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Conrad Sonny' Rodgers dies in Columbia, S.C.

By By Scottye Carter/The Meridian Star
July 10, 2001
Leola Ezell, secretary of the International Singing Brakemen Association, announced Monday that Mississippi lost one of its best musicians last week when Conrad "Sonny" Rodgers, second cousin to Jimmie Rodgers, died of cancer at Baptist Hospital in Columbia, S.C.
Rodgers, known to friends and relatives as Sonny, was born in Crystal Springs in 1929. His father was first cousin to Jimmie Rodgers, the Father of Country Music.
Ezell said Sonny, like his cousin Jimmie, devoted most of his life to country music. Early in school, his father bought him his first guitar for $5, and Sonny teamed up with four classmates to form a band.
In high school, football began to take up most of Sonny's time, and Sonny won a football scholarship to Memphis State where he earned a bachelor's degree.
When Sonny turned 62, he retired and took up music full-time. Ezell said Sonny was an instant success at the Jimmie Rodgers Festival and continued to entertain large, loyal crowds every year. He also performed at many musical festivals throughout the country and at nursing homes, retirement homes and charity events.
When Jimmie Rodgers was inducted into the Mississippi Musician's Hall of Fame, Sonny accepted the award on his behalf.
In 1999 and 2000, Sonny's Yodelers' Show was one of the main attractions at the Old Time Country Music Festival in Avoca, Iowa, and it attracted some of the best yodelers in the USA and Canada.
Sonny had a large musical instrument collection, including one of the first Signature Jimmie Rodgers guitars.
Early last year, Sonny was diagnosed with a cancerous growth in his leg. After fighting the cancer, he managed to make the trip to Avoca to his Yodeler's Show, but in April of 2001, Sonny was diagnosed with lung cancer.
He spent most of his last days in his garden, visiting with friends, or picking on his Grand Ole Opry guitar. He was 72.
Graveside services were held on July 5 at New Zion Baptist Church in Crystal Springs.
Survivors include his wife, Mary Ann Rodgers; four children; seven grandchildren; sisters Erma Sykes, Opal Jackson, and Winnie Banks; brothers Dan Rodgers, Jimmie Rodgers, Billy Frank Rodgers, and Tally Rodgers.
Scottye Carter is a staff writer for The Meridian Star.