. He did not like rockabilly or novelty songs, but did record ‘Bop-A-Hula’ and the Jim Reeves song ‘Step Aside Shallow Waters’. In 1958 he moved to MGM Records, where Top 10 country hits included ‘You’re Making A Fool Out Of Me’ and ‘A Lovely Work Of Art’. In 1961 he left MGM because he felt he was losing his Cajun roots. He joined Decca Records and in the next nine years charted 16 country hits including such popular recordings as ‘DJ For A Day’ and ‘Artificial Rose’, and Cajun numbers including ‘Alligator Man’, ‘Bayou Talk’ and ‘Louisiana Saturday Night’. His last chart hit came in 1970 with a song called ‘I’m Holding Your Memory (But He’s Holding You’. He later recorded for several labels including Plantation, La Louisianne, Swallow and Rounder Records.

From the mid-50s through the 70s Newman toured extensively throughout the USA, played some overseas concerts and has also appeared on all major network radio and television shows. He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1956 and still maintains his regular appearances, often hosting one of the show’s segments. Newman’s plaintive tenor vocals and traditional fiddle and steel guitar backing were ideally suited to the country music of the 50s and 60s and at times, except for his Cajun numbers, his vocal work was comparable with that of Webb Pierce. He has always proved a great favourite with UK audiences on the occasions when he has appeared at the Wembley Festival, and he continues to tour with veteran Cajun musicians, including fiddle player Rufus Thibodeaux.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.