Jimmie Rodgers, singer of the hits Honeycomb and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, has died at 87.
Rodgers died from kidney disease aggravated by COVID-19 in Palm Desert, California, publicist Alan Eichler said on Saturday.
Rodgers performed around Nashville while stationed there with the US Air Force after the Korean War. He appeared on a talent show and got an audition with Roulette Records, which signed him after hearing him perform Honeycomb, a song by Bob Merrill.
With a style of singing and playing guitar that included elements of country, folk and pop, the native of Camas, Washington State, recorded many other top 10 hits during the late 1950s, including Secretly, Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again, and Are You Really Mine.
Rodgers continued making albums for the better part of the 1960s, producing music that ranged from covering traditional songs like The Wreck Of The John B and English Country Garden to popular fare such as the ballad Child of Clay.
He had established himself on television with performances on variety shows when he moved into acting in movies during the 1960s. His film credits included The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come and Back Door to Hell with a young Jack Nicholson.
In 1967, Rodgers was found in his car on a Los Angeles freeway suffering from a fractured skill and other injuries. He said he had pulled over and stopped in response to a driver behind him who was flashing his lights and that an attack from an off-duty police officer had caused his head injuries.
“I rolled the window down to ask what was the matter,” he told The Toronto Star in 1987. “That’s the last thing I remember.”
LA police officers insisted that Rodgers had injured himself in a fall while drunk. Rodgers filed a lawsuit and agreed to a $US200,000 ($259,165) settlement.
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He subsequently developed a condition that caused spasms in the muscles of his voice box and occasional seizures, which he said were due to the attack.
After his initial recovery, Rodgers had a TV show in 1969 and also performed at his own theatre in Branson, Missouri.
In a 2016 interview with The Spectrum, a Utah newspaper, Rodgers recalled finding a $US10 ($13) guitar and singing when he was in the Air Force and stationed in Korea in 1953.
“We were sitting on the floor with only candles for light, and these tough soldiers had tears running down their cheeks. I realised if my music could have that effect, that’s what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.
Survivors include his wife, Mary Louise Biggerstaff, and five children from three marriages.