Grand Ole Opry star Jimmy C. Newman passed away on Saturday after a battle with cancer. He was 86 years old.
The singer rose to fame in the ’50s, first signing a songwriting contract with Acuff-Rose Music, followed by a recording contract with Dot Records. His single, ‘Cry, Cry, Darling,’ was released in 1954 and became his first Top 5 hit. Newman became a member of the Opry in 1956 after earning five straight Top 10 records, including ‘God Was So Good’ and ‘Seasons of My Heart.’
His highest charting song, ‘A Fallen Star,’ reached No. 2 in 1957. Newman combined his love of Cajun music with country, resulting in hits like ‘Alligator Man’ and ‘Bayou Talk.’
“His role became the Cajun fellow at the Opry, and that’s great,” Marty Stuart tells Nashville’s Tennessean. “But if you go back to his 1950s recordings of ‘Cry, Cry, Darling’ and ‘Seasons of My Heart,’ you’ll witness a country music architect at work. He was a brilliant singer, a brilliant designer of country music.”
The Louisiana native is also credited with helping aspiring teenage artist Dolly Parton get her start, giving her part of his time on ‘Friday Night Opry’ so she could make her Opry debut. Newman was also the first person to record a tune by songwriter Tom T. Hall, ‘D.J. for a Day,’ which landed in the Top 10 in 1964.
Newman’s final Opry performance was on June 6, with his band, Cajun Country.
A public funeral service will be held on Wednesday at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium at 10AM, followed by a private visitation and memorial service for family and close friends. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund.