About The Artist
Jimmie Rodgers Snow had a promising career following in his father's (Hank Snow) footsteps as a country music star in the early and mid-1950s. However, in 1960 he turned to evangelism and became minister at the church he built, Evangel Temple, in suburban Madison, Tennessee. Nonetheless, he recorded several worthwhile numbers during the 1950s on the Four Star and RCA Victor labels. After turning to the ministry, during the sixties he made gospel recordings with his then wife Carol Lee Cooper (daughter of Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, and later leader of the Carol Lee Singers) and from 1972 hosted the post-Grand Ole Opry program Grand Ole Gospel Time for more than two decades.
At the time of Jimmie's birth in a Halifax, Nova Scotia, Salvation Army Hospital, the Snow's were a financially struggling pair subsisting on ten dollars weekly. Hank's climb to stardom took several years. When he had his big hit "I'm Movin' On" in 1950, Hank's future became more or less assured and his fourteen-year-old son was signed by Four Star Records and a year two later to RCA Victor. His initial efforts resulted in eight songs being released.
When Jimmie switched to RCA Victor, as music historian Tony Byworth described, his "releases were in tune with the [emerging] country/rockabilly sound of the era." He also recorded a few Jimmie Rodgers numbers on an LP with Hank. With the rise of Elvis Presley, he and "the King" became friends.
Jimmie was also part of a historical event of sorts — the first National Hillbilly Music Day that was a celebration of the birth and life of Jimmie Rodgers in Meridian, MS. An article in Billboard promoting the Meridian celebration indicated that RCA had recently signed the young Jimmie do do duets with his father as well as his own solo sessions.
In 1955, Jimmie with his backup band, The Tennessee Playboys, did a seven day tour through Florida with the Andy Griffith show, under the bannder of Hank SnNow Attractions headed up by Col. Tom Parker, of Jamboree Attractions, Inc. out of Madison, TN. This tour included Elvis Presley, Ferlin Husky, Marty Robbins, tommy Collins and Glenn Reeves. Bill Sachs reported that Andy Griffith was gong over very well with the country and city audiences.
1955 would prove to be a year of many travels for Jimmie. Elvis Presley was a part of many of their bookings early on and Hank's booking agency and Col. Tom Parker took advantage of it. In May of 1955, Hank and Mr. Parker underwrote a three week tour of FLorida, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolna, Tennessee and New Orleans. It started on May 1 and the tour ended on May 20 in Chattanooga, TN. The traveling entourage included Faron Young, the Wilburn Brothers, Slim Whitman, Martha Carson, Elvis Presley, the Davis Sisters, Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters, Onie Wheeler and Jimmie Rodgers Snow. They made heavy use of radio, TV, newspapers and circus billings to promote the tour and got local DJ's to help promote the shows as well.
The summer of 1955 saw another tour by Hank Snow and his "All-Star Jamboree" package. This time the touring troupe included the Rainbow Ranch Boys, Martha Carson and Her Country Gentlemen, Mother Maybell and the Carter Sisters, Jimmie Rodgers Snow and the Davis Sisters. It kicked off on July 3, 1955 in Duluth, MN and took them to POrt Arthur, ON; Moorehead, MN; Fargo, ND; Sioux Falls, SD; Scottsbluff, NE; Cheyenne, WY and Denver, CO.
In the fall of 1955, Col. Tom Parker and his Jamboree Attractions tried a new concept in bookings. He combined pop and country acts as part of a one-night concert tour. He teamed Bill Haley and His Comets along with Hank Snow. The extended "one-nighter" tour opened in Omaha, NE on October 10, 1955. Low admission prices and the combo-booking was something Parker thought would appeal to fans. The tour went on to places such as Topeka, KS, Lincoln, NE, Wichita, KS, Oklahoma City, OK, Lubbock, TX and Amarillo, TX. Jimmie Rodgers Snow filled in for his dad when he had to go back and film the Grand Ole Opry TV broadcast on October 15. Elvis Presley joined the bookings in Oklahoma City.
Billboard reported that Jimmie did a spot on the Lawrence Welk "Top Tunes and New Talent" television show in Hollywood on August 26, 1957.
In 1958, Tom Perryman took on the personal management of Hank Snow and the Rainbow Ranch Boys. The group he traveled with on appearances included his son, Jimmie Rodgers Snow, Cowboy Copas, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper along with Carolee and the Clinch Mountain Clan. The troupewas about to take on a 40 day trans-Canadian tour in Camrose, Alberta and would complete the tour on June 16, 1958.
