Archive for June, 2008


Can they cover Jimmie Rodgers ?: Blue yodel No.1

29 June 2008

From top to bottom, left to right: Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra, Merle Travis, Jim Eanes, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Half Japanese and Dwight Yoakam

Lots of singers covered Jimmie Rodgers. So here is a new serie: the blue yodel covers. I found already more than 70 versions of the 12 different songs. Some of the artists are not used to yodel, but try it anyway. Some others just don’t sing the yodel (like Lynyrd Skynyrd or blues artist Pee Wee Crayton).

Let’s begin with the beginning: the Blue Yodel No.1 or T for Texas. Here’s a selection:

Six months after the original was recorded, in 1928, there were already covers of the song. Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra makes a dance band version that can be played by any urban orchestra. There’s no yodel but it is a good instrumental version.

In 1948, Merle Travis sings T for Texas in western swing style, with a nice yodel. The song was recorded for a radio show, The Country Barn Dance for KXLA Los Angeles.

Jim Eanes & His Shenandoah Valley Boys sings a classic version of song, with a stringband, in the early days of bluegrass, in 1951.

In 1957, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, the country folk singer dressed in Levis and Stetson hat was in England since two years. English audiences were interested in his renditions of Woody Guthrie but he sang also country, folk and blues from the United States. The recording of T for Texas was made on a yacht at the Isle of Wight, just with a guitar, and has a beautiful yodel, full of energy.

Half Japanese recorded a completely crazy experimental lo-fi rock version of the song in 1986, with Jad Fair an Eugene Chadbourne singing and yodelling (I don’t know who does what).

In 1997, Dwight Yoakam, modern country singer, sings it with no yodel, there’s just some slight falsetto. The song has this really slow, laid-back modern country feel.

Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra – Blue yodel no.1 (T for Texas)

Merle Travis – T for Texas (Blue yodel #1)

Jim Eanes & His Shenandoah Valley Boys – Blue yodel #1

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – T for Texas

Half Japanese – T for Texas

Dwight Yoakam – T for Texas


Do they yodel in the USA ?: Jimmie Rodgers (II) (1927)

22 June 2008

After his first session in August 1927 in Bristol, Jimmie Rodgers was asked by Ralph Peer to record new songs in November at the Victor Studios in Camden, New Jersey. He brought one of his own compositions: T for Texas or Blue yodel No. 1. It was the first blue yodel he recorded there, the first of a serie of twelve. The structure was like a typical blues but at some moment, at the end of a line, Rodgers would raise his voice to a higher octave and yodel. It sold more than a million records and became a new rage. On the other side was Away out on the mountain. The two other songs recorded at this session don’t contain any yodels (Ben Dewberry’s final run and Mother was a lady)

Yodels were already used in songs (by Riley Puckett for example), and blues existed, but nothing corresponding to the blue yodel had been collected. Jimmie Rodgers’ yodeling may have been influenced by Swiss groups touring the Midwest but he modified it to sound like a wail or a moan, a way to intensify the mood of the song. He could also have been influenced by the field hollers and work shouts of the Negro’s or by the Mexican or cowboy songs.

Rodgers captivated his listeners with the yodels. He was the first of a whole new generation of hillbilly singers who would copy him or get inspired by him, and not only in the USA, but as far as Kenya or Thailand.

Jimmie Rodgers – session of November 30, 1927

Blue yodel No. 1 (T for Texas) (Here’s a clip)

Away out on the mountain


Do they yodel in Korea ? “Dasepo naughty girls”

16 June 2008

Dasepo naughty girls is a crazy teen sex comedy from 2006. There is a cyclop, a poor girl, a perverted teacher, and Anthony, the exchange student from Switzerland. And he yodels !

It is Park Jin-woo who plays the role but can he yodel ? I don’t read Korean (if somebody can help ?) so I coulnd’t see who was singing the song on the soundtrack, maybe it is Rain again, like in I’m a cyborg but that’s OK. It’s the second Korean movie with yodel I see lately. Is it the new craze ? There are people interested in yodel, that’s for sure, just look at the Heidiland site.

Here’s the youtube clip:


Do they yodel in the USA ? : Earl Peterson

9 June 2008

Earl Peterson (1927-1971) travelled in January 1954 from Michigan to Memphis to ask for an audition at the Sun Studios and recorded four songs and then moved on. He knew Sam Phillips from the time he was a disc-jockey. He was impressed by the song Boogie Blues. It wasn’t a hit (it sold 2672 copies) and Earl Peterson re-recorded it later in the year for Columbia. And it’s difficult to find any other information about him.

Why talk about this song, well it contains a yodel ! Here’s what Nick Tosches has to say about it in his book Country. The twisted roots of rock’n’roll: “This wry, uptempo song featured a yodeling vocal. It also bore a HILLBILLY stap. Peterson was basically an old-line country singer, but “Boogie Blues” possessed a lively, youthful edge.”

You can find the song on different Sun Records compilations.

Earl Peterson – Boogie Blues


Do they yodel in La Réunion ?: Orchestre Pitou

1 June 2008

When you listen to a lot of music, you sometimes make strange discoveries. Did you ever hear about yodel in La Réunion, one of the french overseas départements in the Indian Ocean ?

Well here are two songs, in Creole, with orchestra. I found no information about the singers, Max Bertil in the first song and the Bertil brothers in the second one but here’s the story of Loulou (Elie) Pitou from the Orchestre Pitou. He was born in 1922 in northern Réunion and learned to play accordion at a young age. He soon leaded his own band and played at balls and marriages all over the island with a repertoire of dances like mazurkas, polkas, foxtrots… all of european origin but he absorbed also Indian and Malagasy traditions. He modernised the Creole repertoire and in the 50’s and 60’s, he recorded segas, a typical style of La Réunion with different singers.

I don’t know why there are yodels in the songs, or even how the yodel came to La Réunion (I suppose it was the influence of french songs with yodel), but here are two songs. The first one, Viens ici, is a love story, the second one, Au revoir Doudou, is about emigration and the sadness of the loved one who is staying behind. You’ll find the songs on the cd of the Takamba label, Loulou Pitou et Benoîte Boulard, Du quadrille créole au séga.

Orchestre Pitou (with Max Bertil) – Viens ici

Orchestre Pitou (with the Bertil Brothers) – Au revoir Doudou