Posts Tagged ‘Gene Autry’


Do they yodel in the USA ?: Carolina Cotton

17 August 2008

There are not a lot of woman yodelers on this site… yet ! So this is a post about Carolina Cotton, the Yodeling Blonde Bombshell, who is a very fine yodeler, even better than Patsy Montana or Rosalie Allen say some ! Her songwriting and yodels are indeed very good, original and fresh.

Carolina Cotton was born as Helen Hagstrom on October 20th, 1929 in a Sweedish-American family and was raised in a farm in Arkansas, before her family moved to San Francisco in 1937. As a little girl, she loved going to the movies to see westerns and listened to the radio, singing along the songs and even trying to yodel. She soon began to sing and yodel in revues (and even appeared at the 1939 San Francisco World Fair) and relocated in 1944 to Hollywood where she played in movies and joined the Spade Cooley Orchestra. It was at that time “the” place for western swing. She had the opportunity to compose a lot of songs and tour with the bands of famous musicians like Tex Williams, Bob Wills or even the Sons of the Pioneers. She would say that she was their only “daughter”.

By the mid-50’s, she got married and had children and performed less and less to concentrate on her family. She became a teacher and worked in a department store. She passed away on June 10th 1997, leaving her recordings and movies.

My selection of songs is a bit arbitrary: songs with yodel in the title… I love to yodel and Mockingbird yodel were recorded in 1946 for the King label with Hank Penny and his band. The first song was written by Carolina, the second one by her former bandleader Dude Martin. I love to yodel was used in at least four films: Apache Country where Gene Autry yodels her tune, Smoky River Serenade, where she played… herself, Texas Panhandle, with the Spade Cooley Band and I’m from Arkansas. Yodel mountain was a Snader Telescription, recorded with Bob Wills in 1951. Yodel, yodel, yodel was used in another Gene Autry film, Blue Canadian Rockies. The song came out in december 1953, at the moment Hank Williams died and didn’t have a lot of publicity because of that.

And then also Nola, recorded in the same session as Yodel, yodel, yodel, because it is the showcase of her yodeling talent ! You have the illusion her yodel is echoing across the mountaintop: it is in fact due to the “sound-on-sound” technique, a technological breakthrough in times before multitracking.

Her yodels are full of joy and humor, clear and crisp, and her lyrics are often about the relations between man and women, but told in a very clever way. And now some trivia: she said she preferred to yodel in her bare feet, so she “could get a good toe-hold” when she yodeled !

I love to yodel

Mockinbird yodel

Yodel mountain

Yodel, yodel, yodel


Link 1: her fansite, full of information written by her family, and an album, also available on itunes

Link 2: Binge Discs with lots of interesting albums, and this Carolina Cotton album

Link 3: her page on IMDB

Link 4: Snader Telescription of Three miles South of Cash, Bob Wills and Carolina Cotton, with interesting links about the telescriptions.

Link 5: youtube clips

(thanks Bart for the info !)


Do they yodel in the USA ?: Gene Autry (I) 1929

13 July 2008

Known as a singing cowboy but also as an actor, as a businessman, as owner of a baseball team, a record label amongst may other things, Gene Autry (1907-1998 ) was an important artist in the country music scene. He sold millions of records, convincing his public with his gentle and straightforward singing style, with his considerable technical skills as a vocalist and his likeable personality.

He was born in a small community in Texas but moved several times, ending up in Oklahoma. His father was a poor farmer but the family was musical. He did his first public singing in the choir of the local Baptist church. He was also interested in the cowboy songs he heard while growing up and his mother taught him to play the guitar. After graduating from school, he worked as a railroad telegrapher but wanted to make a show business career. At the age of 20, he travelled to New York to make auditions for the major record companies but was advised to gain further experience. He finally recorded his first songs just weeks before the crash of 1929, copying Jimmie Rodgers and his yodelling blues. It was singer and steel guitarist Frankie Marvin, a huge Rodgers fan, who introduced the songs to Gene Autry.

Autry became one of the most accomplished Rodgers’s imitators: he could capture the nuances of the Rodgers songs, imitate almost perfectly the yodels, the Mississippi dialect and the guitars sounds. His voice was sweeter and with a wider range and he was a terrific yodeler. He made dozens of cover versions of the songs or other songs in the same mould for various companies. These records were sold at bargain prices and he had some succes: people could buy three Autry records for the price of one Rodgers record !

His first released record was Blue yodel no.5, with Left my gal in the mountains by Cason Robison on the other side, just accompanied with his guitar. These tracks were issued on Columbia’s budget labels, Velvet Tone, Diva and Harmony. (recorded October 24, 1929)

In December 1929, he covered Rodgers’ California blues (Blue Yodel No.4), the hobo song Waiting for a train and the ballad. His friend and steel guitarist Frankie Marvin wrote for him Dust Pan Blues, Slu-Foot Lou and Stay away from my chicken house (where he made the animal imitations).

In the next chapter, we’ll look at the following years of his career, still faithtfull to Jimmie Rodgers but also begining to record his own material.

Blue yodel no.5

Left my gal in the mountains

California blues (Blue Yodel No.4)

Waiting for a train

Frankie and Johnny

Dust Pan Blues

Slu-Foot Lou

Stay away from my chicken house

You can find the songs on this cd or in this Bear Family box.