Country singer Jimmy C. Newman, the first Cajun musician invited to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry, died of cancer on Saturday in Nashville. He was 86.
Newman was born in High Point, La., and as a teenager played Cajun music with Chuck Guillory’s Rhythm Boys before veering into country music. He made his way onto the national sales charts in the 1950s with hits such as “”A Fallen Star,” “Cry, Cry Darling” and “A Lovely Work of Art.”
Born Jimmy Yves Newman, the singer and songwriter adopted the initial “C,” often saying that it stood for “Cajun.”
He often featured the fiddle-driven music of south-central Louisiana in his act and periodically recorded Cajun tunes along with the country music for which he was best known. He recorded “Diggy Liggy Lo” in 1954, well before Doug Kershaw and his brother Rusty, as Rusty & Doug, charted the song in 1961, and Newman also scored hits with Cajun-influenced singles including “Alligator Man,” “Bayou Talk,” “Louisiana Saturday Night” and “Boo Dan,” a play on the traditional Cajun sausage and rice dish called “boudin.”
Newman scored a Grammy nomination for his latter-day re-recording of “Alligator Man” in 1991 with his band, Cajun Country.
He also notably was the first artist to record a song by future Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame member Tom T. Hall, when he cut Hall’s “D.J. for a Day” in 1963, giving Hall his first chart hit as a songwriter.
In recent years Newman continued to appear regulary at the Opry and lived with his wife, Mae, on their 670-acre Singing Hills Ranch outside of Nashville, where they raised Appaloosa horses and cattle.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times