Country Legend Jimmy C. Newman, “The Alligator Man” Passes Away
The bayou cries out in mourning, but the music will live on.
Jimmy C. Newman, the ‘C’ standing for “Cajun,” known as one of country music’s most passionate champions of the Cajun influence and nicknamed “The Alligator Man,” passed away on Saturday, June 21st due to Cancer. He was 86-years-old.
A Big Mamou, Louisiana native, Jimmy grew up on the cowboy sounds of Gene Autry, as well as Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family, and the Cajun music of the surrounding countryside. He was bilingual, and after finishing six years of schooling, dropped out to work on a farm before becoming part of the war workforce as a welder’s assistant where he met a man named J.D. Miller who got him into the music business. After first making it on The Louisiana Hayride, Newmann later became a fixture of The Grand Ole Opry for over 50 years, joining originally in 1956, a couple of years after landing his first big hit, “Cry, Cry Darling”. Newman was signed to Dot Records after being championed by Fred Rose, and had five Top 10 records in a row before landing his biggest hit in 1957, “A Fallen Star”, making it all the way to #2 on the charts, and crossing over to Billboard’s Hot 100.
Though Newman would have many more hits within the commercially-popular “Nashville Sound” of the time like “You’re Makin’ A Fool Out of Me”, “Grin And Bear It”, “A Lovely Work of Art’, “D.J. For A Day” which was the first hit written by Tom T. Hall, and arguably his last big hit, 1965’s “Artificial Rose”, starting in the early 60’s, Jimmy C. Newman started moving towards the Cajun sound that eventually would become the signature of his career, feeling like it was a more true expression of his roots. 1962’s “Alligator Man” wasn’t a huge hit at the time, but it would become Newman’s theme song, and a standard of his Opry sets later in life.
Forming his “Cajun Country” band in the early 60’s, Newman began to instill the fiddle and accordion sound into his music more and more, releasing songs like “Bayou Talk” and “Louisiana Saturday Night”. Though his commercial prominence waned, he became a favorite with Cajun country fans, and an influential voice for country music’s Cajun lineage through his regular appearances in the Opry rotation.
An inductee of the Cajun Hall of Fame, The Cajun Music Hall of Fame, and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, Jimmy C. Newman’s influence and contributions cannot be overstated. In 2006, he joined the very distinct club of performers who have marked 50 years at the Grand Ole Opry, and his 1991 album Alligator Man was nominated for a Grammy Award. His song “Cry, Cary Darling” went on to be covered by Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, and Ronnie Milsap. He also was the man that gave up stage time as an invitation to Dolly Parton so she could make her Grand Ole Opry debut.
Jimmy C. Newman lived on a large ranch near Murfreesboro, TN, just south of Nashville, and was married to Mae Newman for over 60 years. He made his final appearance just less than two weeks ago on June 13th during the Friday Night Opry.
Jimmy C. Newman, “The Alligator Man”, is now sitting on the banks of the great bayou in the sky.
June 22, 2014 @ 11:37 am
Always loved seeing him on the opry.
June 22, 2014 @ 11:49 am
Hank Jr. also recorded Cry, Cry Darling.
Jimmy was a heck of a nice guy, and could hold his own as a singer back in the day. Another song he wrote, “Seasons of My Heart”, was covered by George Jones; but I swear, Jimmy even out sang George on that one. It’s sad; in just a few more years, all the old-timers will be gone.
June 22, 2014 @ 12:03 pm
Thanks for this I was unaware of him as my cajun/zydeco music history is really lacking. Great sound. Will be checking him out for sure.
June 22, 2014 @ 1:09 pm
I loved his cover of diggly liggy. Glad I saw him at the opry the night after the GJ tribute show.
June 22, 2014 @ 1:11 pm
Wow, I just heard him performing on the Opry not too long ago. I think it might have even been his last performance. It was cool to have a guy on the show who could bring out the Cajun country influence. Who will carry on that tradition now? Sadly, probably no one.
June 22, 2014 @ 5:41 pm
Saw him at the opry at least once. Cajun needs more respect
Tom the Polack
June 22, 2014 @ 11:35 pm
Wow, I’ve always thought that ‘Cry, Cry Darlin’ ‘ was a Bill Monroe’s song. Good to know the original version.
Strait Country 81
June 23, 2014 @ 9:48 pm
Cry, Cry Darlin Sammy Kershaw does a Awesome cover.