Posts Tagged ‘blue yodel’


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)


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)


They cover Jimmie Rodgers !: Blue Yodel No.II

3 November 2008

I’m a bit late this week because I spent the last days in Seville, but her I am.

After the innumerable covers of the Blue Yodel No.I, this post will be very poor in songs: I only found two other versions of Blue Yodel No.II.

The first version was recorded in March 1937 by the Rhythm Wreckers, a blues group distinguished by the presence of the vocalist, Whitey McPherson, who was 14-15 years old at the time of the recording. I first thought it was a woman singing the song ! He had an amazing voice and was influenced by Emmett Miller and Jimmie Rodgers, so it is not a suprise he sang this song.

The picture comes from a post about the group on Western Swing on 78. Whitey McPherson sits in the middle of the front row, with white shirt and white cowboy hat.

Lefty Frizzell, the honky tonk star, recorded different songs of Jimmie Rodgers in June 1951. Blue Yodel No.II is one of them but he didn’t yodel on it. He really liked playing these songs and made another session in 1953.

The Rhythm Wreckers – Blue Yodel #2 (My lovin’ gal Lucille) (found on this or this cd)

Lefty Frizzell – Blue Yodel #2 (on the Bear Family box)


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

19 October 2008

For his third session in Camden in february 1928, Jimmie Rodgers began recording with other musicians. One of them, Ellsworth T. Cozzens, a steel guitarist of Hawaiian origin, wrote a song for Jimmie Rodgers, as did his sister-in-law, Elsie McWilliams. All songs from this session contain yodels.

Due to the popularity of the Blue Yodel, Rodgers recorded sequels, the numbers two and three. In fact, in order to increase sales, Ralph Peer decided not to give names at the songs composed by Rodgers but just number them. Lucille blues became Blue Yodel No.II and Eyes like diamonds was relabelled Blue Yodel No.3. Another classic, In the jailhouse now, comes from the same sessions. It tell the story of the prisoner who gains his liberty by playing guitar. This song, with others, helped create the public image as railroader and rambler even if he was to frail to do it in real. Brakeman’s blues, in a blue yodel vein, was quite a succes with 262.000 pieces sold.

Dear old sunny south by the sea (Rodgers – Cozzens) Ellsworth T. Cozzens on steel guitar and Julian R. Ninde on guitar, Jimmie Rodgers, vocal and ukulele

Treasures untold (Rodgers – Cozzens) Rodgers on vocal, Cozzens on steel guitar and J.R. Ninde on guitar

Blue yodel No.II (Rodgers) Rodgers on vocal and guitar, Cozzens on banjo

The sailor’s plea (McWilliams – Rogers) Rodgers on vocal and guitar, Cozzens on steel guitar and J.R. Ninde on guitar

In the jailhouse now (Rodgers) Rodgers on vocal and guitar, Cozzens on banjo

Memphis yodel (Rodgers) Rodgers on vocal and guitar

The brakeman’s blues (Rodgers) Rodgers on vocal and guitar, Cozzens on ukulele

Blue yodel No.3 (Rodgers) Rodgers on vocal and guitar

Link to part I and part II


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