Grand Ole Opry star Jimmy C. Newman, a Louisiana native who brought a Cajun music influence to country music, died Saturday night (June 21) in Nashville following a brief illness. He was 86.
He had been Opry member since 1956, two years after scoring his signature hit, the self-penned “Cry, Cry Darling.”
Born Aug. 27, 1927, in High Point, La., Jimmy Yves Newman developed the musical specialty of fusing his native Cajun rhythms, themes and instrumentation with traditional country music elements. This formula yielded such high-charting singles as “Alligator Man” and “Bayou Talk,” both of which he wrote.
Newman was one of the first major artists to recognize Tom T. Hall’s songwriting genius. His recording of Hall’s “D.J. for a Day” became a Top 10 single in 1964 and a staple of his stage shows.
Through his co-writer and de facto manager, J. D. Miller, Newman made contact with fabled Nashville music publisher Fred Rose, who produced four songs for the fledgling artist. These songs were ultimately released on Dot Records, Newman’s first nationally distributed label.
After having established his own TV show in Lake Charles, La. in the early ’50s, Newman moved on to become a cast member of the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport in 1954. He joined the Opry two years later.
Under the Dot imprint, Newman scored the Top 10 hits “Daydreamin’,” “”Blue Darlin’,” “God Was So Good,” “Seasons of My Heart” and his highest-charting record, “A Fallen Star,” which peaked at No. 2 in 1957.
Newman migrated to MGM Records in 1958 and had Top 10s with “You’re Makin’ a Fool Out of Me,” “Grin and Bear It” and “A Lovely Work of Art.”
“D.J. for a Day,” “Artificial Rose” and “Back Pocket Money” were Top 10s on Decca Records, Newman’s final major recording home. There, his last chart record came in 1970 with “I’m Holding Your Memory (But He’s Holding You).”
Backed by his high-energy band Cajun Country, Newman made his final Opry appearance on June 6.
Newman was a member of the Cajun Hall of Fame, the Cajun Music Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
A public service honoring Newman will be held Wednesday (June 25) at 10 a.m. at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. It will be followed by a private visitation and memorial service for close friends and family.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund.