Singer Jimmy C. Newman dead at 86

(Source: KPLC-TV)
(Source: KPLC-TV)

Grand Ole Opry member Jimmy C. Newman has died according to family members.  Newman was 86.

Newman died Saturday in Nashville. 

He was born on August 29, 1927 near Mamou and was the first Cajun singer to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1956.  According to his biography on the Opry's website, Newman grew up listening to as much music from country stars like Gene Autry as he did the Cajun music from Louisiana.  He made his first recordings in 1946 in his native French patois.

Newman hosted his own show on KPLC-TV after forming his own band, which as an instant hit with the viewers.  Newman also performed on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.

Newman went on to chart 33 songs on the Billboard Country chart from 1954-1970.  According to the Opry, it was Newman's brother, Walter who introduced him to country music.

Although he was known as the alligator man to countless fans, Newman told the Ralph Emery Show in 1984 he didn't always want to be a performer. 

 "My dream was to be a cowboy and a rancher.  My idol was Gene Autry.  Had it not been for Gene Autry, I would not have been a country singer," Newman said.

He was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009, the Cajun Hall of Fame in 2004, and the North American Country Music Association's International Hall of Fame in 2000.

Newman continued to perform in his later years, appearing on the Grand Ole Opry weekly.  In 2006, he joined a select group of entertainers who marked 50 years of membership with the Opry.

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