Why was one of the landmarks of American country music recorded at a Baptist church in Camden? Read on to find out.
The record company Victor (which was later acquired by the Radio Corporation of America, becoming RCA Victor) was launched in Camden in 1901 and, in 1918, purchased Trinity Baptist Church, at 114 N. Fifth St., in order to have a space large enough to record a symphony orchestra, with good acoustics. Enrico Caruso, Arturo Toscanini and Vladimir Horowitz recorded there, but so did non-classical musicians, including Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington and the Carter Family.
Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas),” blending elements of blues, folk and country music, was recorded in the church studio in late 1927, and became a major hit in 1928.
As John Lilly wrote in 1992, the song …
“… generated an excitement and record-buying frenzy that no one could have predicted. … The lyrics made an obvious connection to the southern states, talked about hard times with women and work, and had a macho, slightly dangerous undertone. Not only were these to be recurring themes in subsequent Jimmie Rodgers songs, (he re-worked these ideas for a total of 13 ‘Blue Yodels’ but they continue as themes in country songwriting to this day.”
Check out the recording, below.
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.