25 September 2009

As you have seen, there are no new posts since a few weeks and even before, it was a bit irregular. I still have lots to write about but I’ve tons of other things to do for the moment. I can see that you’re still interested in the blog, that you listen to the music, so I won’t close it. I even may write again in some time…

Yodelling yours,



They yodel in the USA !: Jimmie Rodgers (V) (1928)

2 August 2009

A few months later, on October 20, 1928, Jimmie Rodgers recorded four songs but this time with the support of a band (Dean Bryan, guitar; C.L. Hutchison, cornet; John Westbrook, steel guitar; James Rikard, clarinet; George MacMillan, string bass). These songs are some of the best he made, with train whistle imitation in Waiting for a Train and a new Blue Yodel.

Between this time and the next session in 1929, he made a short movie and toured in vaudeville shows around the country, mostly in the Southwest because of his tuberculosis. Here’s one of the clips:

Blue Yodel No.4 (Rodgers)

My Carolina Sunshine Girl (Rodgers)

I’m Lonely and Blue (McWilliams – Rodgers)

Waiting for a Train (Rodgers)


Do they yodel in France ?: Madame Rollini

12 July 2009

It seems normal that they yodel in France: they have high mountains, the Alps, and the same need to communicate between the valleys. It’s not so developped as in Switzerland or Austria but you can find some yodels there. But this is not the object of this post. It’s the “tyrolienne”, the french name for “yodel”, and as it says, with origins in Tyrol. This kind of song was very popular in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century in the cabarets and café concerts, or the vaudeville circuit. It all began with Rossini, the classical composer who introduced yodels in his compositions in the 1830’s (more about that later). Different artists like Thérésa or Suzanne Lagier were very successful in theaters with tyroliennes but there are no recordings. We have to wait for the beginning of the 20th century to find some, from various singers.

Madame Rollini had a big discography but is almost forgotten today. Nobody knows when she was born or even her first name (Jeanne ?, Louise ?, Z. ?). On the picture taken in 1903 from the catalogue “répertoire français” from Pathé, she must be almost 50 years old. She began recording tyroliennes and other songs in 1896 for Pathé but also for Gramophone, Zonophone, Odéon, Eden-Favorite… and was performing at the Folies Bergère in Paris. She had a very clear voice and could sing beautiful yodels.

Carillon tyrolien (Gramophone K-285, 1907)

La cigale tyrolienne (Favorite Record 1-39, no date)

I found most of the info here and here (with other recordings) and the songs come from Les 50 plus belles tyroliennes.


They yodel in the USA !: Jimmie Rodgers (IV) (1928)

5 July 2009

By the end of spring 1928, Jimmie Rodgers was beginning to be famous: his first big hit, Blue Yodel was heard all over the country on the radio and in the record shops. With the money he earned from this succes, he bought a new wardrobe and a blue Buick.

Having recorded all his repertoire in the first two sessions, he asked his sister-in-law Elsie McWilliams to help him compose new songs for the sessions of June 12, as he did for the previous one. She came to Washington and in one week, they had produced the nine songs that would be recorded on that date. No Blue Yodel here, but all these songs contain yodels. They are in the tradition of the vaudeville of the turn of the century, full of sentiments and melancholy. All are sung by Jimmie Rodgers who played his own guitar.

My little lady

Daddy and Home

Lullaby Yodel

You and My Old Guitar

Never No Mo’ Blues

Mississippi Moon

I’m Lonely and Blue

My Old Pal

My Little Old Home Down in New Orleans


Do they yodel in Croatia ?

28 June 2009

Croatia is one of the countries that was created after the explosion of Yugoslavia. It has a strange shape and a long coast with lots of islands and can be divided in different cultural areas. But do they yodel in Croatia ?

The Dinaric Alps stretch through different countries of Southern Europe, between Slovenia and Albania and it’s in these mountains of Croatia that you can find songs with yodel-like vocals, or at least vigourous shaking and trilling of the voice ! It’s a very old tradition of songs with a peculiar style of singing wich is of early Balkan origin and exists in the different countries around. These songs are mostly performed outdoors as a way to communicate with people who are far away – hence the yodels.