Eventually, young Snow fell into the "rock 'n' roll lifestyle" which ended after he had a serious automobile crash. He had a conversion experience and was called to preach. He believed his rock-oriented music was sinful and stopped singing secular songs.
Automobile Crash and Conversion
On January 3, 1956 the police were chasing a welder who was driving a stolen car that crashed into the car driven by Jimmie Rogers Snow. Jimmie suffered a broken leg, a concussion, bruises and cuts. His condition was listed as serious when he was admitted to Baptist hospital. The driver of the stolen car was said be driving around 70mph, then cut into the wrong lane of traffic. His car then crashed into Snow's car headon. An officer reported he had learned of the stolen car just ten minutes before the accident when the pursuit began. The picture of Snow's car in the Tennessean would make one wonder how he survived.
In the months following the accident while Jimmie recovered, Mae Boren Axton told fans of how the recovery process brought some of Jimmie's best traits - patience, fortitude and a grand sense of humor. He spent a lot of time watching television, learning all of the commercials. He bonded once again with his mother and father.
But his recovery also turned into something of inspiration. He was overwhelmed with messages of goodwill and affection from fans all over the world. Mae reported that the number of telegrams, cards and letters approached the 10,000 mark. There were post marks from all of the United States at the time (48), Canada, Mexico and as far away as England, Australia, Japan, Ireland and Scotland.
Jimmie told Ms. Axton,
"I didn't know how many friends I really had. I cannot possibly answer all of the messages, but I wish there were some way I could express my gratitude and appreciation for the friendship of all of these people. Furthermore, I pray the Good Lord that anything I do in the future will prove to them that their faith in me has not been misplaced. God bless them all."
Marriage To Carol Lee Cooper
On March 28, 1958, Jimmie Rodgers Snow married Carolee Cooper. They got married in secret, surprising both sets of parents. Jimmie was 22 at the time, Carolee 16 and a sophomore at Isaac Litton High School. Jimmie told Bill Maples of The Tennessean that he had gone to Columbia (TN), and told the marriage license clerk his bride-to-be was not quite 19 and asked how they could get a license to marry. The clerk told him, "...if I brought two blood test certificates down there, and they showed we were both of age, there was nothing he could do but issue a license."
The young couple got their blood tests from a Madison (TN) doctor's office where a nurse took their samples and hurried up filling out the document which said both of them were old enough to get married.
Jimmie said he picked up Carolee on her way to school that morning. There was something going on at the school that day which gave them an excuse to dress up. They went to the jewelry store but could only get Jimmie's ring; Carolee's ring had not yet arrived. But they borrowed one for her and went on to the Baptist church; he noted they were late for their own wedding. The Rev. J. Lovell Krupp married them. Billboard reported that they were married at Highland Park Baptist Church.
Carolee said they got back to down that afternoon in time for her to walk with her girl friends down the street from the school bus.
Both were going to finish their education. Jimmie had dropped out but wanted to finish his high school education. Carolee would also continue to tour with her parents, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper.
But, what did their parents say when they found out? Mr. Maples reported that Hank said, "We expected it but we didn't think they'd do it this soon. We knew they were fond of each other." Stoney said, "We're proud of them. We know they'll make a go of it." 'Min' (Hank's wife) and Wilma Lee chimed in, "It was something of a shock. But now that we've got accustomed to the idea, we think it's wonderful."
The couple had met in 1956 at the national disc jockey convention in Nashville. Stoney or Wilma Lee said, "We went on tour with Hank last June and those kids just seemd to be made for each other."
But that wasn't the only secret Jimmie kept from his dad. He had did a recording session with RCA prior to the marriage and did not let his dad know he had done so until just a few days prior to the marriage.
Research indicates the point in Jimmie's life when he made the decision to become a minister. It was an interview in Columbia, SC in 1970.
Rev. Jimmie and his wife Carol would often visit other churches. One such visit was to Columbia, SC in 1970. A local writer, Neville Patterson, wrote a bit about Jimmie's journey. He began to work with his father's company, handling booking and promotion for many singers. It was how he met Elvis Presley and led to his own start as a singer.
Jimmie told Neville: "My career was blossoming but I had trouble inside." Jimmie gradually became an alcoholic and taking varioius drugs — in 1955.
Jimmie went on relating he felt this was a transitional period in his life.
