Posts Tagged ‘cowboy’


They yodel in the USA !: Tex Owens

15 March 2009

For this week, let’s listen to Tex Owens, an American cowboy yodeler who isn’t very known but his song, Cattle Call was a big hit for Eddy Arnold and dozens of others after him. I’ll write a special post about this song but I first want to present Tex Owens himself. He was born as Doye Hensley Owens in Texas in 1892 and died in 1962… and for the rest of his biography, there is a very good one on All Music Guide, so I won’t rewrite it here. He worked a lot for the radio and played in movies. His daughters became singers too, the oldest one, Laura Lee worked with Bob Wills.

But why did he yodel ? I have no idea, the information about him is really scarce on the internet. He worked as a real cowboy and at that time, almost all the singing cowboys yodeled… And his yodel is beautiful ! But if you have more info, write me.

The songs come from the Bear Family cd, Cattle Call:

recorded August 28, 1934, Chicago, Illinois – Tex Owens: vocal and guitar:

Pride of the prairie

Two sweethearts

Rocking alone in an old rocking chair, no yodel with a nice whistle !

previously unissued demo’s of unknown origin or date:

Cowboy call

While I’m nearly home

Don’t hide your tears my darling


Do they yodel in Canada ?: Wilf Carter (Montana Slim)

16 November 2008

It’s quite obvious you can find yodel in Canada, being so close to the USA. So here is a post about Wilf Carter, also known as “Montana Slim” in the USA.

He was born in 1904 in Port Hilford (Nova Scotia) but moved to Calgary (Alberta) to work as a trail rider in the Canadian Rockies, becoming an authentic cowboy and seizing every occasion to sing. That’s where he developped his own style of yodeling (echo yodel or three-in-one, with heavy studio echo effects). His first encounter with yodel was years before while seeing a travelling Swiss performer who made him want to sing, even if it wasn’t exactly what his father (a baptist minister) wanted from him. Here’s what he says about it: “I yodeled upstairs and downstairs, in the parlor and in the apple orchard. Dad couldn’t stop me, though he wore out a dozen slippers on the seat of my pants.” (cited in Bart Plantenga’s book, Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: the Secret History of Yodeling Around the World, p.194)

He began recording in 1933 for the Canadian office of RCA Victor who was looking for somebody who could maybe have the same succes as Jimmie Rodgers in the USA. Wilf Carter’s yodeling wasn’t directly inspired by Rodgers, it was closer to the Swiss style. He became very popular, appearing on radio shows in Canada and the USA, touring with his own show, and recording more than 500 songs for different labels (RCA, Decca, Apex and Starday), his last being in 1988. He made one last tour in 1991, at age 86. He died a few years later in 1996. His simple style of singing and playing guitar have always attracted the listeners and the sentimental and naive music, the sunny optimism is a reflection of the singer himself.

His first recorded song, My Swiss moonlight lullaby, was written during his trail rider days and had unique and wild yodeling. From 1934 is Little old log shack I always call my home, a typical Carter song, glorifying the happy cowboy life, with all the clichés: howling coyotes, moonlit nights, singing birds, horses and sweethearts.

It wasn’t until 1952 that he recorded the first yodel he’d heard, Sleep, little one, sleep.

From the Decca sessions in 1954 are this two yodel songs: My mountain high yodel song and The Alpine milkman. He is accompanied by a eight-men band including Chet Atkins. In 1956, he recorded Silver Bell Yodel, a quite traditional song but with echo in the yodel while The yodelin’ song is a bit more rock’n’roll, as an attempt to modernise a bit his style.

From 1969 is a cover of a Jimmie Rodgers song, Cowhand’s last ride.

My Swiss moonlight lullaby

Little old log shack I always call my home

Sleep, little one, sleep

My mountain high yodel song

The Alpine milkman

Silver Bell Yodel

The yodelin’ song

Cowhand’s last ride

For his discography, one label, as usual: Bear Family.


Do they yodel in the USA ? Arthur Miles (with some excursions in throat singing)

21 September 2008

Thanks to Diane for the guest post. I wasn’t in the mood (and didn’t have time) to write last week because I was busy nursing my boyfriend who was victim of a hit-and-run car accident. He’s ok now, even if he can’t move a lot around, his foot being in a cast. I think it’s a coincidence but this week’s songs are really sad though they will make you travel on the trails of the Texas cowboys and the herders of the steppes of Tuva.

Arthur Miles, a Texan cowboy, created in the 1920s a style of overtone singing, similar to the sygyt style of the steppes of Central Asia (see below). He recorded Lonely cowboy (part I and II) in Dallas around 1927 for Victor. He is the only artist I heard until now who can yodel and throat sing in the same song ! Both songs are really gloomy, and so are the yodels and throat singing. There’s not a lot of info about him but on this page, you’ll find a very interesting interview of Pat Conte (from the Secret Museum of Mankind cd’s) speaking about Arthur Miles. There’s a modern interpretation of the song by stigandr aka big bro Clifton on youtube, with the lyrics of part II.

Throat singing is a technique “in which the singer manipulates the harmonic resonances created as air travels from the lungs, past the vocal folds, and out the lips to produce a melody” (definition from wikipedia). It is mostly known from the singers of Mongolia or Tuva but it is used in all parts of the world like Sardinia, South Africa or by the Inuit people.

There were other artists who did something like overtone singing: Richard Burnett from Kentucky is one of them and you can hear it a little bit in Ladies on the Steamboat, where he plays banjo and Leonard Rutherford plays fiddle in old time style. It sounds more like “dingdongdingding” but some sources (listen to Pat Conte) say he could do the throat singing, he just never recorded it at the time. The song was issued in 1927 on Columbia. You can see them on the first picture.

To end this post, I’ll travel to the other side of the world with one of my favourite Tuva songs, Igor’s solo by Chirgilchin (on the second picture), on their Collectible album. Igor Koshkendey has mastered six different styles of throat singing, is inventing some more himself and has won the Grand Prix of the International Throat Singing Competition in 1998, 2000, and 2002. This song is very sad, just with the bayan (russian accordeon) and you feel transported far far away in the steppe when listening to it.

Arthur Miles – Lonely cowboy (Part I and Part II) (on When I Was A Cowboy, Vol. 1, Yazoo Records)

Burnett & Rutherford – Ladies on the Steamboat (on Kentucky Mountain Music, Yazoo Records or on Document Records)

Chirgilchin – Igor’s solo