Livingston Texas
29 January 1999

photo by Russell Kern


When Jimmy was born in 1934 in Tuscaloosa Alabama, I was already ten years old. I took care of Jimmy and protected him from birth until I left home in 1943 to seek my own fortune. When Jimmy passed away, it was not like losing a Brother. it was like losing one of my own children.
Jimmy's interest in music began at a very early age. He always wanted to play Guitar. First, he had a little melody Guitar, but soon changed to the Steel Guitar. He got his first Steel Guitar when he was 10 or 11 years old. It was a very small lap Guitar. He never had music lessons, He got an instruction book with the Guitar, and just began picking and pretty soon, he could make a tune. He was in the sixth grade in School when one day, he told my Wife Jewel, that he wanted to play a tune for her. He played "I walk Alone" It sounded pretty good. The folks were still in Rochelle Louisiana at that time, but a short time later, they moved to Huttig Arkansas.
Jimmy met Floyd Cramer. They were in the same class in School. So, they did not pursue any sports, ie, basketball, football, and etcetera, they would come to my parent's home and Mama had a Piano. Floyd would play the Piano and Jimmy the Steel Guitar and they got pretty good. The folks moved back to Louisiana, a little town pretty close to Alexandria, but Jimmy and Floyd always kept in touch. When Jimmy finished High School, which was 1951, he decided to go to Nashville. He asked Red Foley for a job and Red told him to go and practice a few years and then he might talk to him.
Jimmy is in the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, the Alabama Country Music Hall of Fame, the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, and the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame. Next month, his name will be added to the Texas Branch of the Country Music Association Hall of Fame.
Soon, Jimmy and Floyd Cramer got back together. However, they weren't doing very good but still kept on trying. I remember that they got their first real job with Webb Pierce and Faron Young. Webb's Band consisted of himself, Faron Young, Faron picked melody Guitar and was back-up singer. Shot Jackson on Dobro, and Tillman Franks was road Manager and also played upright Bass.When Shot Jackson left Webb and joined up with Johnny & Jack. Webb then hired Jimmy and Floyd. In addition to their turn on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport Louisiana, they also played at the Jimmy Thompson Arena in Alexandria Louisiana. They both stayed with Webb Pierce for a while, then Floyd decided he didn't like all the traveling and just stayed in Nashville most of the time and did recording sessions with whomever. Jimmy then began to move around and play with different ones for the next several years.
I don't even remember all of them, but he played with Hank Williams Sr, Lefty Frizzel, Marty Robbins, Ray Price, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, Ernest Tubb, Patsy Cline, Johnny Horton, Jim Reeves, Jack Green, and a host of others over the years. He was in Austin for the past several years and played with anybody and/or everybody, did quite a bit with Willie Nelson, Johnny Bush, Asleep at the Wheel, as I said, I can't remember all of them, sometimes, he played just because he loved to play and he recorded some instrumentals and just played for the pure love of playing. When he played, he made love to his Guitar.
On 18 & 19 December 1998 he was playing with a group in San Angelo Texas. When the show was over and the hour was late, the rest of the Band left the stage and he played "Silent Night" by himself. That was the last song he played. When he got home he was sick. His Wife, Marilyn put him in the Hospital in Austin and then be was moved to Hermann Research Hospital in Houston on 05 January 1999. He passed away in the afternoon of 22 January 1999 from Cancer and other complications. He was very brave and fought very hard, but his heart just gave out.
Before he died, he told his Wife to let the Doctors do an Autopsy on him to see if they could learn anything that might help someone else at a later time. This was done.
Jimmy's Funeral Service was handled by Wilke-Clay-Fish Funeral Home in Austin Texas, with the help of many many of his music and picking friends. It was a funeral service like no other I have ever seen. Jimmy furnished the music for his own funeral. Jimmy's Wife, Marilyn and his close musical friends had his Steel Guitar "The Blue Darlin" along with the amplifiers set up in the Chapel just as if he was coming in to sit down and play.
The Chapel was filled to overflowing, people were standing around the walls, into the waiting room, the entrance hall, and anywhere there was room for two feet. When the service began, Rev Dwain Hobbs said a prayer, then the stereo was turned on with Jimmy playing "In the Garden" along with a couple more instrumentals. Then he sang a song he had written for his Wife, titled "I KNOW I LOVE YOU". Rev Dave Rich took over then and his sermon included some actual experiences he had had with Jimmy in past years when Rev Dave was singing and recording. It was very touching. It was impossible to hold back the tears. At the conclusion of the service, another tape was on the stereo, it 'was also an instrumental titled "Last Farewell Party". Jimmy received his last standing ovation in his Casket.
The Funeral Procession was a sight to behold. There were two Tour Busses furnished by some of his County Music Friends. A very conservative estimate would be at least 4 to 5 miles of vehicles. Jimmy was laid to rest at the Barton Family Cemetery in Buda Texas on 27 January 1999. He was 65 years old on 09 January.
Goodbye Little Brother, We know you are free of pain now. You can find Mama & Daddy & Leo and you can play again and they will sing.
Love: Joe T (Tom) Day
PS: A short story about the "Blue Darlin Guitar". It is a "Sho-Bud" Guitar. The named was derived from the two people who manufactured these Steel Guitars. Shot Jackson and Buddy Emmons. Jimmy helped with the line-up and adjustment of the pedals. His pedals were one way and Buddy Emmons, pedals were another way. Jimmy played one of the first Guitars they manufactured for quite a while, then later, as he kept on playing and trying different things, he went back to Shot Jackson and showed him what he wanted. His Guitar -was manufactured to his exact design and specifications. It was blue pearl in color and he named it "The Blue Darlin". Needless to say, there is no other like it and it became famous along with Jimmy. When Jimmy played, he always did the set-up, take-down, and repacking his Guitar. No one else was allowed to do this. He truly was in love with his Guitar.   

Copyright ©1999 by Joe T Day

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