"I was raised in clubs, knew what drinking was and always said I'd never drink. But I was an introvert, had never fit with other kids and didn't play sports then. I was filled with all kinds of complexes. I drank to crawl out of my shell. I could become another person. It made me sociable.
The Rev. Snow laid the cornerstone to his new church in December 1965. The effort to build the church by Jimmie began with a small group of eight members. The week of September 3, 1967 was to be a week of dedicatory services at the finished Evangel Temple as it would be called. When the doors were opened during the dedication, the church then had about 80 members. The church was dedicated with help of many folks in the music industry in Nashville. Some who took part were Billy Walker, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, the Swanee River Boys, Pam Miller, Sheila and Bill Carlisle and Carol Snow. C. M. Ward, a network radio evangelist was the principal speaker who spoke on Labor Day evening and Rev. Snow preached several of the services. His wife, Carolee, was also part of the dedication.
Country Song Roundup provided other details surrounding this decision. It came around September first after a prayer from a few weeks earlier. Jimmie and Carolee had finished a personal appearance with Hank Snow and the Rainbow Ranch Boys in Ontario. They played two shows on November 13, 1958. After that show, Jimmie was said, "I feel this was the last one for us." He felt that if you want to work for the Great Master you musit give up everything else to do so, and there is no in between.
He planned to attend school in Springfield, Missouri to study for the ministry.
He began his path to the ministry by taking Bible courses by correspondence. A 1979 interview with a reporter in Pensacola that he met his ordination requirements using correspondence courses from Central Bible College (CBD), Crusader's Bible Institute and the Moody Bible Institute. He also read hours of reading commentaries and biographies of famous preachers from Augustine to Billyu Graham. He got his formal degree in 1975. He later became an ordainedminister in the Assembly of God faith. Even after being ordained, he continued his religious studies. For seven years, he was an evangelist. He then took over a small congregation of about 150, where half of its members were in show business.
He said he combined the gospel with his talents as a singer. His wife, Carol, who was also a singer and helped him with the church work as well as playing the organ and piano and arranged some of the music. He had his detractors in Music City. Some felt he became a preacher because he was not making it in show business, but others criticized him for using show business techniques in his pulpit. But Jimmie explained how 'show business' helped him:
"My show business did help. I knew how to dress, sit, stand and communicate with an audience. I had developed an instinct for rapport and timing. I could take an audience's pulse and sense when it was time to stop preaching, even if I was only halfway through my sermon outline...but I never resorted to gimmicks which performers sometimes resort to on the stage. Why should I when the Holy Spirit does it all?"
He would talk of how his wife Carol and he became a team in the church. But he also tells them how their marriage broke up and his ministry almost dissolving at the same time.
At that time, he felt religion was on the decline in the country. He felt that ministers need to once again, "...get the vision, and fire up their members who will then convert others."
Local newspapers would usually provide information about his appearance at a church in the area. When he and Carol appeared in Knoxville in 1970, they were said to be the "sweethearts of sacred song." Their appearance would be marked by singing and holding revival services at the Woodlawn Assembly of God church for about a week. In 1972, he appeared for three days at the West Side Assembly of God Church in Davenport, IA. Most of the program would be musical, but on his lst evening, he was to give his testimony on why he turned to the church fromt he entertainment world and from drugs and alcohol.
In 1973, the Evangel Temple was in the news due to the Holiness CHurch of God in Jesus' Name was reportedly handling snakes during its worship services. That news came about due to reports of a man being bitten by a rattlesnake during a convention at the church. The Evangel Temple took it upon itself to change its outdoor sign to reflect "No Snakes Here!"
In 1975, the Rev. Jimmie Snow was part of a group of 28 from his congregation. In all, 42 people were on the trip to travel to Rome and the Middle East and have an audience with Pope Paul VI. Opry stars Stu Phillips and Merle Kilgore were on the tour as well. The group also hoped to meet with Middle East leaders such as Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Jordan's King Hussein. The meetings with the leaders and the Pope were arranged by the U. S. State Department. Rev. Snow indicated he had a friend who was an aide for Senator Strom Thurmond and asked for help to get the audiences with the leaders. Sen. Thurmond suggested working with the State Department.
The Evangel Temple was no more by spring 1987. The events leading up to that gave no indication that it was imminent. In Decmeber, the church once again presented its fourth annual "Live Cast Nativity Scene" from 7:00pm to 9:00pm on December 23 and 24. In May of 1987, ads were seen promoting an all night Gospel sing at "The Carpenter Shop (formerly Evangel Temple)" at the Dickerson address. The ad stated it was to be held the third Saturday of each month.
