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

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