Meridian in Lauderdale County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
Elsie Williamson McWilliams (1896-1985), the sister of Jimmie Rodgers's second wife Carrie, wrote or contributed to music and lyrics for thirty-nine of the songs that Rodgers performed or recorded, although she never received full credit for her work. A Meridian housewife, mother, and Sunday school music teacher, she became the first woman to sustain a successful career as a country songwriter and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979.
Elsie McWilliams After growing up in Harperville in Scott County, Nettie Williamson McWilliams, called “Elsie” (1896-1985) moved to Meridian where she wrote songs, made music, and tended her family for most of her 89 years. Her musical career would likely have been limited to playing pump organ in church and writing songs for her children’s school plays if her sister Carrie had not married a local railroad brakeman and singer named Jimmie Rodgers in 1920. When Rodgers achieved global popularity and was pressed by his manager and publisher Ralph Peer to supply a steady stream of new songs, Jimmie drafted his music-reading,
McWilliams tended to modestly credit songs only to Rodgers on the grounds that they would not have existed if he hadn’t asked her to help. Rodgers, his publisher, and his record label Victor saw to it, however, that her name appeared as co-writer or lyric writer on nineteen of his recorded songs. By her own later estimate, she also contributed to some twenty others.
Her lyrics for Jimmie Rodgers were sometimes sparked by events from her own life. “My Little Lady,” which would become a cowboy yodeling standard recorded by Roy Rogers and many others, was inspired by a neighbor of the McWilliamses named “Hadie;” the rhyme stuck. Others were based on facts from The Singing Brakeman's own life. “You and My Old Guitar” was based on an excited comment he made to Mrs. Rodgers.
Many of McWilliams’s creations were sentimental, domestic songs in the melodic style of the Tin Pan Alley songs she loved—“Daddy and Home,” “Lullaby Yodel,” “Home Call,” “Mississippi Moon,” and also Rodgers’s single gospel number, “The Wonderful City.” Yet she was the principle author of lively songs like the risqué “Everybody Does It in Hawaii” and “My Little Lady,” and of broken marriage songs
Elsie McWilliams devoted most of her time to her husband, Edwin “Dick” McWilliams, who for most of their over sixty years of marriage was a patrolman with the Meridian police department, her three children, and civic duties. But she also performed, playing piano and singing in Jimmie Rodgers’s first pop-oriented dance band trio in 1923, and appearing occasionally at clubs and festivals in the last ten years of her life.
Erected 2010 by the Mississippi Country Music Trail, U.S. DOT(FHA), & MS DOT. (Marker Number 3.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment • Women. In addition, it is included in the Mississippi Country Music Trail series list.
Location. 32° 21.9′ N, 88° 41.903′ W. Marker is in Meridian, Mississippi, in Lauderdale County. Marker is at the intersection of 5th Street and 20th Avenue, on the left when traveling Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2000 5th Street, Meridian MS 39301, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Voter Registration (within shouting distance of this marker); Lauderdale County Archives (within shouting distance of this marker); Freedom Riders (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Moe Bandy (about 600 feet away); The Jewish Contribution (about 600 feet away); Federal Courthouse (about 600 feet away); Marks-Rothenberg Co. (about 700 feet away); The Grand Opera House (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Meridian.
Also see . . .
1. Biography of Elsie McWilliams. (Submitted on September 16, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
2. Mississippi Country Music Trail. (Submitted on September 17, 2014.)
Credits. This page was last revised on April 27, 2018. It was originally submitted on September 16, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 368 times since then and 18 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 16, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.