March 15, 1974 — Last Opry Show At The Ryman
Jimmie was a part of Opry history. A new home for the Grand Ole Opry had been built in a large development complex known as Opryland off of Briley Parkway in Nashville. Friday, March 15, 1974 was the last night of performances from the Ryman Auditorium.
When the Friday night Opry was over, the Grand Ole Gospel show took over. The Rev. Jimmie Snow hosted the show as usual. One article called the Gospel show a '...child of the original country music program that began in 1925.'
The Grand Ole Gospel Show closed the Ryman Auditorium history as the home of the Opry that night. Though history shows that over the years, the Ryman underwent extensive remodeling and the Saturday night show would again be aired from the Ryman.
Rev. Jimmie told the audience before the final number that he had given up the opportunity to be a singer and a star when he "accepted the Lord" 17 years earlier. He told the audience in the packed Ryman as it got quiet:
"Tonight, this is it. It's been a long time since Sam Jones stood here and preached hell-fire and brimstone to sinners. He loved those sinners, just as much as I love you. Tom Ryman, the builder of the brick tabernacle, had been a sinner, too."The Ryman had long gained a place in country music history as the "Mother Church of Country Music."
On that last show, the very last tune to be sung was "Will The Circle Be Unbroken." Mother Maybelle Carter was ill at the time but she wanted to be there for that historic show. She was there when the curtain went down for the last time at 1:20am. She told her daughter June, "If you're going to sing it, I'm going with you. I want to see it one more time. Johnny Cash, June Carter and the Carter Family and Statler Brothers were there. Jimmie's father, Hank Snow was also in the chorus for that last hymn. An altar call by Rev. Jimmy Snow preceded the song. Many of the current cast members of the Opry back then were there. A sell out crowd was on hand and those who had their cameras, pocket-size Kodak Instamatics or other, were there as usual to take their souvenir pictures.
Back in Northwest Indiana, a college student was at his parent's home in the basement. He took his mom's old 78rpm cabinet and put an electric radio and a small battery powered tape recorder in the cabinet. He was going to tape the entire night's broadcast, static and all, complete with the usual fading in and out of the WSM signal. He was used to it. Falling asleep with his transistor radio under his pillow was a habit. Those tapes are still in his possession almost 50 years later and can still be played. He even made his own cassette cover for each of the five or six tapes it took to tape the show. It was a challenge to keep up and even trying to keep the family dog from barking. That college student was this site's webmaster.
The Rev. Jimmy Snow walked to the edge of the stage and asked the audience to rise and repeat after him:
"Jesus, I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I stand on your presence that you would come into my heart. I give myself to you. I love you, Jesus.
The Opry's new home was said to have cost $15 million and some wondered if the Opry would lose its 'authenticity and flavor.'
Grand Ole Gospel Time
In April 1975, the "Grand Ole Gospel Time" show that aired over the radio after Friday night Opry broadcasts took a new turn. It was going to be televised and nationally syndicated. The Rev. Jimmie Rodgers Snow would still continue to host the show. The Christian Broadcast Network would televise the show. The promotional article mentions it was heard over 125 outlets and they anticipated a potential audience of 86 million. It would also be carried by 200 radio stations.
When W. A. Reed wrote his article in March of 1975, a photo included Jimmie standing in front of the church sign that had the message, "Inflation not a problem, we're going up anyway." The tongue-in-cheek phrase was said to actually referring to a proposed new building.
Jimmie told the Tennessean Religion Writer, "This is not my story. It belongs to the people of this church (Evangel Temple) for they have been praying for something like this for 10 years." As the conversation went on, Snow said in 1970, "God lifted me out of the gutter and turned me around and I have been happy every since. God wanted me to preach his gospel."
The conversation drifted to his television debut. Rev. Snow said, "I am scared of several things. I don't ever want to project a phony image ... I have a lot of friends who appreciate what I have tried to do ... Both Peter and David (biblical characters) made comebacks and this church is my first love and these people who have stuck with me have prayed all of this new success."
The reason a new building was needed was the Bible College was growing. It was an extension of the International Bible Seminary in San Antonio, Texas. The planned syndicated show would air over WSM-TV locally. He also mentioned that every Friday night after the radio show, they would come back to the church and hold a prayer service.
That interview revealed that he and Carol were divorced in 1972. He did remarry to Dottie Lee (Swan) Favorite, daughter of Radio Dot of Radio Dot and Smokey fame.
