Posts Tagged ‘Jimmie Rodgers’


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)


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

5 July 2009

By the end of spring 1928, Jimmie Rodgers was beginning to be famous: his first big hit, Blue Yodel was heard all over the country on the radio and in the record shops. With the money he earned from this succes, he bought a new wardrobe and a blue Buick.

Having recorded all his repertoire in the first two sessions, he asked his sister-in-law Elsie McWilliams to help him compose new songs for the sessions of June 12, as he did for the previous one. She came to Washington and in one week, they had produced the nine songs that would be recorded on that date. No Blue Yodel here, but all these songs contain yodels. They are in the tradition of the vaudeville of the turn of the century, full of sentiments and melancholy. All are sung by Jimmie Rodgers who played his own guitar.

My little lady

Daddy and Home

Lullaby Yodel

You and My Old Guitar

Never No Mo’ Blues

Mississippi Moon

I’m Lonely and Blue

My Old Pal

My Little Old Home Down in New Orleans


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)


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.


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


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.


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 the USA ?: Jimmie Rodgers (I) (1927)

20 April 2008

Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933) is one of the biggest sources of inspiration for all the (country) yodelers in the USA and around the world. In the thirties, under his influence, yodeling became almost synonymous with country music.

He was born and raised in Meridian, Mississippi, and worked on the railroads. After catching tuberculosis, he moved to North Carolina, where the mountain air was cleaner. He played music since a few years but was recorded for the first time during the famous Bristol sessions by Ralph Peer in 1927.

(You can find a complete biography of Jimmie Rodgers here.)

Here are his first songs from the 4th of august 1927. The recording session wasn’t without problems: Jimmie Rodgers came there with his band, the Tenneva Ramblers, but they broke up the next day. Ralph Peer did then a solo recording of Jimmie, but he was just a singer without a band, and with a guitar, and with a very limited “old timey” repertoire: he could only come up with two songs, the ballad The soldier’s sweetheart, inspired by the dead of a friend in World War I (without yodel) and a 19th century lullaby, Sleep, Baby, Sleep (with a lazy yodel).

These song were released with little promotion but they attracted attention and Ralph Peer decided to do a second recording session in november.

Jimmie Rodgers – The soldier’s sweetheart

Jimmie Rodgers – Sleep baby sleep