Jimmie Davis + country singer
Jimmie Davis + country singer, James Houston Davis (September 11, 1899 – November 5, 2000), better known as Jimmie Davis, was a noted singer of both sacred and popular songs who served two nonconsecutive terms as the 47th Governor of Louisiana (1944–1948 and 1960–1964). Davis was a nationally popular country music and gospel singer from the 1930s into the 1960s, occasionally recording and performing as late as the early 1990s. He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
Davis was born in 1899 to a sharecropping couple, the former Sarah Elizabeth Works and Samuel Jones Davis, in the now-ghost town of Beech Springs near Quitman in Jackson Parish. The family was so poor that young Jimmie did not have a bed in which to sleep until he was nine years old.
He graduated from Beech Springs High School and Soule Business College, New Orleans campus. The late U.S. Representative Otto Ernest Passman, a Louisiana Democrat, also graduated from Soule, but from the Bogalusa campus. Davis received his bachelor's degree in history from the Baptist-affiliated Louisiana College in Pineville. He received a master's degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Davis's 1927 master's thesis examines the intelligence levels of different races, and is titled Comparative Intelligence of Whites, Blacks and Mulattoes.
Davis taught history (and, unofficially, yodeling) for a year at the former Dodd College for Girls in Shreveport during the late 1920s. He was hired by the college president, Monroe Elmon Dodd, who was also the pastor of the large First Baptist Church of Shreveport and a pioneer radio preacher.
Davis became a commercially successful singer of rural music before he entered politics. His early work was in the style of early Country Music luminary Jimmie Rodgers, and he was also known for recording energetic and raunchy blues tunes like "Red Nightgown Blues". Some of these records included slide guitar accompaniment by black bluesman Oscar Woods. During his first run for governor, opponents reprinted the lyrics of some of these songs in order to undermine Davis's campaign. In one case, anti-Davis forces played some of the records over an outdoor sound system only to give up after the crowds started dancing, ignoring the double-entendre lyrics. Davis until the end of his life never denied or repudiated those records.
He is associated with several popular songs, most notably "You Are My Sunshine", which was designated an official state song of Louisiana in 1977. He claimed that he wrote the song while attending graduate school at LSU, but research indicates he bought it from another performer, Paul Rice, who had recorded it with his brother Hoke, who recorded together as the Rice Brothers under Paul Rice's name. The practice of buying songs from their composers was a common practice during the 1930s through the 1960s as some writers in need of cash often sold tunes to others.
Rice himself had adapted it from another person's poem. Reportedly, the song was copyrighted under Davis' name and that of longtime sideman Charles Mitchell, after they purchased it from Rice. Davis also purchased the country ballad "It Makes No Difference Now" from its composer Floyd Tillman. Tillman later had his composer credit restored alongside that of Davis.
In 1999, "You Are My Sunshine" was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and the Recording Industry Association of America named it one of the Songs of the Century. "You Are My Sunshine" was ranked No. 73 on CMT's 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music in 2003. Until his death, Davis insisted that he wrote the song. In any case, it will forever be associated with him.
Davis became the popular "singing governor" who often performed during his campaign stops. While governor, he had a No. 1 hit single in 1945 with "There's a New Moon Over My Shoulder". Davis recorded for Decca Records for decades and released over 40 albums. A long-time member of the Baptist faith, he also recorded a number of Southern gospel albums and in 1967 served as president of the Gospel Music Association. He was a close friend of the North Dakota-born band leader Lawrence Welk who frequently reminded viewers of his television program of his association with Governor Davis.
A number of his songs were used as part of motion picture soundtracks, and Davis himself appeared in half a dozen films, one with the popular entertainers Ozzie and Harriet. Members of Davis' last band included Allen "Puddler" Harris of Lake Charles, who had also been an original pianist of Ricky Nelson.
|1937||"Nobody's Darling but Mine"||—|
|1938||"Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland"||—|
|1940||"You Are My Sunshine"||—|
|1944||"Is It Too Late Now"||3|
|"There's a Chill on the Hill Tonight"||4|
|1945||"There's a New Moon Over My Shoulder"||1|
|1946||"Grievin' My Heart Out for You"||4|
|1962||"Where the Old Red River Flows"||15|