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Grand Ole Opry Star Jimmy C. Newman Dead at 86

Jimmy C. Newman
Terry Wyatt, Getty Images

Grand Ole Opry mainstay Jimmy C. Newman died on Saturday (June 21) in Nashville after a brief battle with cancer. He was 86.

The Newman, High Point, La. native (shown above with Jim Ed Brown, Bobby Bare and Bill Anderson) is largely known for his captivating Opry performances. He was the first Cajun singer to ever join the Grand Ole Opry (in 1956) and added the ‘C’ to his name to represent his Cajun background. The singer was deeply proud of his Cajun heritage, and his music — which he performed for more than 50 years at the Opry — reflected his roots.

During World War II, Newman met music producer and songwriter J.D. Miller, and his tutelage helped Newman eventually nab the hit ‘Cry, Cry Darling,’ which became the first of eleven Top 10 country hits. ‘Cry, Cry Darling’ was later recorded by Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, Ronnie Milsap and other country singers.

Newman’s success notched him an offer to perform regularly on the ‘Louisiana Hayride,’ where he sang alongside such stars as Elvis Presley and Johnny Horton. After five straight Top 10 records, he was asked to join the Grand Ole Opry, and a year later, Newman had his biggest hit, ‘A Fallen Star,’ which flew up to No. 2 on the Billboard Country chart and No. 23 on the pop chart.

He is credited with helping Dolly Parton jumpstart her career when she was a teenager, letting her join him on his Friday Night Opry stage time in 1959, which was her debut. Newman also boosted the songwriting career of Tom T. Hall, recording ‘D.J. for a Day’ in 1963, and helped hitmaker Eddy Raven with a publishing deal in the 1970s.

Newman is a member of the Cajun Hall of Fame, Cajun Music Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. He played at the Opry until the very end, last performing on that grand old stage on Friday, June 6.

A public service for the icon will be held Wednesday (June 25) in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium.

Next: Country Artists Who've Died in 2014

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