Jimmie revealed a bit of the inner workings of his church. The Evangel Temple was a "...church of prayer. We pray every Friday, all day long on Sunday and we have chain prayers — two persons pray quietly every two hours for 30 days and when he have services on Sunday or at anytime, two people go in a separate room and pray while the service continues."
The Grand Ole Gospel Show was due to debut on television on Friday, March 28, 1975 after the Friday Night Opry.
In addition to running the Evangel Temple, he also handled the Evangel School and an Evangel Bible College.
In 1979, the "Grand Ole Gospel" show celebrated its 7th anniversary. Jimmie said it was "...the longest running revival there is. ... We don't just go four or five days the way most revivals do. We've gone 52 weeks a year for seven full years."
In a 1979 article denoting the seventh anniversary of the show, Jimmie told reporter Laura Eipper "It's a chance to preach to a whole new congregation each week." Jimmie had enjoyed success with several television specials the previous year. Plans were in the works for a full season of 26 syndicated "Grand Ole Gospel" programs in 1979.
The show was celebrating its 12th anniversary on the air in 1984 when Sandy Neese interviewed him. As part of the celebration, special guests were going to be on the show such as Leona Williams and Dan Seals. For Jimmy, it was his 25th year in the ministry - his silver anniversary he said.
Readers learned that the "...the idea of broadcasting a gospel show immediately following the country music of the Grand Ole Opry was a unique concept that E. W. (Bud) Wendell, then manager of the Opry, espoused with enthusiasm." Jimmy had approached Bud about getting air time between 11:00pm and midnight on WSM. Bud asked him what he was planning to do for the show. Jimmy gave him his ideas. Bud asked, where are you going to do it? Jimmy said he had not thought of that yet. Bud suggested, why not use the stage of the Opry?
Another detail learned was on that March 1974 last show at the Opry, Jimmy's Gospel Hour did not get on the air until 1:20am due to so many artists wanting to perform that night. The notes he used for his sermon and the Bible he had with him onstage are now in the Country Music Hall of Fame archives.
Jimmie wrote a book, "I Cannot Go Back" with James Hefley and Marti Hefley back in 1977. An appearance in Pensacola, Florida included an article written by Dorene Angeles that spoke of the early career struggles and his battle with drugs and alcohol and the impact on his relationship with his father. The way Jimmie explains it, "I wanted to be me, not just walk in my father's shadow...", the son whose father disinherited him because of his involvement with alcohol and drugs. In Pensacola, he would basically speak of that his life, warts and all. The problem was not that he was cut off from his father's money that hurt, but more the "...realization that I had shattered all his dreams for me."
Hank was the doting father, seemingly grooming his son, molding him for the big moment he could present him as the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry. But Jimmie stated, "Instead, I was Jimmie Rodgers Snow — the bum."
His father passed away in 1999. In 2001, a documentary was put together that aired in Canada where Hank enjoyed a loyal popular following of their native son. By this time, Jimmie was 62 years old. Research has not uncovered a video in any form of this documentary.
Ms. Angeles goes on to recount how Jimmie came to feel 'converted' and letting his mom know first; but his mom thought he was close to having a nervous breakdown around that time.
He was going to enroll in Central Bible College in the fall, but he found that he and his wife, Carol were on a tour of singing and preaching engagements during "...six hard, glory-filled years during which I received close-up, on the job training for the ministry that no college or seminary could have ever provided."
His congregation started with just six members in 1965, but nearly a decade later, he had one of the largest followings among country and gospel entertainers. His church received a $39,000 donation from one member that enbled the purchase of the land where his buildings now stand.
Founding Evangel Temple, he sang and recorded sacred songs with Carol Lee, did a sacred album on Victor with his father, and remained in the pulpit there until he retired in 2008. Domestic stability still eluded him having marriages to both Carol Lee Cooper and Dorothy Swan (daughter of Radio Dot and Smokey) ending in divorce.
Later he recorded numerous gospel numbers on his own GNC label. In 2016, he spoke at the ICMC (mostly on his friendship with Elvis) in Nashville, and was visibly displaying signs of age. In 2019, BACM in England released most his old singles on a compact disc.
His interview with Ms. Angeles in 1979 ends:
"When I tell Christians who have messed up their lives is this: Seek God's forgiveness. Accept His promise of mercy. Ask for a new filling of the Holy Spirit. Move out. Go forward. If you wait until you're perfect or until all people think well of you, you might as well lie down and die.
Credits & Sources
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