Pivaj, seko and Gospe Sinjska are two songs recorded in1995 in Kijevo near Knin in the eastern part of the Dinaric highlands, a region with scarce ressources and a cattle raising economy. These two short songs sung by a group of women show how archaic traditions survive even if the lyrics of the second song are related to the recent war. One singer starts with the leading part and the rest accompany her with the lower part.

From the same region come the male singers of Nema pisme nit pivanja and Pitaju me odakle si mali, recorded in 1993 in Zagreb. Wolf Dietrich already recorded examples of this style of singing in 1973 near Sinj in Dalmatia: Ojkanje songs. These songs, like the previous ones, are performed for the pleasure of singing on the syllabe “oj” and that’s where you can her the yodel-like vocalisations.

And for something quite different in style but inspired by the old traditions, a song by Darko Rundek & Cargo Orkestar, Kolo with yodeling.

Pivaj, seko and Gospe Sinjska (from Croatia, traditional music of today)

Nema pisme nit pivanja and Pitaju me odakle si mali (from Croatia, music of long ago)

Ojkanje song and Ojkanje song: crne oci (from Folk music of Yugoslavia)

Darko Rundek & Cargo Orkestar, Kolo (from Mhm a-ha oh yeah da-da)

If you want to learn more about Ojkanje songs, there’s a good article in PDF here.


Can they cover Jimmie Rodgers ? Blue Yodel No.3

7 June 2009

Blue Yodel No.3 wasn’t covered a lot. Here are four versions:

The first one, Blue Yodel No.4, recorded by Bill Monroe in 1946, is in fact Blue Yodel No.3. I don’t know where the confusion comes from but it contains stratospheric yodeling ! In his repertoire, the blue yodels were recorded only as a pretext to yodel, so the numbers and lyrics were probably mixed up because of that.

Jack Guthrie, the cousin of Woody Guthrie, recorded Blue Yodel #3 in 1946. His version contains different lines but it still is an excellent song where you feel a certain western swing influence in the instrumentation. He made lots of covers of Jimmie Rodgers, it was his singing idol and he was known as “Oklahoma’s Yodeling Cowboy”. There certainly will be a full post about him, one day…

The Country Gentlemen made a bluegrass version in 1964 but it is a strange one. It contains great yodels and the last yodel of the song is more like the one in Muleskinner Blues (Blue Yodel No.8). It was recorded for their second disc for Mercury but because of contractual misunderstanding it was only released in 1990.

A very fresh and energetic version is the one by the Johnson Mountain Boys recorded live at the Birchmere (Virginia) in 1983, with really high notes in the yodel. This bluegrass group plays the classic music of Bill Monroe or the Stanley Brothers but with a modern feel, with their individuality, fast and furious at a time where most of the bluegrass group were playing a kind of fusion.

Bill Monroe – Blue Yodel No.4 (on different cd’s)

Jack Guthrie – Blue Yodel #3 (Evening sun yodel) (on this cd)

The Country Gentlemen – Blue Yodel #3 (She’s long, she’s tall) (on this cd)

The Johnson Mountain Boys – Blue Yodel #3 (on this cd)


Yodel blues: Winston Holmes

17 May 2009

Winston Holmes is a bit of an enigma. He was probably born around 1898 in Kansas City (Missouri) and was a good looking and restless man. He started a record label, Merritt Records, and was a performer himself. His vocals were energetic, with bird calls, train whistles and yodels. He made some songs with Lottie Kimbrough, a blues singer who made a career in the twenties. You can hear them together on Lost Lover Blues and Wayward Girl Blues.

He also made a session with Charlie Turner playing twelve-string guitar and harmonica on Rounders Lament and The Kansas City Call, with bird calls on both songs and yodel on the second one. No more info about all this, but these yodels are very early examples, at a time where Jimmie Rodgers was popularizing them.

Lost Lover Blues and Wayward Girl Blues (1928 – with Lottie Kimbrough)

Rounders Lament and The Kansas City Call (1929 – with Charlie Turner)

(image from the Yazoo Record Times Ain’t Like They Used To Be, Vol. 1, info and music from the Document cd Kansas City Blues)