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Elsie McWilliams (nee Williamson, June 1, 1896 - December 30, 1985) was songwriter who wrote for Jimmie Rodgers. McWilliams, even though she is only officially credited with writing twenty songs, actually wrote or co-wrote 39 songs for Rogers.[1][2] McWilliams was his most frequent collaborator.[3] She was the first woman to make a career as a country music songwriter.[4]

Elsie McWilliams
Elsie Williamson

(1896-06-01)June 1, 1896
Harperville, Mississippi
DiedDecember 30, 1985(1985-12-30) (aged 89)
Known forJimmie Rodgers
Notable work
Blue Yodel



McWilliams was born in Harperville, Mississippi into a musical and religious family.[1] She graduated from high school in 1917 in Meridian and afterwards, taught school until she married.[5]

Her sister, Carrie, married Jimmie Rogers and in 1920, she and Rogers formed a dance band.[1] McWilliams played piano and sang in the band.[4]

Rodgers asked McWilliams to help him with songwriting after he secured a recording contract and McWilliams agreed, traveling to recording sessions and collaborating.[1] Rodgers could not read music, so McWilliams would play the songs and he would learn them by ear.[6] The first song she wrote for Rodgers was A Sailor's Plea.[6] Many of her songs became top hits.[6] McWilliams's ideas for her songs often "came from conversation" and she said that "When an idea hit me, I would have to write it down that minute or it would get away."[6]

Part of the reason he needed help was because his health was poor.[5] Even though McWilliams helped him write songs, she only took credit for some, stating that she wanted the full amount of the money to go to Rodgers and his family.[7] Sometimes when she received payment for her work, she would turn the royalties back over to Rodgers.[6]

After Rodger's death in 1933, McWilliams focused more on her family and her church.[6] In 1938, she and her sister made recordings in memory of Rodgers.[8] In 1979, she was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.[9] In 2010, a marker on the Mississippi Country Music Trail was created to honor her work.[10]


  • Blue Yodel
  • Cowhand's Last Ride,[11]
  • Daddy and Home
  • Everybody Does It In My Hawaii,[11]
  • Hobo Bill's Last Ride,[6]
  • Home Call,[11]
  • Lonesome Blues,[11]
  • Lullaby Yodel,[11]
  • My Little Home in New Orleans
  • My Little Lady,[11]
  • My Old Pal,[11]
  • My Rough and Rowdy Ways,[11]
  • The Never No Mo Blues,[11]
  • Nobody Knows But Me,[11]
  • A Sailor's Plea,[6]
  • That's Why I'm Blue
  • Tuck Away My Lonesome Blues
  • Waitin' For the Train,[6]
  • Yodeling Cowboy,[11]
  • You and My Old Guitar,[11]


  1. ^ a b c d "Elsie McWilliams". Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  2. ^ Mazor, Barry (2009). Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America's Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century. Oxford University Press. p. 305. ISBN 9780199716661.
  3. ^ Wade, Howard Mitchell (1 July 2012). "Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America's Blue Yodeler". Journal of American Folklore. Archived from the original on 31 January 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2016 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  4. ^ a b "Elsie McWilliams - Meridian". Mississippi Country Music Trail. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  5. ^ a b Chadbourne, Eugene. "Elsie McWilliams". All Music. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cotton, Gordon (13 November 1973). "In-Law Aided Jimmie Rodgers". Lubbock Morning Avalanche. Retrieved 10 January 2016 – via Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  7. ^ Mullins, Daniel (24 May 2012). "Rodgers Remembrance Vol !V: My Old Pal". Bluegrass Today. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Records in Memory". San Antonio Light. 26 July 1938. Retrieved 10 January 2016 – via Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  9. ^ "Country Songwriter Elsie McWilliams". Chicago Tribune. 1 January 1986. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Around the Region". The Commercial Appeal. 8 September 2010. Archived from the original on 19 November 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2016 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "103 Songs Composed by Jimmie Rodgers". Billboard: 22. 16 May 1953. Retrieved 10 January 2016.

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